Adapted from original publication on smallchangefund Blog
Oil tankers shipping out of Vancouver Harbour were really not paid much attention to by the general public a couple of years ago, and maybe even just a year ago. The increase seen over the last decade did not get much publicity and the fact that tankers of some form or another have been using our waterways since the turn of the last century seemed to make it less threatening. Thanks to a perfect storm of different but colliding events, all that is rapidly changing. Certainly all the publicity about dirty tar sands oil has been part of it and Enbridge’s beleaguered Northern Gateway Pipeline project, the climate change debate, Keystone XL pipeline kerfuffle in the US and the Kalamazoo pipeline spill in Michigan.
However even before Kinder Morgan’s announcement earlier this year of intentions to build a second pipeline to Vancouver from the tar sands, Georgia Strait Alliance (GSA) and a few others were starting to be concerned about the steady but seemingly silent, increase in tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet and the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea. After some extensive research we published the first version of our citizen’s guide to tankers, oil spills and the risks to our region late last year and we have updated it recently to reflect the current situation.
Why would GSA be concerned about a few tankers traveling our waters when there are so many other issues facing this fantastic body of water we work to protect? Well, when I give presentations I explain that what is happening to Georgia Strait is like the death by a thousand cuts. Each travesty of pollution or inappropriate development that befalls it is cumulative and at some stage, if enough is done, Georgia Strait would eventually become like so many other devastated bodies of water. That being said, the damage that is currently being done, can (at least partially) be undone or stopped, and over the years we have lead many projects which have helped restore parts of Georgia Strait or served to protect it. We believe our work and that of others will save Georgia Strait as a place of much natural beauty and biological diversity.
That, however, would all change if we have a major oil spill here and anything that increases the likelihood of that happening is of real concern to us. If we have a catastrophic spill here we simply do not have the capability or resources to stop the irreparable damage to the ecology, economy and social fabric of this region. It would be a disaster in the real meaning of the word. Also of considerable concern to us is the fact that our communities have not been given any real opportunity to say if they are willing to take the risks of tar sands crude being shipped through our waters. That is something we are working toward on a number of different levels from our petition and information on our website and in print to our liaison and email listserve hosting with other groups working on this issue and contribution to reports to meeting with Industry representatives.
To do that we need funding, and this is the point we’d really like to thank our current funders including Patagonia, MEC and smallchangefund for all their support and promotion and all the wonderful donors who are contributing to our work. Thanks for going to your banks to help make our community voice on crude oil tankers a strong one. If you have not had a chance to contribute yet please do so on our website or by calling our office at 250-753-3459.