70 theses against tar sands pipelines and the continued exploitation of fossil fuels

Written for the “People’s Procession,” read at the conclusion of the march and attached to the gates of Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal, Burnaby BC, April 12 2014

1. Today is a sensitive location.

2. Life is not settled it’s unsettling.

3. Clouds we make form what seems but isn’t really haphazard weather.

4. Today brittle pipes might crack beneath our feet, loosing toxins.

5. Today we walk a line between a fossil past and a future afire.

6. But maybe we could still walk in unspoilt fields of tomorrow, erasing this line.

7. Maybe we could still walk breathing and indeterminate and open to possibilities not described by this line.

8. Observe that large jets are missing despite their loads of fuel, technological instrumentation.

9. Observe that waterfowl in this area and elsewhere seem no less precarious.

10. Observe the concept of the ocean as a “sink” for carbon and runoff.

11. Observe that we are walking the path of the pipeline that is a property cutting across properties as it will to the harbour transecting lived space with fossils afire.

12. Now who I ask is a pauper, who a prince?

13. Now upon whose door can we nail these theses and stake our honest complaint?

14. Because you would lay pipe beneath Eagle Creek and Squint Lake.

15. Because you would lay pipe beneath Stony Creek and Lost Creek, beneath Heron and Dynamite Creeks, and beneath Silver Creek.

16. Because you would lay pipe beneath great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, belted kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds, the occasional pheasant, river otter, beaver, and raccoon, beneath cutthroat trout and spawning salmon, beneath black-tailed deer and coyote.

17. Because you would lay pipe beneath big leaf maple, red alder, western hemlock, western red cedar, Douglas fir, salmon berry, Indian plum and red elderberry.  

18. Because you would lay pipe beneath Forest Grove Elementary School, Southside Community Church, and the homes of Drew and Gail Benedict, Allison Stroun, and the entire Dhaliwal family, amongst others.

19. Because 55 species of fish use the Port Moody Arm Basin for loafing, foraging, in-migration and out-migration, and for all or part of their life-cycle ecology.

20. Because the Tsleil-Waututh people have lived on beside and around these waters for thousands of years and they are the keepers of these waters sacred to them and unceded and balanced stewardship is how they have always lived here.

21. Because the Musqueam and Skwomesh peoples have lived near or around here for uncounted generations and clean water has been their necessity too crossing forest paths to take a deer or medicines home.

22. Because we have a love of parks, green spaces, waterways and coastlines, bays and inlets where we might walk swim and fish away the days at leisure.

23. Because there is of course oil in the pipe lying beneath our feet.

24. Because the estimated frequency of significant oil spills on any given new pipeline is approximately two per year.

25. Because in this case the existing pipeline is over 60 years old and instruments don’t last species do or might longer than banks we will see.

26. Because the diluted bitumen which in this case Kinder Morgan pipes here beneath our feet is moved at much higher temperatures and under higher pressure than conventional oils, and is more corrosive than conventional oils.

27. Because when a diluted bitumen spill occurs the chemical condensate evaporates resulting in toxic air-born vapours and the release of carcinogenic benzene and hydrogen sulphide into low-lying areas and waterways.

28. Because the bitumen once separated from its condensate sinks to the bottom of bodies of water, impacting the very base of the food chain and all the existing methods of spill recovery are based on surface removal (by booms or burning).

29. Because in July 2007 Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline burst at the intersection of Inlet and Ridge Drives spilling 250,000 litres of crude oil into streets and the front and back yards of homes and Dynamite Creek and eventually into Burrard Inlet; 250 residents were evacuated and $15 million spent on clean-up—it could have even been worse and it is worse.

30. Because in January 2012 a pipeline rupture at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Mountain tank farm spilled over 100,000 litres local resident’s breathing and burning eyes.

