I was saddened to witness the “yes to LNG” rally held March 16, not only because I know that the Petronas Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal for Lelu Island is wrong-headed and dangerous but because it shows just how susceptible to propaganda we are and how willing some are to mistake sound bites and promises for reality.
The people holding the ‘yes’ signs are surely decent people wanting the best for their families, but their mistake may simply be that they are too trusting and too willing to swallow the propaganda that proponents and their government partners have been spinning out, not for our benefit, but for their own.
I have watched mega project booms evaporate into busts for many years over the course of my public health career in the North and I have seen the health and wellbeing of people suffer accordingly, in both phases of the cycle.
The bottom line always is that a resource is over extracted, prices fall, world markets shift and another unhealthy propped up community bites the dust.
The people who invest their lives in these corporate get rich quick schemes, buying houses and machines, relocating families, and sometimes falling in love with a region, are left high and dry, begging for the next dangling carrot.
Fort McMurray, Fort St. John, Cassiar back in the day, and dozens of other towns in the Yukon and Northern B.C. are examples we should pay attention to.
These boom and bust experiences linked to the fortunes of one or another large company were bad enough but the one now proposed for Lelu Island is extreme in both its magnitude, its risk.
To gamble away our world class treasure of a river and the cultural and economic values that are sustained by it for a relatively few short term jobs that will leave us with less than nothing when they end, to give away our birthright to a corporate entity some call the Malaysian Mafia, to imagine that there is anything natural about fracked methane, that thousands of kilometers of pipeline across wilderness will leave streams and rivers and wildlife habitat intact, that massive dredging and construction in the Skeena estuary will have “no significant effect” on salmon and other species, that the earth can somehow afford yet another huge dump of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, or that this will somehow benefit our children and grandchildren, is to live in a dream world.
And that is a dream world carefully constructed by corporate propagandists and their government bedmates.
It is vital that people learn for themselves what an LNG plant actually looks and sounds like. Be assured it is a far cry from the airbrushed diagrams the industry likes to present. It is vital that people think clearly about the existing resource in its natural splendour and the many people who are sustained by it when they weigh the pros and cons of trading it away.
We need to listen to the First Nations people who understand the life giving relationship we have with the natural world and with this amazing river and its estuary.
And it is critical that we ask the question who benefits when we see advertisement after advertisement trying to convince us that the LNG cuddly bear is real.
One of the themes I heard at the “Yes” rally was that it’s time for Northerners to roll up their sleeves and build their own future.
I could not agree more.
Health is something that happens in communities, not in work camps.
It is a by-product of people working together, finding meaning in their work, supporting each other and creating a local economy that features diversity, and sustainability.
We have the elements of those things right here and a chance to say yes to a future that would be the envy of most people in the world. LNG is not that future and we need to stop listening to the hucksters trying to sell it to us.
Yes to alternative energy investments, yes to wilderness tourism, yes to wild salmon and the jobs and cultures they sustain, yes to local food production, yes to parks, yes to small businesses, yes to resolving land and treaty issues with First Nations in a respectful rather than coercive way, yes to healthy communities yes to local decision making.
Know and ‘No’ to LNG.
David Bowering MD. MHSc.