by the Suzuki Elders’ Storytelling Group: Neale Adams, Margo Elfert, Diana Ellis, Patricia Grinsteed, Conrad Guelke, Cynthia Lam, Jeanette Stigger.
Once upon a time there was a group of Elder Environmentalists. They thought they were pretty good at telling stories in their everyday talk with family and friends. One day, another really big time Elder Environmentalist said to them “Hey Elders, you should go out and tell stories about nature. Especially to kids. They need to know how things have changed – and you can tell those stories!”
The Elders looked at one another and thought – “Oh – Ok – sounds good.” But they also thought if they were going to do this, they should learn more about how to be “official storytellers.” So, they read books about the history of storytelling. They went to a workshop on the meaning of storytelling. They studied storytelling techniques. A few months went by. Guess what? They were so busy learning, that they had stopped telling stories! They were even wondering if anyone would listen to their own simple stories
Finally one of them said – “Hey – we just need to get started on this – it can’t be that hard!” So, they formed their own storytelling group. And, in the comfort of one of their homes, with tea, cookies, and time set aside to listen to and coach one another, – they met to practice telling stories. Feeling slightly awkward at first, they wondered out loud – “What’s our topic?” And asked again “WHY we are doing this anyway?” It didn’t take long to remember they wanted to talk about themselves and nature…..and wanted the stories to help people think about the same. “Ok,” they agreed, “let’s keep meeting – and take turns writing and telling our stories to each other.”
Well – stories popped up like dandelions! Stories about trees, moss, waterfalls, flowers, bears. Stories with a single theme, or many. Stories about being scared in nature, or overwhelmed, or about experiencing nature’s deep comfort. Stories about how nature helped us understand about ourselves. Stories about action we have taken to protect nature. Stories set in South Africa, Britain, northern British Columbia, China, Massachusetts, West Vancouver.
The Elders discovered how to tell a story well. First, it is ok to tell stories in different ways. Tell it from memory. Read it. Bring pictures – - or play music. Stand up and use your body! And of course, they coached each other to speak UP, to make eye contact with others, to be expressive, and not to go on too long! Five to seven minutes is just right.
The Elders discovered some things about story tone and content. First, everyone listens to a real story that includes the storyteller, so make it personal! Second, every story needs a reason to be told – a purpose. Third, avoid the trap of going on about “the good old days.” Describing past experiences is one thing, ranting about how the world would be better off if only we all stopped doing X or Y often leads to a negative and blaming discussion.
The Elders learned about silence – and lively discussion. When the story ended, there was always a short period of silence. “What’s going on at that moment?” they wondered, “Does the storytelling session end then?” The answer was NO! Within a few minutes the babble would start! Listeners asked questions, made comparisons and expressed appreciation. The Elders learned that posing a couple of guiding questions helped the discussion. These are the questions:
1. What are your feelings about this story you just heard?
2. What did you learn from this story? (about the story, about the teller, about yourself?)
3. What similar stories or reflections emerge for you after listening to this story?
OK before this story about storytelling ends, we, the Elders, have THREE THINGS to tell you.
First Thing – to any of you wanting to start a storytelling group – we had fun! It wasn’t just another meeting. We learned that telling our stories revealed ourselves to one another, and sometimes even to ourselves! In doing this, we built trust and community between ourselves – and enjoyed the process. Tea, cookies and sitting around someone’s front room helped.
Second Thing – about taking stories out to others – let’s say, another group of elders, or a classroom of kids, or our own grandchildren. We learned that telling the story was a great beginning – and was just that – the beginning! When the story ends, let those silent moments happen. Questions and discussion always bubble up, and providing the guiding questions helps listeners get to their own place of “Aha” learning.
Third thing – who are the stories for? Our stories began as a way for we Elders to tell about ourselves in nature. In telling them, the door was opened for others to jump into the stories with us. Which they always did.
And now – - would you like to hear a story? We have this one about catching tadpoles……..or would you like that one about demonstrations….?
by Candace Gossen
I grew up in the bayous of Louisiana. As a French-Indian, storytelling is in my blood and often in my hands, eyes and smile. I am also a scientist, an archaeologist and an ecologist. For more than 12 years I have taught for Saturday Academy in Portland, Oregon, an organization that hires people like me to teach 2nd to 12th graders about science. For the past 8 weeks I have been teaching a group of 5th to 8th grade Native American students about the Great Bear Rainforest. I want to share with you how I integrate the art of storytelling back into the world, even through the public school system where talking about spirit and ceremony are not easily understood.
This class focused on the Salmon Forest within the Great Bear Rainforest. David Suzuki, through the television series The Nature of Things, produced a really beautiful film on the Salmon Forest and we began the class with this. Each week we focused on a part of the forest. In the beginning we identified all of the characters, with the keystone being the salmon itself. We sketched flow diagrams of all the connections of the characters to sort out the ecosystems within the forest itself. Then the students chose a living creature as their animal to focus upon for the rest of the class, and explained why they were interested in it. Their homework included researching a native story about their animal and bringing it to class. It was not a personal story, but one about an animal usually read from a piece of paper. This was the beginning.
In the following weeks we conducted water tests to determine if a salmon could live in the water samples that we were testing. Through the use of their senses – touch, taste, smell – the students began to understand how to ask questions and how to use their senses to arrive at answers. They learned about the scientific method. Each student wrote a description of their experiment. We then drew the hydrological cycle and talked about things that were causing the water to change and affecting the fate of the salmon.
