Close your eyes, and imagine you are at an environmental activist training workshop. Can you picture it? Where is it taking place? Who is participating?
I bet you aren’t picturing a multigenerational group of full-time moms, First Nations leaders, school teachers, students and self-proclaimed rednecks gathered on the local rodeo grounds. I was lucky enough to be part of a workshop just like this in Kispiox, BC, hosted by our allies at the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.
Everywhere I traveled in northern BC, I was impressed by the diverse and resilient movement that is standing up to the biggest energy companies in the world—oil companies like Enbridge and Shell.
It’s a movement born of necessity. The rivers these communities depend on flow from the Sacred Headwaters, where Shell wants to drill thousands of gas wells that would destroy ecosystems downstream and threaten a multi-million dollar salmon economy. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project would carry half a million barrels of tar sands oil across the same watersheds every day.
Wild salmon are the heartbeat of northern economies and cultures, and locals realize that to protect their way of life, they need to put aside differences and join forces with unlikely allies. The result is a powerful movement that unites First Nations, commercial fishers, local governments and environmentalists.
There’s a lesson here for all of us. With Big Oil and the Harper Government hell-bent on expanding the tar sands at any cost, we’re going to need to join forces with people who we never thought we’d work with. After all, we all need fresh water, clean air and healthy communities to thrive.