TransCanada’s decision against building its planned workers’ camp at Tchesinkut Lake comes as a welcome surprise, and demonstrates the value of grassroots action to address environmental issues locally.
In the age of climate change, we should bring that same spirit to the global stage, and insist that powerful entities including governments and energy companies pay heed to the ordinary people affected by their actions.
The work camp — which would host perhaps 600 workers during the peak period of construction on the Coastal GasLink (CGL) natural gas pipeline — elicited a number of concerns among residents during an open house that took place in Burns Lake on May 1, notably the effects that it may have on the area’s watershed.
As reported in these pages, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s (RDBN) review of public feedback about the work camp revealed an overwhelmingly negative response from locals. TransCanada, which also gathered public feedback, said the RDBN’s report “matches Coastal GasLink’s internal review.”
In other words, the company got the message. Residents who cared enough to get organized and show up during the public consultation process didn’t want this work camp in their backyard.
Of course, the locations of the work camp is just one piece in a much larger story: the construction of a pipeline that would span roughly 670 km of northern B.C.
According to the RDBN, the “the majority of responses indicated that they are in favour of the pipeline, but not in favour of the location of the work camp.”
Many people support the pipeline due to economic benefits that would accrue to northern B.C., an area where the decline of forestry caused by the mountain pine beetle — an infestation triggered in part by climate change — has contributed to a sense of economic anxiety.
It’s true that people need jobs to survive and to thrive. But we may also need to leave fossil fuels in the ground in order to have a world good enough to survive in.
The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change has asserted that net CO2 emissions must be reduced to zero by 2055-70 to have a likely chance of keeping global average temperatures from rising by 2 C.
That kind of temperature increase could cause sea levels to rise by as much as three metres within 50 years, according to one 2015 study, never mind the various other forms of ecological instability that would result.
That, in turn, would cause massive displacement of people living in coastal areas, potentially creating a refugee crisis that would make events from the past few years look like a dress rehearsal.
When people get organized and make their voices heard, powerful entities like TransCanada have to listen. Let’s demand a green shift towards a decent economy that won’t quicken our path to crisis.