Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Greetings from Kitimat!

 After months of having just this one destination in mind I'm frankly over-whelmed by the issues that flood my mind. The postcard version might say "Greetings from Kitimat, B.C." and have a photo of  whitish bear cubs but this story is even bigger than Kitimat being "ground zero in a race to fuel Asia."
It's about ancient people, the Haisla, who are now, as they always have been, living within a natural world filled with power, creatures and the great connection between the two. On the other side of this white community marina and the Douglas channel, which becomes the Kitimat estuary just inland of this photo, is what the dominant culture has done. It developed hydro-power, built the roads, built the planned community, brought in Alcan which was purchased by British/Australian Rio Tinto (the multi-billion $ miners of just about everything which flourishes where "government is lax, corruption high and business practices poor" in the developing world.) It's home to Shell owned Methanex which sued California under free trade rules when California tried to phase out MTBE, one of their methanol-linked products that's extensively polluted groundwater. It's got it's LNG facility and it's concrete plant and who knows what else... temporary housing for thousands.
 We got here yesterday afternoon after a swim in Lakelse Lake and last night on our gravel bar along the Kitimat River were shaken by a brilliant lightning storm. In the photo below Michael is on what he called whale rock and beyond him is the estuary... home to 112 bird species in the spring and countless other creatures. We even saw a seal watching us in the river yesterday... It's with newcomers' eyes of wonder and concern we see everything. I can't interview everyone here but take it from the one lifetime resident I spoke with that the local Canadians worry about jobs and are reluctant about the Northern Gateway Pipeline but feel they must have the employment it offers.
 This shot is from Hospital Beach, which is closed, as is the road, quite inexplicably... the Chamber of Commerce said it was for the Rio Tinto Modernization project but that is back beyond the old aluminum plant... Driving to this spot we both felt rather ill with this smoke which constantly flows from this plant. There is a long history of lung cancer in aluminum smelter workers (per a 14 year study of Alcan workers) but there is also a virtual chorus line of polluting industry, intermixed with environmentally sensitive feeder creeks and a fish hatchery on this stretch. I imagine that the Alberta pipeline would find it's way to port from this side of the channel, nestled among the other industry... although this is the westward side of the estuary/channel and the pipeline would be coming from Alberta in the east.
 The Kitimat River Bridge. Huge chum, coho, chinook (?) we saw last night at the hands of fishermen are a fraction of what feeds the forests and the creatures. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the threat it poses out along hundreds of miles of channel are a very real risk but the spills in the Kalamazoo River and elsewhere show what may happen in the remote mountains along the course between Alberta and this beautiful sensitive and rugged region. "Jobs" is a real issue but so is the balance with the remaining intact ocean, fresh water, complete cycling multi-species dance of life cycle. I appreciate all the people who are caught up in this multi-billion dollar project but must weigh in finally and forever with this planet that sustains us all... this dirty bitumen oil production is about profits for the few and these few use the needs and fears of working people for their political aims. It just makes me want to lecture, pontificate, cry, scream, dig into the earth and put thinking into reverse. I can't but say, stand with the First Nations people. Fight the Pipelines.


At August 12, 2012 at 7:51 AM , Anonymous Miranda Pope said...

Chris and Michael, you are hardly "ugly Americans" but instead balanced testimony to the struggles of this area, and teachers for all of us about what's going on. Thank you!

At August 18, 2012 at 1:50 AM , Blogger Camp Sue said...

Amen Chris!


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