In the chemistry class they learned that the planet’s surface was 70% water, about the same proportion as a young human body, and that the air in our atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen. It is this nitrogen that is the key element and which tells the story of the importance of the salmon to the forest. By measuring concentrations of the isotope N15 we know that nitrogen is taken up in the deep oceans by the salmon and carried with them as they return to the streams in the north-west. It is through bears and other animals that feed on salmon, carrying them deeper into the forest and leaving the carcasses on the forest floor where they are eventually incorporated into the soils – a vital link in the life of this magical place. More than 50% of the nitrogen in the trees is derived from salmon. If the salmon disappeared then half the forest would vanish.
The students then had to draw the connections between their chosen animals and the salmon and explain how they all depended on each other. With all of this information in place, they could draw a mask of their animal and tell its story. These masks could be hung on a wall, or worn – whatever they chose. The mask told the story of their animal and its place within the Salmon Forest; the storyteller was encouraged to embellish the tale and so an even better story unfolded.
After drawing, painting, adding branches and whatever art pieces we had in the art box and from their own recycling, we sat in a talking circle. Each student was asked to share the story of the mask. Their story could be real or not, but it had to include facts. It had to include the chosen animal, information on where it lived, how it connected with the salmon, and whatever else they had learned.
In a truth-speaking way, each student was given time and attention by the others. I was amazed at the ability of the students to make up their stories on the spot while looking within their masks for the reasons why they created them. Up to the last minute some were saying that they couldn’t think of a story to tell, but as each began the story seemed to unfold easily and became entertaining. Each story-teller earned a round of applause and a thank you.
We have one more class meeting next week. I have asked the students to think of someone that was a storyteller for them – a grandparent or a friend, someone that told them stories that made them laugh. I also made them promise that they would take home what we did each week to share with their storytellers. My final request was that these elder storytellers come to the last class to attend the story circle.
Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way. A few won’t make the last class, others have multiple families and arrangements wouldn’t allow. Many elder grandparents have been left without ways to get around, and can only be part of a group when someone takes the time to bring them. Sadly, they feel forgotten.
The art of storytelling came from my ability to tie stories in with science, a way to understand complex science that I teach to college students as well as 2nd graders. The only thing that changes from one class to the next is the level of complexity. But science does not have to be hard, in fact, it’s the story of life. Ecology is the connection between all living things, invisible threads that I get to explain.
This class taught my students about a place in the world that is unique, close to their homes and within tribal areas of the students. They shared what they learned with their elders every week, and some mothers and grandmothers stayed in our classes to participate themselves. The science experiments and lessons further detailed the connections so that in the end the stories were broad with details. The students learned how to conduct experiments, write stories, research, draw, and built their confidence with support from their friends.
In eight weeks, two hours once a week, a group of students became very good storytellers and learned that their voices are important and that stories bring all the connections together.
by David Laing
We were shivering; bracing against a blustery, bone-chilling north-west wind, yet virtually hypnotized by the majestic beauty of the guardian towers and the gentle swish, swish, swish of the rotating blades. We wanted to linger far longer, but the cold won out as a freshening gust drove us back to the comfort of our car. It was a damp chilly day in early December 2012 and my wife Dayle and I were on Wolfe Island near Kingston Ontario, just finishing a visit to Canada’s second largest wind farm project. Our purpose was to get a firsthand perspective on the benefits and detractions of wind turbines as an economical power source for the Province of Ontario and also to understand the impact of those turbines, both positive and negative, on the local Wolfe Island community.
The Wind Farm on Wolfe Island boasts 86 turbines, each capable of generating 2.3 Megawatts, when running at peak capacity. The 197.8 megawatt farm is just under the 200 megawatt limit allowed in Ontario. Of course theoretical capacity is not the same as actual output. The wind is fickle and the turbines aren’t always spinning at their maximum velocity. Maintenance activity, both scheduled and unscheduled also reduces wind farm capacity. But, even considering these inefficiencies, Wolfe Island produces sufficient electricity to meet over 68% of the power requirements for the Kingston Metropolitan Area. 
TransAlta completed construction of the facility in 2009 and is committed to a 20 year contract to produce wind-based power for Ontario’s Power Authority. At something less than 9.2 cents a kilowatt hour, (exact contract terms are confidential), the price compares favourably to nuclear and hydro when all the cost for construction, maintenance, operations and environmental impact are taken into consideration.
Proposing to build an industrial facility in a natural setting is a certain recipe for controversy and Wolfe Island was no exception. According to our long-term friends, who moved to the island well before the wind farm project was conceived, the prospect of dozens of 80 metre towers rising above relatively flat agricultural land that also is part of a major bird migration route, elicited a particularly strong negative response from many local residents. The controversy initially divided the community, pitting family members against each other, prompting at least one to pack up and move away.
Yet 3 ½ years after TransAlta Corporation completed construction and began operations, our friends have indicated that the majority of the residents think that the wind farm is more of a benefit than a detraction to the island and that TransAlta is a pretty good neighbour, as corporations go. To discover more, we asked our friends to contact their neighbour Mike Jablonicky who also happens to be Wolfe Island’s Wind Farm Supervisor of Operations. And so a visit was arranged for that frigid December morning.
Friendly and approachable, Mike is clearly enthusiastic about his job and very proud of the farm and its operating team. We learned that he was assigned to the project from the beginning. He was, and still is the communications point person, handling all manner of objections and complaints from the local residents.
When asked about the acceptance rates for the project prior to construction, Mike smiles and hands us the “fact sheet” published by a group who were, at the time, anxious to stop the project. “Reading that, he said, I would be scared to the point that I wouldn’t want a wind-farm in my area as well”. The early objections he said mostly came down to myths, misunderstanding and a lack of information. For instance, residents were told that, during storms, ice could collect on the turbines and be thrown hundreds of metres by the spinning blades in chunks the size of a bus. Or that the vibration of the towers would crush turtle eggs, kill the crops because the dew worms would leave the area and cause cows to lose their minds and stop calving.
