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Dear friends in Canada,
I’ve been visiting Canada all my life, but I’m a little worried about my upcoming trip.
In late March I’m supposed to come to Vancouver to give a couple of talks. But now I read that Joe Oliver, your country’s Minister of Natural Resources, is condemning “environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block” Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to the Pacific.
I think he’s talking about people like me.
So I’m pushing back a bit, and I need your help. Let’s tell Joe Oliver that preventing the combustion of the second-largest pool of carbon on the planet isn’t “radical” — it’s exactly the opposite. It’s rational. It’s responsible. And it’s just plain right.
Click here to sign the petition to Prime Minister Harper and Joe Oliver, and help show that Canadians everywhere are committed to stopping the oil sands.
Here’s the thing: I’ve spent much of the last year helping rally opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. I was arrested outside the White House in August, and emceed the demonstration that brought thousands of people to circle the White House in November. And just yesterday, I helped lead a crew of hundreds of “climate referees” to blow whistle on the influence that Big Oil has over our democracy. But this fight knows no borders, which brings me back to my concern about my trip to Canada in March.
When I come to British Columbia, I’ll urge everyone I meet to join a growing movement standing in solidarity with First Nations Peoples across Canada who oppose Enbridge’s Gateway project. Since a majority of Canadians, according to the polls, also oppose the pipeline, I’ll be in good company. But Oliver, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the organizers of the “Ethical Oil” campaign don’t want any outside voices. As the latter explained on its website, “It’s our pipeline. Our country. Our jobs. And our decision.”
Fair enough. But you know something? The atmosphere belongs to all of us. There’s not some wall at the 49th parallel that separates Canada’s air from everyone else’s. Since the oil sands is the second biggest source of carbon on the planet, that makes their development everyone’s business. As NASA’s James Hansen, the planet’s premier climatologist, put it recently, if you heavily develop the oil sands, it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” That’s why I’m doing everything I can do build this movement — and that’s why I need your help to unite a groundswell of activists in Canada.
Click here to add your name to the petition saying you’re ready to take a stand to stop the oil sands — if we can get 10,000 Canadians to sign on, we’ll stage a high-profile delivery that Joe Oliver, Prime Minister Harper, and the oil companies won’t be able to ignore.
It’s much easier for Ottawa to pretend that anyone who raises doubts about the oil sands are ideological extremists who hate Canada, much easier to demonize the scientists and citizens who ask uncomfortable questions. You can judge for yourself, but I don’t think I’m some kind of extremist. I’m a Methodist Sunday School teacher who happened to write the first book for a general audience on climate change.
To me, the extremists are the ones running the oil companies, because they’re willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere; those of us who want to keep the planet a little like the one we were born on seem more like conservatives.
I know I don’t hate Canada. I spent five years living in Toronto as a young boy, while my father worked for Business Week magazine. I remember with great fondness Mrs. Reesor, Miss Beer, Miss Conway and Miss Wright, who taught my first four grades. I remember rooting for Davey Keon, the Toronto Maple Leafs centre, and I remember waiting with great impatience each summer for the CNE to open.
In later years I’ve traveled the country stem to stern, written about fishermen struggling in Newfoundland, hiked the mountains above Jasper, skied the trails of the Gatineau. The Canada I remember was open to the world: It welcomed the rest of the planet to Expo 67, it hosted the Olympics, it helped crack the Great Wall of China.
I don’t know how that changed, but my guess is that the wealth of the oil-sands had something to do with it. Canada’s government doesn’t want to hear from the rest of the world because paying attention to their legitimate fears might cost it some money.
To judge from Oliver’s nasty little letter, those vast pits of bitumen across Alberta aren’t just dirtying the sky, they’re starting to do some damage to the country’s soul.
Bill McKibben for 350.org
P.S. If we’re going to have any shot at stopping the wholesale burning of the oil sands, we’re going to need a massive movement of Canadians willing to take a stand. Please help spread the word on Twitter and share it on Facebook — it only takes a couple of clicks. Many thanks in advance.
MORE LINKS AND INFO
- Oil Lobby Lagging Reality – Financial Post
- An open letter from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver – The Globe and Mail