Choosing the worse environmental evil

Choosing the worse environmental evil

First the trees have to be cut down, then the earth must be dug up. Once the pipe is laid into the ground and in operation, the contents pumping through it will pollute the soil and water if it ruptures. If living creatures ingest the contents they’ll become very sick. It’s expensive, dirty and time consuming to clean up the mess.

Sewage pipes are taken for granted in modern life but I don’t remember the last time I heard criticism of their consequences. I do remember the last time I heard criticism of natural gas pipeline projects.

Living in this part of Canada there are many voices slamming every aspect of the planned gas pipeline. The gas-guzzling generators powering the worker camps, the disruptions of contractors’ trucks on forest roads, the risk of explosions in the pipeline, natural gas is a fossil fuel and burning it releases carbon dioxide, etc. And all those concerns are valid. The pipeline will be a big project and environmental standards must be upheld.

However, sometimes we have to re-focus our attention and try to see things that are so close we miss them. The fact is that modern industrial life is bad for the environment and entails a lot of injustice.

The smartphones we buy and use for communication were most likely made in China, where labour conditions in the factories would be illegal in Canada. If an industrial accident at the factory causes toxic chemicals to leak into the soil or air, the management can bribe the authorities to avoid facing any consequences. The plastic in the phones is made partly from oil, most likely imported into China from Saudi Arabia, a kingdom where the ruling authorities think little of human rights.

The coffee we drink every morning is grown on plantations in Central America where the working conditions would shock most Canadians. The coffee is then packaged and transported thousands of kilometres north by truck which burns gasoline and releases emissions into the atmosphere.

All of these actions are byproducts of the supply chains that keep our modern lives going. We buy these products because it would be too expensive – or not even possible – to produce them in Canada, but we’re not always aware of the implicit ethical choices made in our trade systems.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t put a spotlight on what corporations are doing with natural resource development projects in Canada. We should. And we need look out for the well-being of our communities and our environment and hold companies accountable for their actions.

But if we really care about the environment we should first examine the impacts of our ingrained modern habits and economic structures. It seems like blaming the actions of a company coming here from outside the region absolves us of looking in the mirror.

I worry that in a few years, after the pipeline is built and the work camps are gone, most of us will still be sipping coffee and playing on our smartphones while being outraged at another problem blamed on outsiders.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
Send Blair an email
Like Lakes District News on Facebook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Questions around rail safety, firefighter safety, cleanup near the rail yards and tracks, whistle cessation, etc were raised during the RDBN meeting with CN. (File photo)
‘Lot of our concerns are still not being heard,’ say RDBN directors on CN’s response

Frustrated over lack of solutions, despite communicating their concerns to CN

Barbara Patrick. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
Former Burns Lake local to play the first Indigenous character in a Hallmark movie

Barbara Patrick, a former LDSS student takes a huge step for the Indigenous community

The Burns Lake RCMP is supportive of having a ticketing bylaw in place even though there would be limitations on what they could ticket on. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake might be getting a ticketing bylaw

Will help extend RCMP’s authority to attend to noise complaints

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Most Read