Mike hosted monthly communications sessions, talked to people in small groups and even one-on-one. Each issue was addressed in turn. He demonstrated the mechanics of how any ice build-up on the turbine blades would cause the turbine to slow down and stop, not throw ice off. He explained how vibration, significant enough to damage turtle eggs, would, in fact, destroy a turbine tower in about 3 hours of operation. As a result, he said the three turbine blades, each weighing about 11 tons, is balanced to within 20 pounds of the other two such that tower vibration is virtually eliminated. He also showed concerned residents pictures of other wind farms where crops grow and cattle graze right up to the tower base. Once the farm was in operation, these fears were proven to be unfounded which added to Mike’s credibility and helped build trust between TransAlta and the community. Support for the wind farm development crept above 50% for the first time since the project was announced.
But some issues aren’t myths. Wind farm detractors point to thousands of bird and bat deaths each year from interactions with the turbine blades. Complaints arise from turbine noise, both audible noise and low frequency “infrasound”, which is thought to be a cause of negative health effects such as: sleep disorders, headaches, depression and changes to blood pressure. Then there is the undisputable fact that wind farms forever alter the skyline. Handling these real objections required more than talk and education. Mike, and the company, had to have a process and an action plan for mitigation.
To mitigate bird and bat kills, TransAlta worked with the University of Calgary’s Professor of Biology Robert Barclay, to carry out a number of independent studies. The research indicated bat deaths were the far greater problem and the highest concentration of bat deaths occurred at low wind velocities. This lead TransAlta to adjust its procedures around wind farm operations in low wind conditions with the effect that bat fatalities have been reduced by 60%.
The latest available data from the Wolfe Island studies estimates about 900 birds and 1,900 bats were killed at the facility in 2011. This number is considerably below the Adaptive Management Threshold as set by Environment Canada.
While the hundreds of thousands of wildlife deaths caused by wind turbines in North America are of concern, it is important to put this in perspective when compared to the billions of bird and bat deaths caused each year in collisions with high-rise buildings and attacks by domestic housecats. ,,
In terms of ambient noise, Ontario regulates turbine set-backs from any private residence such that the noise at the residence must not exceed 40 decibels. Mike brought in a decibel meter and showed residents that 40 decibels is about the level of a quiet library conversation. He told them anything above that meant something very likely was wrong. He posted his cell phone number and told residents to call him with noise issues “twenty-four seven” and that “he would be there in 15 minutes”. When tested, even at 2:30 in the morning, Mike was responsive, coming out to check on the problem and shutting down the offending turbines until repairs were made. More trust and credibility accrued to Mike and approval levels continued to rise.
The health effects of low-frequency noise present a more difficult challenge. According to Mike, studies by local and provincial authorities along with the World Health Organization have so far, not been able to correlate either low or high frequency noise with any deleterious health impacts. The collective conclusion is that, for some people, living near a wind farm is such an emotional irritant that the annoyance factor alone may be the cause of negative health effects. So this issue remains unresolved although Health Canada is now sponsoring a very comprehensive study. The results are expected in late 2014 and it is hoped this will allow more definitive conclusions to be drawn.
Then there is the issue of wind farm aesthetics. Mike and TransAlta recognized that wind turbines do alter the landscape and this may be disturbing to some people. They addressed this issue non-defensively, in effect offering financial compensation in return for loss of view. During construction, over 400 on-site construction jobs and purchasing through local companies injected $22M over 11 ½ months into the local economy. After construction was completed TranAlta continues to frequent local stores for hardware, gas and automotive repairs. Several permanent well-paying jobs were created and filled with local labour. In addition, each year TransAlta provides the community with “amenities money”: $634,000 to be used for the betterment of the community such as road construction, beach-bike paths and a new water system. As a result, everyone on the island benefits from the presence of the wind farm whether or not they have a turbine on their property.
So after 3 ½ years of operation, Mike says, “I think we are about a healthy 80-85% acceptance rate, [by the residents], right now and, that’s probably as far as we’re going to get, and that’s Ok. We can’t have 100% consensus on anything we do in any community…80-85%, I’ll take that.”
I’ll admit to bringing a certain bias to this investigation. Dayle and I have stood beneath modern wind farms in several locales around the world: Costa Rica, Hawaii, Europe, Britain, South Africa and North America. In each case we have been impressed by the elegance of their functional design.
We all must recognize that there is no method of producing electricity that is 100% benign. While there is no mistaking their industrial application, wind farms are less disruptive and integrate far better into the natural surroundings than other power producing alternatives. Aesthetics aside, for us there is an unmistakeable appeal in their ability to generate much needed electrical power, using wind as a “free fuel” that is non-toxic, produces no carbon emissions and that will be available for as long as the sun continues to shine on our planet.
 “Facts and Myths debunked – Facts and Figures Ontario’s Electricity System”, Ontario Citizens Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, http://www.occcae.org/facts-and-myths-debunked.php
 “Health Canada lays out a plan for study of wind farms, Globe and Mail, February 11, 2013, pg. A3
Its time for elders to step forward and play a stronger role in addressing serious global environmental changes
More than 40 years ago the late Maggie Kuhn, an American social activist and devout Presbyterian, was forced into retirement on her 65th birthday. That was the accepted code of practice at the time. Maggie responded, not by taking up her knitting needles and seeking the porch rocker, but by founding the Gray Panthers movement to work for social and economic justice and peace.