31. Because to take another example after almost four years and $1 billion they are still cleaning up the 2010 Enbridge spill in Kalamazoo Michigan which has caused adverse health effects to some 58% of local residents and killed more than 3000 turtles 170 birds 40 mammals and has essentially eliminated fish and macroinvertibrates from local freshwater habitats that have not recovered and might not ever.

32. Because as Rex Weyler once said every drop of oil you don’t spill into the water still spills into our atmosphere as carbon dioxide, adding to global climate change.

33. Because the climate is warming faster and more dangerously than previously believed and the science is clear—this is anthropogenic climate change and even NASA and the UN are warning of the potential collapse of industrial civilization due to unsustainable resource extraction and the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and I learned this from 12 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney.

34. Because as a NASA funded report claims all societal collapses over the past 5000 years have involved both the exceeding of ecological carting capacities and the economic stratification of society into elites and commoners which factors co-implicate and yes we are collapsing too.

35. Because it’s said that the 85 wealthiest individuals on the planet have the same assets as the poorest 3.5 billion yes half the earth’s population but who’s counting?

36. Because in 2013 Kinder Morgan was valued at $110 billion and paid shareholder dividends of over $1.7 billion.

37. Because Kinder Morgan’s CEO and former Enron executive Richard Kinder received over $60 million in salary in 2012 but including stock options made $1.1 billion or so the internet tells me but really who’s counting?

38. Therefore we beings being life forms and forces of incredible diversity all equally in possession of every possible right to a full and healthy existence according to our various natures;

39. Being so often concerned with how we might sustain our various existences and sometimes aware and sometimes unaware of our cohabitation, overlapping, and general spatial and temporal coexistence one with each other;

40. Being so often shaped, limited, and determined by the fact of this coexistence and in many cases sometimes obviously and directly but oftentimes also curiously indirectly and in almost unnoticeable ways co-dependent and carefully balanced each against and with and upon all the others;

41. Being multiple and stray and various and differently adapted to our diverse ecological niches and fragile continuities;

42. And one of us being a species named homo sapiens being capable of directly and indirectly impacting all the other species including itself out of proportion to all the other species though no less co-dependent coexisting and no more or less entitled to a full and healthy existence according to its particular nature;

43. So that this one species having or having asserted and effected a larger impact on all the other coexisting species thereby takes on a kind of mantle of responsibility due in part to this species capacity for self-awareness and modification of its behaviour which is social;

44. Thus it is on these grounds that this species most directly responsible for environmental and ecological calamities and crises the world over for instance climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels due to the systematic exploitation of people and resources and the private accumulation of capital stands here today to admit these responsibilities and declare that it will no longer permit itself the capacity to unequally impact destroy or otherwise dispossess other life forms of their ability to continue in their coexistence;

45. Or at least we aspire to strive for such responsible stewardship which we might learn from First Nations and of which the maintenance of a company to extract distribute or pipe fossil fuels takes no part;

46. And so we as members of this particular species declare or should declare our unrelenting opposition to the plans operations activities and profit-motived machinations of Kinder Morgan, a corporation like any other made and capable of being unmade enabled and capable of being disabled by human beings much as ourselves;

47. For Kinder Morgan is a company formed out of the body of another company (Enron) and through the purchase of another company (the publicly owned BC Gas Company) where disaster begets disaster just as profit promotes further profit and inequalities always escalate in this system;

48. For Kinder Morgan is in the business of transporting and distributing fossil fuel energy products and is ultimately part of an industry that produces excessive profits for an elite few and massive ongoing and often unpredictable global consequences for all coexisting life forms on this planet via global warming and its uneven and unjust consequences which are a direct threat to life on this planet;

49. And the consequences of climate change and global warming impact poor and struggling populations more directly and immediately than they impact those in wealthy nations which so often cause global warming in the first place through their excessive energy consumption and this is to say nothing of other animals which also do not burn fuel but bear the brunt of ecological crises nonetheless.

