Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oil to Occupy: The Restless West Coast

Two weeks ago on Radio Ecoshock we heard from Australia and the distant past. Last week a top British scientist warned us of super-dangerous climate change.

Now we head for the restless West Coast of North America.

In Canada, trillion-dollar corporations and countries are desperately searching for a way to ship dirty Tar Sands crude, after the Obama administration said "No" to the Keystone XL pipeline. They want to build a new pipeline across the Rocky Mountains, across countless rivers and wilderness, across native lands.

And two Texas billionaires are plotting to turn the once green city of Vancouver into a major oil shipping port.

They want to make more billions polluting the atmosphere and changing the climate forever.

You will hear three speakers in a packed public meeting promise neither plot will succeed.

Then we'll take to the streets of San Francisco, with as-it-happens audio during the Occupy Wall Street West protests. Our Bay Area correspondent Karen Nyhus interviews environmentalist Ananda Tan as he waits with locked arms to be arrested. Then the risky radio the mainstream won't dare: you are there as the crowd microphone chants the words of Ted Nace, on the Court House steps, demanding justice. That's in our second half hour.

From tanker mania to Wall Street greed, I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.


On Sunday January 22nd I recorded "Oil Free Coast, Tankers and Pipelines" at the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver, Canada. The event began with the voice of an amazing ten-year-old singer and song-writer, little Ta' Kaiya Blaney, the First Nations wonder. I'll play you a minute of her anti-tanker song "Shallow Water" - then we'll go to our speakers Art Sterritt, Rex Weyler and Nathan Cullen.

Listen to the whole song. Here are links to the You tube video of "Shallow Waters" and the Ta' Kaiya Blaney web site.

More details on the song and recording from You tube:

"10 year old Ta'Kaiya Blaney is Sliammon First Nation from B.C., Canada. Along with singing, songwriting, and acting, she is concerned about the environment, especially the preservation of marine and coastal wildlife. Shallow Waters was a semi-finalist in the 2010 David Suzuki Songwriting Contest, Playlist for the Planet. The song was recorded in studio by Audio Producer Joe Cruz. Footage from Vancouver, BC was filmed by Colter Ripley. Footage of the traditional ocean-going canoe from the Squamish Nation (Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver, BC) ; Ta'Kaiya in traditional cedar bark regalia (Tofino, BC); the Oil Refinery in Burrard Inlet; and the Vancouver Aquarium was filmed by Tina House. Additional footage contributed from Canada Greenpeace and Living Oceans Society. Lyrics on Drychum channel."

Ta' Kaiya belted it out live at the Roundhouse, surprising us with such a strong adult voice from a small young singer. She will wow delegates at the Rio 2012 Conference. Also look for her song "Earth Revolution".


Let's start with the northern pipeline, proposed by the Enbridge Corporation, crossing thousands of miles of mountains and wilderness, reaching from the climate-killing Tar Sands to the delicate fjords of Canada's West Coast. Our host is Linda Kemp, a sustainable living expert from Langara College.

[Art Sterritt presentation]

That was Coastal First Nations leader Art Sterritt, recorded January 22nd, in Vancouver, Canada by Alex Smith. The event "Oil Free Coast, Tankers and Pipelines" was at the Roundhouse Community Centre in downtown Vancouver. It was presented by Coastal First Nations, and by Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen.

Sterritt gave a very moving speech, saying British Columbia was an organism where all its "arteries" are rivers that flow West from the Rockies to the sea. Everything about the First Nations life and rights is at stake, should one of these pipelines leak into the headwaters of the two most productive salmon runs in the world: the Fraser River run, and the Skeena River run.

The whole richness of coastal life, plus the food supply for First Nations people, would be wrecked by a single big tanker accident. Sterritt says the 10 major coastal First Nations have united, along with environmentalists, municipal governments and unions to oppose the construction of the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat, on the North-Central coast of British Columbia.

That represents a huge sacrifice by some of the poorest people in Canada. Many First Nations people still live below the poverty line, with unclean water, and improper housing. The billions of dollars in bribes likely on offer by Enbridge, and the pro-oil Canadian government, still haven’t brought the aboriginal people to accept the dangers of oil.

Sterritt says he and his people went to Louisiana to talk to fisher people there, after the BP oil spill. They learned from what happened when another Enbridge pipeline broke in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They investigated ship wrecks in Australia.

But really, Sterritt and the Git-Gat people didn't have to leave home to know what oil damage is about. A British Columbia ferry called "The Queen of the North" hit an island just across from their home, Hartley Bay. Oil leaked out for more than a month, wrecking local clam beaches and more. That was despite having the most modern navigation equipment. The wreck was more or less on the same route super-tankers are expected to travel, in some of the stormiest waters on Earth.

This is Radio Ecoshock, the "restless West Coast" edition. You are listening to three speakers at a packed public rally to stop pipelines and tankers from wrecking the pristine wilderness of British Columbia, and the beautiful city of Vancouver.


[Rex Weyler]

Rex Weyler is a co-founder and historian of Greenpeace. He is now working with the group Tanker Free BC to stop the threat of mega tankers to the west coast, the fragile Georgia Strait, and the port of Vancouver. Find out more at tankerfreebc.org.