Maggie Kuhn reasoned that her aims could be achieved through honouring maturity, unifying generations, being actively engaged and encouraging participatory democracy. She famously explained her view of the elder role in society in characteristically down-to-earth terminology – “The old, having the benefit of life experience, the time to get things done, and the least to lose by sticking their necks out, are in a perfect position to serve as the advocates for the larger public good.“
This type of declaration had an unquestionably strong emotional underpinning when it was first uttered, but the underlying motivation has recently been backed up by hard statistics. For example, in December 2012 the Huffington Post reported an interview with Dr Dilip V. Jeste, Director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California. The Institute conducted in-depth interviews with a thousand older adults and concluded that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, most respondents reported a feeling that their well-being had improved with age. Factors which were found to counteract actual health deterioration and which appeared to significantly contribute to subjective success in aging were education, better cognitive functioning, better perceived physical and mental health, less depression, and greater optimism and resilience. In other words, many elders feel they have become better able to tackle difficult issues and, in so doing, may actually improve their own health.
As we move into 2013, Canada’s population has just edged past the 35 million mark for the first time in history. One in every seven of these millions is over the age of 65, and the fastest-growing population segment is the over-80s. In the years following World War II Canada had a large baby boom which swelled the ranks of the work force in the last decades of the 20th century and played a significant part in the country’s historic growth and development. The boomers are now starting to retire, and the ratio of the employed to the retired has started a decline which is projected to last for a very long time.
In the previous century people in their later years received a level of acknowledgement quite different to that on offer to today’s seniors. The older members of communities were regarded as elders and respected for their counsel and for their historical knowledge of events, resources and natural phenomena. This situation still prevails for elders in many First Nations communities, but in non-native communities embedded in a shopping mall culture and submerged in electronic information clouds, seniors have, to a large extent, become invisible.
Today’s seniors face pressures of marginalization from their younger compatriots, but many remain aware of the creative role they once played in society, and of the moral and intellectual resources which they still have. They can point with some pride to the fact that actions and protests against environmental and societal ills and grievances are not a unique feature of today’s Generations X and Y. The environmental movement was launched 50 years ago by some who are now elders in response to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring indictment of the pesticide assault on the environment. Images of the current protests in B.C. against oil pipelines and oil tankers reveal a noticeable proportion of grey heads and wrinkled faces amongst the throngs.
Concerns and actions over pensions and health care have long been the main concerns of seniors, and will certainly continue to be foci of attention in coming years. But for a growing number of elders, sometimes defined as “seniors with attitude”, the rapidly deteriorating global climate outlook and the intransigence of governments in coming to grips with dying oceans, melting ice caps, and extinctions of species and ecosystems have become the sparks for growing concern and rising indignation. Modern medicine and technology have tipped the scales for elders, giving them a decade and more of additional time in which to be active and involved, either within elder ranks or by joining with their much younger but similarly motivated compatriots,
Some of today’s elders will recall that they have been here before. As young disaffected people in the late 1960s they rejected the post- World War II system of their parents. From their ranks came the anti-Vietnam War demonstrators and the dedicated activists who established environmental organizations such as Greenpeace. Aging boomers now have an opportunity to return to their youthful idealism and to work to improve the environment and address pressing problems such as climate change. They have an opportunity to volunteer and to actively embrace newly rediscovered values.
Elders might have to reluctantly admit that they were themselves part of the system that created the present global environmental situation. In fact, a nagging sense of guilt might underlie some elders’ growing concerns over the increasing vulnerability of the ecosystems which underpin our 21st century life-styles.
There are many role models for elders to follow if they elect to address the enormous challenges of the rapidly changing world. Vancouver’s own David Suzuki, himself now an elder after more than 40 years service as a scientist, broadcaster and author, gives a definition of humanity which serves well as an elder objective. “Our great evolutionary advantage has been the ability to lift our sights and look ahead, to imagine the world as it could be and then make the best choices to move toward that vision”.
by David Laing
“We need to act like our future depends on it”; that was the opening line for the Capitalism 2.0 seminar, December 5th 2012, organized by the Toronto Sustainability Speakers Series (TSSS).
The quote was from a recent TED talk by Paul Gilding, an Australian environmentalist, consultant and author. In his TED presentation Paul stated that our economy is a system operating past its limits and outgrowing the earth’s ability to support it. He argued that, rather than increasing happiness and well-being for the majority, the economy increasingly concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, demands ever increasing levels of workforce productivity, insatiably consumes increasingly scarce resources while spewing toxins into an increasingly less hospitable ecosystem. Following the laws of physics, he said, it will break down and the breakdown is already starting.
Paul is not alone in his terrifying prognostications. Corporate leaders and economists are joining environmentalists in saying that Capitalism 1.0, the capitalistic society based primarily on growth and greed that we have come to know and love is unsustainable and needs a major overhaul. The Capitalism 2.0 seminar was designed to get us thinking about what is possible and what is needed to drive change.
First up at the seminar was Joyce Sou from the MARS Centre for Impact Investing who told us about B Corps. Unlike standard corporations whose primary objective is maximising profit, B Corps are legally bound to pursue a triple bottom-line that objectively measures their positive contribution to people and the planet in addition to generating profits. Today there are more than 600 B Corps in 60 industries and 15 countries who hold themselves to a higher standard for purpose, accountability and transparency and who believe that it is possible to simultaneously create social and shareholder value.
Next, Terry Kellog spoke about his organization, 1% For The Planet. Started 10 years ago by the founder of Patagonia, (manufacturers of outdoor gear), 1% For The Planet sees itself as a movement that exists to build and support an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. As of December 2012, it boasts 1,248 corporate members in 45 countries, growing at a rate of 300 new members a year. Each corporate member commits to donating 1% of their annual sales revenues to support a network of 3,177 non-profit environmental partner organizations. In 2011, donations topped $100M!
The last presenter was Esther Speck who is the Director of Sustainability at Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC). MEC sells $300M of outdoor gear annually to its 3.6M members and is committed to doing that in a socially responsible way. Among many initiatives, MEC has placed an internal cost on carbon of $15/ton and is on track to reduce its carbon emissions to 20% below 2007 levels by the end of this year. It also belongs to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an industry-wide group of over 60 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, non-profits, and NGOs working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world. Over 50% of the products that MEC carries are BlueSign™ certified which guarantees those products, along their entire production chain, only contain components and pass through processes that are harmless to people and the environment!
