Coastal supertanker shipping and the risk of an oil spill would threaten porpoises, orcas, and large whales such as blue, sperm, fin, and humpbacks. Also, sea otters and waterfowl are particularly vulnerable to oil spills because foreign oil on their fur or feathers reduces buoyancy and removes any insulation value; they could die from hypothermia. Furthermore, ingestion of oil is toxic and carcinogenic.
However, ‘five times as much oil enters the ocean each year through consumer use and petroleum extraction than occurs through tanker spills.’ You don’t hear much about it because ‘this generally happens from slow, chronic releases largely into rivers and runoff, rather than catastrophic spills.’ Non-oil threats from shipping include vessel strikes, marine noise-pollution, disturbance of feeding and breeding grounds, habitat loss, and over-fishing.
priceless and irreplaceable
The 4½-page conclusion is worth reading in its entirety. Here is a bit of a summary: Canada’s west coast is an ‘ecological treasure of species that can, evolutionarily speaking, be lost in the blink of an eye.’ The report concludes that it is ‘priceless and irreplaceable’ and that ‘its worth is immeasurable in monetary terms. This is the very soul of British Columbia. The prospect of losing it compels us to think big and think long term. Accordingly, Raincoast’s planning horizon is time without end. We want this ecosystem to thrive generations from now into perpetuity. Given that current political and economic thinking reflects the past and present, and not the future, we are embracing this conservation effort so the prospect for marine and coastal species is secured while the opportunity still exists.’
the cost of spilled oil
The conclusion continues: ‘Attaching a dollar value to the damage that spilled oil does to marine ecosystems is impossible. The cost of the Exxon Valdez spill … [does not] even begin to cover the price of a pod of killer whales driven to extinction, or the demise of a coastal fishing community’s way of life.’ Raincoast’s perspective is that ‘wild ecosystems warrant protection for their intrinsic and aesthetic worth, regardless of the added utilitarian value that healthy environments provide for people.’ (Pictured is an oil spill ruining a wetland ecosystem.) We must ‘safeguard all animals, including humans, which depend upon a healthy and ecologically rich coastal environment.’
In our economic-focused culture, sure short-term profits outweigh uncertain long-term vision; thus, ‘unchecked exploitation of the ocean environment has mortgaged the future while accruing a massive ecological debt. As dreary as it is to contemplate, we need to be honest about the extent of this ecological debt…. The choice to lift the oil tanker moratorium and approve the Enbridge pipeline would only intensify the disruption’ caused by our debt.
the 1972 moratorium
The conclusion stresses that ‘we need to begin treating the ocean as an unhealthy patient in desperate need of care. We know that the primary problem is chronic unsustainable use and abuse, so our focus now must be to halt, slow, and reverse destructive activities, while eliminating the possibility of new threats.’ The 1972 moratorium on oil tanker traffic ‘must be legislated and codified into law. From here, other protective and restorative actions can be taken, so the priceless and irreplaceable BC coast can continue its unparalleled evolutionary journey.’
whales and shipping
The projected shipping increases will occur ‘in the habitat of these recovering [once-hunted] whales and oil tankers place them at high risk in the event of a spill. Conversely, we could embrace the fact that whales are re-establishing their historic presence in BC’s coastal waters and take action to protect their feeding grounds and other important habitats.’
fish and forests
‘Similarly, changes to fisheries management and securing protection of habitat might rebuild the region’s 2,500 plus salmon runs.’ As we have seen, terrestrial flora and fauna benefit from salmon. ‘Likewise, the management of herring could also reflect the critical role they play in the maritime food web.’
the fate of BC’s coast
Furthermore, how we humans manage our ‘activities might be enough to give our tired maritime environment the reprieve needed to recover and become healthy once again. We are poised at a crossroads. Polling on which direction to follow shows that for most British Columbians, the preferred path is an oil-free coast. The question remains, however, whether those within government who will determine the fate of BC’s coast, recognize exactly what’s at stake. Maybe more importantly, do they care?’
The Furies drive Orestes mad. Yes, he avenged his father’s death by killing his mother, but those who live by the sword die by the sword, and now the father’s sins of yesterday are the son’s tomorrow. The dramatist Aeschylus explored this seemingly never-ending cycle of violence in his plays nearly two-and-a-half thousand years ago. Here we are, all these centuries later, considering whether to invade Syria. Jesus had a different solution: turn the other cheek. Gandhi used such a non-violent strategy, who in turn influenced Martin Luther King. Both were influenced by Thoreau and Tolstoy. And they were influenced by others….
decisions made today
In turn, decisions made today we live, and die, with tomorrow. Violence begets violence. And violence in one form takes on another form quite readily. The violence raging in Syria and being debated in the US Congress begets more violence in a different form, like on the west coast. I mean, if you can kill another person, what’s to stop you from killing, accidentally even, a sea otter?
a time of darkness
Vandana Shiva–scientist, feminist, philosopher, writer–links violence against women with violence against nature, for both are forms of violence against life. How far back do you want to go? The Age Of Enlightenment she calls a time of darkness. In its unchecked pursuit of progress it fostered unchecked science and economics and ‘began to destroy life…. The sanctity of life [was] substituted by the sanctity of science and development.’ But ‘throughout the world, a new questioning is growing that is questioning the sanctity of science and development…, the special projects of modern western patriarchy.’ A few pages later she notes that ‘the violence to nature, which seems intrinsic to the dominant development model, is also associated with violence to women who depend on nature.’
jean vanier reminds us that…
‘…so many in our world are seduced by technology, power and a craving for security. So often we have forgotten the essential: love, a heart-to-heart relationship, kindness, goodness and an openness to those in need and in pain. We tend to deny our own shadow side and weakness. We do not cry out for help, for healing….’