Rex and other friends started noticing more and more tankers were coming into the part of Vancouver harbor known as Burrard Inlet. They were heading to B.C.'s only oil refinery, deep down this narrow passageway.

Then the more right-wing B.C. government decided to sell off publicly owned assets to private investors. They sold the gas distribution company, "B.C. Gas". Two Texas
billionaires, named Kinder and Morgan, bought the pipeline rights. Kinder was a lawyer and lead council for Enron, the company that went bankrupt, among a wave of criminal charges for fraud.

These two foreign billionaires decided, without any public consultation, and in many cases without even notifying local governments, to start shipping Tar Sands crude from Alberta to Vancouver through their pipelines. They have been increasing capacity, and hope to reach from 500,000 to 700,000 barrels a day. That would mean one super-tanker a day going out of Vancouver harbor.

It would only take one accident to wreck "the green city" with its famous Stanley Park, its beaches, and multi-million dollar ocean-front real estate.

The Sierra Club has set up an app for cell phones which will notify anyone every time a tanker leaves the Burrard refinery docks. Tankerfreebc is gearing up to stop Vancouver from becoming the Tar Sands outlet to China. Nobody living here wants Vancouver to become a major oil port, especially now that we are being hit with climate change.


Now the politics of promoting Tar Sands oil - and the voices for sanity. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just claimed all Canadians who oppose the Tar Sands are just puppets for big American foundations. He questions the national loyalty of any critics, and threatens the environmental review required by law.

Harper calls all concerned citizens of British Columbia as "radical environmentalists" (and maybe "an enemy of the state").

Check out this video of the "Ethical Oil" tar sands lobby calling environmentalists mere agents for American foundations. They don't mention the two Texan billionaires pushing oil tankers through Vancouver, and the $20 billion dollars investment by China into the Tar sands. Who are the foreign influencers the Prime Minister hears?

Here is another story, where the Environment Minister, who is supposed to represent all Canadians, not just oil companies, says "radical groups" are trying to sabotage the Canadian economy. His remarks are extraordinary and never before heard from any government Minister. How much can we trust the Enbridge Pipeline environmental review process now - now that the Minister has called it a waste of time!

According to CBC News... these "radical environmentalists" ..."threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," stack the hearings with people to delay or kill "good projects," attract "jet-setting" celebrities and use funding from "foreign special interest groups."

Our next speaker is from the leading opposition New Democratic Party, or the NDP. Nathan Cullen is a Member of the National Parliament, and a candidate for the leadership of the NDP, currently Canada's largest opposition party. He lives in Smithers British Columbia, in the North, right where the pipeline will impact all of his constituents. And his constituents are very vocal - they don't want this pipeline!

[Cullen speech]

Cullen's description of the route these giant tankers must take to get out of Kitimat, which is at the head of a very long fjord. It includes "two 90 degree hair-pin turns". And during the lifetime of the pipeline and port, about 50,000 tanker trips would have to be made flawlessly, with no drunken captains, no show-of captains, no mechanical failure, no great storm (that
"nobody could have foreseen that").

When they make it out of the storied "inside passage" (where a multi-billion dollar cruise ship industry is threatened by a spill) - then these tankers head into Dixon Straight. That is where some of the strongest winds and highest waves in the world have been recorded.

What could go wrong?

Stay tuned for our on-the-streets radical radio from the San Francisco Wall Street West protest, January 20th.

Welcome back to the Radio Ecoshock restless West Coast edition. Now we're going to break the rules of radio. When people take to the streets in protest, your mainstream media gives you a glimpse, with maybe a chant in the background, while a reporter in a suit or dress tells you what it means.

Not here. We're going to start with an interview of environmentalist Ananda Tan as he sits, with his arms locked with other protesters, waiting for arrest outside the Bank of America in San Francisco. Risking her own person and equipment, is Radio Ecoshock Bay Area correspondent Karen Nyhus.

Amid the chaos of waiting for arrest, with folks dropping in, Karen keeps Ananda talking, about the risk these "too big to fail" corporations pose to us all. He is a member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, of Rising Tide (which is going to open an office in Vancouver), and of the group "Mobilization for Climate Justice".

Here is a print report on the protests, from "The Progressive".

Now I'm going to make it hard and fun for you.

We'll take to the streets of San Francisco with Karen Nyhus to hear green American author Ted Nace. Except in the soggy crowd of a rainy day, you can't hear him. There is no microphone on the Court House steps. Just a crowd microphone. I think it works, involving the people, not as passive listeners, but as participants in the speech. Let me know what you think.

Just before we hear Ted, the first speaker is Abraham Entin from Move To Amend.

Hear it as it happened.

That was a distant Ted Nace, author and environmentalist, passed on by the crowds at the San Francisco Occupy Wall Street West protest January 20th. It was a skunky rainy day. So Ted Nace began this parable, about the people with wet feet, and the corporations who can never know that experience.

My thanks to Radio Ecoshock Bay area correspondent Karen Nyhus for braving the elements and the police to get those on-the-street recordings from the Occupy Wall Street Protests.

If you violate copyright, you go to jail. If you violate people's home ownership, their pension plans, and their economy - no problem. Take a hundred million on your way out the door, and head out for the next scam. Until the people demand so loudly, so often, with such determination, that justice will be done.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Thank you for joining us.

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