After the presentations, the large audience broke into discussion groups where we contributed to a paper that TSSS plans to publish early in 2013 on the vision and implementation of a more sustainable business model, Capitalism 2.0. There will be more to follow as this story continues to unfold!
Getting to know your enemy: meeting with Kinder Morgan on the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project
Two perspectives from concerned Elders
From Cynthia Lam -
“Getting to know your enemy” was the idea that I had for going to attend the Kinder Morgan (KM) “public information session”, Saturday, 17 November 2012. Diana Ellis and I, wearing our Suzuki Elders buttons, tried to hit different aspects of the project separately, ready to ask questions and trying to get answers.
I’m glad that I went, to see it and hear it in person. From the many questions we posed I learned about the project, albeit from the proponent viewpoint. I came away feeling what a formidable enemy this was! How can we beat it? Margaret Meade’s famous saying came to the rescue, “Never underestimate the power of the concerned citizens taking concerted actions!” We shall see how this project unfolds!
Here is a summary of my exchange with different KM staff at the session, their answers to my questions, and my reactions (in parentheses).
Who is KM? A company of 60 years, based in Houston, U.S., has 5 components: natural gas, liquid petroleum, CO2 for crude oil, terminals/wharfs, and KM Canada (based in Calgary).
Piping construction and maintenance: as a mover for oil, they have lots of new technical & protective measures. (To me they sounded partly like the sewer service I got to know, using camera/GPS to spot problem areas for repair).
It was human error that caused the last spill; they have instituted corrective measures against recurrence.
New pipes have been tested in tanks only, so far.
Earthquake zone: n ew technology reinforced pipes will be used to minimize potential damage.
Property rights to be bought for the pipe expansion: the right-of-way will be 1150 km long, from Edmonton to Burnaby, with a total width of 60 feet to accommodate both the existing and the new pipeline. The 2nd pipeline will be 30” diameter compared to 2’ diameter of the existing pipe.
Property rights will have to be acquired from current owners; prices will vary according to property locations etc Property owners will have restricted use of the right-of-way once sold. Water, soil, vegetation use will be limited. Swimming pools won’t be allowed etc.
New piping is safer underground than currently installed pipelines.
Towns along the right-of-way anticipate an economic boost from pipeline expansion.
Aboriginal communities: a KM staffer of aboriginal background commented that consultations with aboriginal groups commenced 6 months ago. They have another year in which to consult before KM is ready to submit an application to the National Energy Board (now planned for October 2013). Consultations will continue while the application is being studied by the NEB. There are 62 native communities close to the pipeline route, 14 of which are treaty groups who will be “supported in their capacity to participate” in consultations by KM’s environmental team. (How objective can the data and outcomes then be?)
Fifteen First Nations communities in B.C. would receive annual incomes from taxation.
Market: Canada needs to be less dependent on U.S. oil market as the U.S. is experiencing a slower economy and higher transport costs. The U.S. has increased its own capacity for oil production. Canada needs to explore new markets, especially in Asia, which currently receives only 10% of Canadian oil.
Accidents in Salish Sea? There have been no marine accidents since 1953 (?). There should be no significant increase in the numbers of tankers conveying oil as result of pipeline expansion, since newer tankers are a lot larger than older ones in use. Water travel capacity will increase from 10% to 25%, and is not an issue! (??)
My impressions and reflections: this meeting with KM reminded me of the experience I had while working on an anti-gambling project years ago.
Seventeen staff members were present at the session. About 30 members of the public attended the session. Some KM staffers said that they don’t work for KM directly, they are “just contractors”. Some staff had the tendency of providing great amount of information, but came short of giving direct answers. Their information will need to be verified and analyzed in depth. Staff were all smiling faces, mild mannered, well versed, and appeared engaged in discussion, but it was orchestrated and staged.
KM appeared to be quite “formidable” at this session, with such obviously abundant resources to build their case. Just imagine how they must have spared no resource nor effort in lobbying the governments and related institutes!
The National Energy Board will receive and review their application in the new year. We should indeed “lobby” this agency, and follow up with other regulatory agencies who are mandated to enforce what is signed on the contract with KM, so the public interest will be protected.
I was speaking with a Greenpeace person on the street the other day. She said even if we can’t defeat the KM proposal now, it would still be a partial victory if we, the concerned citizens, could delay the project by raising and posing questions and concerns and force KM to take every necessary precaution. They will have to show proof of their responsible actions for the future of the whole planet!
As I’m writing now, I recall, sadly, that since my days working on a North American anti gambling project, the gambling industry has seen mushrooming growth of casinos and lotteries. I wonder what will come of the oil extraction and delivery industry? A better outcome, I hope.
From Diana Ellis –
At a Suzuki Elder Council Meeting in November, guest Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, spoke of the importance of environmentalists being FOR something rather than always placing ourselves in opposition. It was with that in mind that Cynthia and I, in planning our visit to the Kinder Morgan event, decided: (a) to be open about who we were (we wore our Suzuki Elder buttons), (b) to state at some point in all our conversations that we were very much in favour of the development and transportation of alternate energy rather than fossil fuels (which we did), and (c) to attend in order to engage and learn – i.e. to ask lots of questions and to visibly take notes. It wasn’t until we left that we realized we’d been there two hours, and were just about the last visitors in the room!
By nature curious about how things work, and particularly concerned about the marine end of this proposed energy transport venture, I spoke to project partners involved with the ocean/port/water clean-up side of things – the Pacific Pilotage Authority, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, and the Port of Vancouver. Here are a few things I learned.
