People have been protesting the expansion of the fossil fuel industry in British Columbia for years now, criticizing it for contributing to the poisoning of our waters and air. With the effects of climate change increasing every year, more people are standing up to oil companies like the Texas based company Kinder Morgan. Near Burnaby Mountain, environmental activists had a camp set up in front of one of Kinder Morgan’s sites. People from all over western Canada came to protest the company’s new pipeline expansion, and hundreds went as far as deliberately getting arrested, including a family member of mine.
But while people are out sacrificing their freedom at the Burnaby Mountain location (called ‘Camp Cloud’), there is still division in our society, with many rejecting the impact of global warming. Ninety-nine percent of scientists insist that there is no longer any question about the dubious future of the planet. Yet many of the pipeline supporters commenting online, who are often in denial about climate change, are naive about the facts.
In FaceBook chats surrounding Camp Cloud, individuals have been posting hate comments and other negative messages directed at protesters. Since I know first-hand what environmental demonstrations are like, I decided to dive in and read some of these comments and conversations about the protesters and the pipeline supporters. While not all of the comments were objectionable, (one pipeline supporter put up a reasonable argument that we we can’t “flip a switch and completely get rid of oil and go green,”) the majority of the comments are negative, hurtful, and almost all were excessively false. One man calls protesters “[a] bunch of stupid hippies” and another asks, “do any of these losers have jobs?” Many comments were unabashedly racist, disparaging “Indians” in offensive ways.
I have attended several climate change protests and marches in Vancouver and witnessed what protesters are really like. Contrary to the apparent assumptions of the commenters, pipeline protesters are not your old-school hippies that people think of when they hear the word “protest.” And none of the people that were arrested with my family member were homeless–in fact, they represented an impressive cross section of upstanding citizens ranging from housewives to university professors. The people I have encountered are average citizens with steady jobs who know the facts about pollution and global warming, who believe in a cause and want to make a difference in the world. I also came across many young people. Leading the rallies were First Nations people and a lot of them were elders.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeatedly claimed that he was not going to allow any subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Then, on May 29, 2018, Trudeau broke his promise when he announced that the Federal government would purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline with taxpayers money. Many citizens of British Columbia were outraged at the Prime Minister’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain because they did not want pipelines running through their province. Since then, many anti-pipeline protests have happened all over B.C., mainly in the Vancouver area.
If the Trans Mountain Pipeline goes through, there will be a lot of changes in the Greater Vancouver area. There will be a seven-fold increase in tankers coming through the Burrard inlet that will greatly increase chances of oil spills which would devastate the local ecosystem. The bigger picture of course, is that the Alberta oil sands will be enlarged, making our commitments to the Paris Accord and climate promises in Katowice, Poland, impossible
The long-term future of the oil industry is in question, though. Some of the biggest gas car companies like Audi, BMW and Volkswagen are following Tesla’s footsteps and are coming out with their own electric car models. GM was once known for their gas cars and has now announced they are switching focus to electric and autonomous vehicles.
Justin Trudeau’s approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in May was destined to cause trouble. The announcement galvanized an already energetic protest movement featuring people from all walks of life. The protesters knew the risks of these protests happening on Burnaby Mountain.
Despite the arrests, fines, and derogatory remarks on social media, citizens of British Columbia continue to support the fight against climate change. They believe in the cause to stop global warming and are trying to save the earth for future generations.