50. We say this knowing that we are consumers in a largely affluent society who work for wages and use these wages to purchase consumer goods and thereby sometimes derive enjoyment and certainly our continued material existence;

51. Who have for instance purchased automobiles which run on fossil fuels to drive perhaps to the store or perhaps on a vacation over sharp-terrained coastal mountains to peer into pristine lakes or possibly spot a bear upslope and loping away from us into a stand of second growth fir;

52. Who run errands in those automobiles that are of ambiguous import and usefulness and who bring home large amounts of petroleum based plastic products containing processed foods and amusements we will soon dispose of;

53. Who wear clothes also fashioned from those petroleum products and who have mobile phones that are very distracting and amusing and which are also made of petroleum based products and also contain rare earth metals extracted in disparate parts of the earth and brought to us so we may play Plants vs Zombies by ships and trucks also powered with fossil fuels;

54. Who after six months still use only 1% of consumer goods we have purchased the rest being disposed of in landfills and oceans and manufacturing and consumption account for more than half of the carbon dioxide we produce pathologically gulping stuff down;

55. Who did not necessarily mean to do anything harmful but fell for the sleekness of products and the way marketing campaigns made everything seem so sexy and easy and convenience became a truism almost no one could contradict;

56. We know this yet still declare our opposition to oil pipelines, the tar sands and the entire fossil fuel industry knowing that we are as much a part of the problem as Kinder Morgan or any other company is;

57. We acknowledge that to oppose this industry is to admit that we must change our lives and consume less and re-localize our economies and do without some and possible many of the consumer goods we have found so distracting and amusing and really whose to blame well we are;

58. We acknowledge that there are alternative energy sources which are renewable and which will have decidedly less destructive impacts on local ecosystems and the global climate and that these alternatives are becoming more and more realistic and affordable each day and that many countries though not the country of Canada are making progress in transitioning to renewable energy sources and that some of these sources are solar, wind, and geothermal;

59. We contend that the argument based on job creation is a red herring to employ a metaphor based in nature because jobs have many sources and no one type of job should have precedent over any other and the goal anyway should be jobs that are life-promoting and life-sustaining and not life-destroying and apparently anyway more people are employed producing beer than oil in Canada.

60. Now wouldn’t a beer pipeline be something hmm?

61. So we declare ourselves to be for life and not for death and for the future and not for the apocalypse.

62. We walk with these others look around you look others too saying we will no longer stand for a world of pipelines and tar sands and carbon sinks burning futures.

63. We will no longer burn our futures for unequal and unjust todays however fascinating and filled with distractions and privileges.

64. We will no longer stand for a world of waste and petroleum products and no thoughts of future consequences of our acts and we will try not to contribute to the problem by say allowing more pipelines to be built and more oil spilled and burned more suffering delivered to so many left outside of benefit.

65. We will take what actions are necessary despite government decisions media misrepresentations and corporate swindling we will act because we make up whatever we we can imagine it’s complicated but simple too we are and have the real power we just don’t always exercise or feel we can exercise it we can we will.

66. And these streams we cross and re-cross daily and the smallest of organisms dwelling in and around them we recognize are as real and valid as anything else even more than a designer home overlooking the ocean or Las Vegas or a container ship filled with rubber ducks and certainly far less destructive.

67. And we recognize that the temptations are great and people are bought off every day and we are very frail and small and temporary individually but can we also agree that we are many and they are few as has been said many times and in many ways?

68. Now let’s see what we can do walking together along the path of this pipeline or walking to the place we can gather and blockade the new pipelines coming.

69. Now come outside in the weather we are blossoming.

70. Now come outside something’s in the air it could be tomorrow we could be different there together if we start today come outside together.



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On Sept 19, 2023 ahead of the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City, climate activists gathered for a rally and civil disobedience outside Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan as part of the March to End Fossil Fuels wave of actions resulting in multiple arrests. Activists demand Bank of America to “Defund Climate Chaos and Defend Human Rights” Photo: Erik McGregor (CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed)

Let’s Save Each Other

Let’s Save Each Other

Illustration by Stephanie McMillan. Used with permission