From the Pacific Pilotage Authority: I was told there are presently 100 pilots working on the BC coast. Most work with shipping in and out of Prince Rupert, Victoria and Vancouver. I asked if the complement of pilots would be increased if both the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan lines go through. The answer was that approximately eight more pilots would be needed for the north, but no additional pilots would be needed for the south. This is due to the fact that the number of ship entries and exits into Victoria/Vancouver harbours has decreased in recent years largely because the size of the vessels has increased, i.e. larger (but fewer) cruise ships and tankers/freighters. Apparently the existing number of pilots is enough to handle the assumed increase in oil tankers from 5/month to 25/month, except for the north, where the additional eight pilots would (I assume) be working ships in and out of Douglas Channel and Kitimat Harbour.
From Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC): Here’s key information from their brochure – “established in 1976, WCMRC was originally created as an oil industry cooperative with a mandate to provide spill response resources to handle spills within the Port of Vancouver. Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act in 1995 introduced more rigorous standards, and WCMRC became one of four Canadian Certified Response Organizations, and the only one responsible for spill response on the west coast of BC. Since its inception, WCMRC has responded to more than 650 spills.” Interestingly, they are mandated and certified by the federal government (Transport Canada), but the fuel companies pay a fee (per ton of oil they carry) and this funds the existing operations. Presently, WCMRC has a full time staff of 22, 500 available trained responders, and 28 oil spill response vessels (of all sizes). On average, they respond to 20 spill incidents per year. WCMRC has office/warehouse facilities in Duncan, Vancouver and Prince Rupert, and a cache of response equipment in Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Sechelt, Powell River, Shearwater, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert. They are responsible for 27,000 km of BC shoreline.
While their literature describes extensive training and resources, I expressed concern about their ability to respond to increased oil and LNG traffic, and the increased likelihood of spills small and large. (As well, the Canada Shipping Act 2001 planning standards seemed inadequate to me – for example, for spills greater than 2500 tonnes, the standard is that vessels, equipment and personnel are to be delivered on the scene within 72 hours, plus travel time. Less than 2500 tonnes, the delivery time is within 18 hours, plus travel time.)
The WCMRC representative agreed with my concern about the ability to respond to increased tanker traffic. He noted that if the pipelines are approved, Transport Canada will need to quickly put out tenders for construction of more response vessels, and rapidly increase the number of trained personnel. It is important to note that the regulatory review continues to 2015, and if the project is approved, construction of the pipeline expansion would take place in 2016-2017, with operations beginning in 2017. That leaves only two years to tender and build response craft, and train responders. While I was advised that Transport Canada has plans ready for this, a comment I made about lobbying TC in this regard was met with a strong nod of the head.
I didn’t have time to engage the Port Metro rep in conversation, but their brochure notes there are clear regulations for tankers outlining tug escort and pilotage requirements, ship inspection and reporting programs, double hulls etc. Kinder Morgan reps also described mandatory ship inspections that take place prior to the loading of oil on to the tanker.
In retrospect – I appreciated the information available at the public information session – and I do realize it is all from the proponent’s perspective – I expected nothing different. I also liked that Cynthia and I chose to listen, question, engage, and gain factual information to aid in our Suzuki Elder analysis. My curiosity about how things work was well fed and I identified gaps of concern to me, particularly in the marine response area. Also unclear were the descriptions of liability funds and responsibility, which even the Kinder Morgan rep admitted was “complicated.” I will also say this – numerous times Cynthia and I, when we spoke of risk, heard this response: “Risk is – probability times consequences.” While I understand this as a cool-headed business-oriented approach, I still shuddered each time I heard it.
by Dan Kingsbury & Stan Hirst
Joel Bakan’s recent book Childhood Under Siege describes how big businesses target and exploit children in myriad subtle and underhand ways, and labels the behaviour of large corporations in the U.S. towards children in the marketplace as “psychopathic”.
The main battle zones that Bakan identifies are children’s exposure to violent images via gaming, early sexualisation through various media, over-medication, child labour, the corruption of the education system, and environmental health issues. Bakan is most powerful when writing about the sinister relationship between multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession. Citing numbers and figures, Bakan makes a convincing case that doctors and other healthcare professionals are in bed with pharmaceutical companies. They have created an environment in which children are over-medicated, mainly for psychiatric conditions. By controlling so-called “independent” drug tests and treating doctors to perks, companies have bought into the medical profession in an effective and insidious way. The corporate marketing budget for pharmaceuticals in the U.S. currently weighs in at $20 billion per year.
The specifics are disturbing. For example –
- Bayer supports young environmentalists while manufacturing pesticides, Bisphenol A, phosgene, and other toxic chemicals.
- In 2009 Pfizer and its subsidiaries Pharmacia & Upjohn were fined $1.3 billion, the then-largest criminal fine in history, for the illegal marketing of the arthritis drug Bextra for uses unapproved by the FDA.
- In the same year Eli Lilly was caught for promoting Zyorexa beyond its recommended use, specifically targeting children. The fine was $615 million and proved that crime pays because, despite the fine, it became a top seller bringing in 25% of the company’s revenues of $1.5 billion each year.
- In 2007 Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to pay $515 million to settle civil claims for wrongful drug marketing and pricing practices, including promoting its drug Abilify for “off-label” treatment of children and the elderly.
- Purdue agreed to pay $600 million to settle criminal and civil claims for fraudulently marketing and promoting its drug OxyContin as less addictive and less subject to abuse and diversion than it actually is. The “moral hazard” is that today in the U.S. 1 out of every 5 teens abuses prescription drugs, sometimes with devastating effects; Oxycontin is their drug of choice.
- In 2000, LifeScan (Johnson & Johnson) agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for misbranding a home glucose monitor and submitting false reports to the FDA and pay $29.4 million in criminal fines as well as $30.6 million in civil penalties, etc.
It’s hard to understand the dollar amount of these fines in terms of human pain and suffering. The pharmaceutical corporate industry does not know compassion.
What our medical colleagues know comes not just from their training but also from company reps and sponsored trainings. The latter leave a lot to be desired when it comes to information on treating children for emotional and behavioral problems. Pharmaceutical corporations are concerned mainly about creating markets for their products and influencing quarterly profits, and not necessarily about discovering scientific truths or promoting children’s health.
We are now beginning to see the future, and corporations have a lot of “moral hazard” to reckon with as we foolishly march toward a non-sustainable world armed with our deep commitments to cheap energy and a growth economy. Children’s chronic health issues have risen steadily as increasing amounts of chemicals are infused into their environments.
Over the past 30 years the rates of asthma have risen 50%, childhood leukemia and brain cancer 40%, autism 1,000%, premature births 30%, girls reaching puberty earlier 100%, boys with genital abnormalities 100%. Concomitantly, the use of industrial chemicals has increased by 7,500%, the use of BPA has increased 15,000%, and 26,000 new chemicals have been created since the U.S. 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Sadly, only 200 of the 86,000 chemicals available today for commercial use have been studied for toxicity. The U.S. Safe Chemical Act of 2010 didn’t pass!
Soft rubber toys, screen prints on t-shirts, kitchen floors made from PVC tiles, school back packs, pencil cases, lunch boxes, children’s shoes (flip flops, crocs), electronic equipment, shower curtains, plastic window frames, doors and blinds, personal care products, soaps, shampoo, deodorant, cosmetics, lotions – all potentially contain PFCs, PBDE and/or phthalates, all are known hormone disruptors.
Each generation has higher levels of exposure than the previous one. Think about that!
This isn’t about Oz any more. There is no yellow brick road.
by Diana Ellis
“Don’t memorize your story”, said storytelling workshop facilitator Naomi Steinberg to a room full of Suzuki Elders recently, “know it by heart. “ For me, that simple comment took formality out of the storytelling process. Of course – our stories are what we already KNOW by heart – they are pieces of our everyday past and present experience.
We Elders were in the room, 26 strong, to learn about the theory, structure and fun of storytelling. It was a long day, punctuated by laughter and sharing between folks who really didn’t know one another very well then – but know more now, thanks to really listening to one another as we shared key phrases and dialogue that came to our story-searching minds.
Here’s a few of the wisdoms Naomi left with us:
- Every story has the same structure….a beginning, a middle, (the journey), and an end.
- Other core elements are plot, setting, character, repetition and dramatization.
- Most stories have a ‘chain of causality,’ i.e. “this happened” then “that happened”, punctuated by “because.”
- Most stories have a turning point – a point at which something is about to happen.
- Stories for children and adults are the same.
Around the circle we discussed what brings meaning to a story, the role of ego in telling a story, how to begin and end a story, how to move between being a character and a storyteller while telling. We practiced dialoguing, building the landscape of a story and putting a focus on the “beginning… middle…and end of my story.” Naomi guided us with these points:
- A storyteller needs to let the ‘meaning’ of a story go. Our job is to tell the story and the let the listener make their own meaning, because the meaning is found in the space between you and the listener.
- When telling a story about the past, put it in the past tense – one of the ways to universalize a personal experience is to put it in the past tense.
- If your story does not have an ending (yet), you can say that!
- A good story is not about fluffing about your own ego! We all have stories in us, and sometimes ego actually gets in the way. Let ego go!
- Be responsible in telling your story – know it by heart, remember to breathe, carry folks through to the end.
- Using the term “once upon a time” is a trust building moment that breaks open the rationality of our everyday lives.
- It is not always necessary to say “and they/we lived happily ever after!”
- In person storytelling is threatened by technology (“put it on YouTube!”) Never forget the ancient technology and “good medicine” of breath to breath stories.
- Each one of us has a sphere of influence – enter it and tell the golden stories.
Our facilitator closed by encouraging us to listen to the old tried and true stories, the “healing heart stories”, reminding us that sometimes a particular story can galvanize a community. She reminded us too, that as Suzuki Elders we often take a stand – a resistance – and it helps the listener hear us when we include “compassion in the resistance.” This took me back to the inspiring words of world famous storyteller Laura Simms, when, at the Vancouver Storytelling Festival’s spring panel on Storytelling for Social Change, she gave this considered response to someone exclaiming “my father….Stephen Harper…the right wing….they won’t listen to me/us!” Laura said “If I tell someone they are wrong, the door is closed. So…open a conversation with that person. And, ask ourselves, what is really at stake here on this matter? Is it that we do not want to be victims of that authority, and thus we remonstrate? Or, do we want change? If we want change, we have to engage in the story, the conversation.”
The Suzuki Elders will follow up on this workshop with storytelling circles where we can practice with one another. Indeed, we have stories to tell.
28 August 2012
Secretary to the Joint Review Panel
Enbridge Northern Gateway Project
444 Seventh Ave SW
Calgary AB T2P 0X8
BITUMEN TANKERS IN CONFINED WATERS
Dear Secretary ;
I wish to express my serious concern over the logic of shipping, on a regular basis, huge quantities of diluted bitumen in very large tankers through the confined, often treacherous internal waters of northern BC, out into Hecate Strait, and thence to the Pacific.
During 35 years at sea spent largely in BC waters, I sailed the Central / North Coast in ten commercial and naval vessels. My principal involvement grew to be watch keeping, navigation, and the duties of command (XO HMCS STETTLER and PROVIDER; 3rd Officer / Navigator Canadian Cruise Lines SS PRINCE GEORGE; Captain HMCS QU’APPELLE and MACKENZIE).
Fair weather navigation in Douglas Channel, Squally Reach and Caamano Sound requires precision and watchfulness even in a small vessel. The dangers attending a breakdown, miss-step or inattention escalate dramatically as vessel dimensions (and turning characteristics, stopping distance etc.) increase. The deeper the ship’s draft the more constrained the navigable channel becomes. Strong tidal streams and rapidly deteriorating weather further complicate and can wreck the best laid plans for safe navigation.
I have sailed those waters in the flat calm of a sunny summer day, in fog, and in the driving rain squalls and buffeting of an autumn gale. I don’t know Principe Channel, but believe it is no more forgiving of error than the rest of the Inside Passage. As for Hecate Strait, my experience is that it can be idyllic and peaceful at one moment and then, within short hours, become a place of howling winds and mountainous seas such as cause the most experienced seafarers to grit their teeth and hang on tight. I was in the frigate STETTLER there one night when the ship rolled 60 degrees to port, sustaining considerable damage down below. On another occasion, as my friends in the Fleet Oiler PROVIDER related it, the 20,000 ton ship so nearly ‘stood on her nose’ amid the monstrous waves of that extremely shallow sea, that some on the bridge were concerned she might strike bottom. Recognized as the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world, twenty per cent of Hecate Strait has water depth less than 20 metres. I wonder how a vessel drawing 60 or 70 feet might fare in a Hecate Strait storm.
Risk is the product of the likelihood of an occurrence and the consequences thereof. Modern machinery, navigation aids, communications etc. can have a near-zero failure rate, but the people who operate the equipment, though better educated and trained than ever, always have been and likely will remain the major stumbling block to a foolproof system. Look no further than TITANIC, EXXON VALDES, QUEEN of the NORTH, COSTA CONCORDIA. The likelihood of a significant tanker accident between Kitimat and the Pacific may be extremely low but it is finite.
Meanwhile it appears that, as yet, nobody – not even Enbridge – has studied seriously the possibility of a major spill of diluted bitumen in northern BC waters. The outcome could be horrendous. I read that the Canadian Coast Guard is uncertain whether traditional methods of containing and cleaning up a crude oil spill would work for bitumen. How would diluted bitumen be dispersed by wind, sea and tide compared to crude? Is it more likely than crude to sink as the lighter properties evaporate? What toxins does it contain? How would all living things within the scope of such a spill be affected? If not contained or recovered, for how long would it persist as an environmental hazard?
From what the climatologists keep telling us these days and from our experience in recent seasons, it seems prudent to expect that extreme weather incidents will occur with increasing frequency in years to come. And consider: foreign ships do not always measure up to the highest standards of mechanical safety and crew competence.
Very big ships, very narrow channels and extreme weather don’t make a good mix.
I beg you to recognize that the finite likelihood of a tanker accident – no matter how remote-coupled with the potentially catastrophic consequences of a major spill of diluted bitumen into northern BC waters, together constitute a risk no thinking Canadian can afford to accept.
Commander RCN ret.
Certificate of Service as Master Foreign Going
Qualified Master Home Trade
Member, Association of Suzuki Elders
by Jim Park
On July 30, under the warm summer sun, a group of concerned elders met in Volunteer Park on Point Grey Road in Kitsilano, Vancouver, to walk the beach where a proposed seawall extension is to be located. Led by Suzuki Elder David Cook, a geologist and naturalist, and assisted by Sheila Byers, a marine biologist, the walk spanned the area between the Vancouver and Jericho Yacht Clubs. With the two scientists were six Suzuki Elders, Mel Lehan from the Point Grey Foreshore Society, and two Vancouver Parks Board Commissioners, John Coupar and Trevor Loke. The walk was planned to show the participants the diverse intrinsic value of this beach area and to examine the features worthy of being preserved in their natural state.
David presented the geological history of this part of Kitsilano Beach and its unique characteristics, including coal veins, two basalt channels bounded on both sides by sandstone, a fossil repository, and other fascinating earth lore. Sheila discussed the rich and complex intertidal web of life found here, and emphasized the fragility of the beach ecosystems. There were many opportunities for hands-on experiencing of the topics being discussed by David and Sheila. Each handful of sea water that Sheila cupped in her hands contained a myriad of tiny life forms. It seemed so miraculous, I felt like a kid again. When David led us to a fossil repository and showed us a beautiful plant fossil that he had found there, I became the ten-year-old amateur paleontologist of my youth and started scouring the ground looking for T. rex bones. I didn’t find any bones but I did find a wonderfully detailed leaf fossil. In some ways, I think we all became children again as we slowly explored the seashore. Everyone was excitedly talking to each other, broad smiles of delight framing eyes bright with the joy of new discoveries and realizations. This is what a spiritual connection with nature does.
There will always be a need for more housing and more recreational areas for the public to access, but these needs are, in my opinion, greatly outweighed by the absolute necessity to keep some places free of human influence, left wild in their natural state to heal, grow and evolve. This area of Kitsilano Beach is one such place. As Elder Diana Ellis noted, it has a rich history of occupation by the indigenous peoples who lived here for thousands of years, as well as by many other settlers from all over the world who chose to make it their home in more recent times. In our time, it has been allowed to be itself, to slowly erase all signs of human occupation and to return to its natural state. These areas are becoming increasingly rare within urban environments.
It is hoped that, as a group, we conveyed our strong feelings to the two city commissioners who kindly made the time to join us, and that they will convey our wishes to the Vancouver City Council. If they felt any of the magic that we felt down on the beach, then I’m confident that they will recommend against building a seawall along that portion of Kitsilano Beach.
Thank-you to David Cook and Mel Lehan for organizing two walks that were deftly merged into one, and to each participant who added to the knowledge pool of this area. It was fun!