Community Corridor Part 3: Looking Ahead to the LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink Project and Expanding Mutual-Aid Networks Across Turtle Island

01/26/2013 § Leave a comment

Julien Delacroix, January 2013

If 2012 was about one thing in British Columbia, it was the explosion of shale gas and pipeline projects on the northern map. The long-time-coming Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) and Kitimat LNG (KLNG) project came to light in a significant way in the orbit of radical grassroots organizing after months of NGO Northern Gateway darkness.

In addition to PTP, a slew of other huge LNG processing terminal/shale gas pipeline projects have come to surface including LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra, and Petronas/Progress after help from the free trade hungry, deregulation-happy Harper government.

Of all these projects, LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink is currently the largest, most probable, and most threatening. The Harper conservatives have turned over a good part of the Turtle Island territory to not only resource-hungry corporate industry, but also open to ecological devastation and the violation of indigenous community sovereignty. In a November 2012 essay, Russell Diabo paints a clear picture of the Harper government’s First Nations termination policies.

Coastal GasLink is a prospective shale gas pipeline that would link to a proposed LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) processing terminal in Kitimat, BC. The pipeline would initially carry 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Montney formation in northeastern British Columbia over 700 kilometres from Groundbirch, near Dawson Creek, to Kitimat, on the west coast. The project is owned by a consortium of Companies called LNG Canada led by Shell Canada Limited, including Mitsubishi Corporation, KoreaGas (KOGAS), and, not insignificantly, Petrochina. TransCanada corporation is contracted by LNG Canada to build Coastal GasLink, the same company trying to force through the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline.

PetroChina is a subsidiary of the parent company and oil giant China National Petroleum Company (CNPC). China is now featuring prominently on the Canadian scene with the recent FIPPA deal, the Canada-China version of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and the Nexxen foreign takeover deal. The deal saw the the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the third largest national oil company in China, swallow up Canadian oil company Nexen Inc., one of the biggest players in Alberta’s Tar Sands.

The LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink project with Shell’s reputation and CNPC’s power have the largesse and experience that Apache Corporation and the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) lack. What PetroChina and LNG Canada’s Asian connections provide is contract clout and access to lucrative Asian market contracts where Apache and other smaller LNG project operators are having difficulty securing higher Asian prices.   

The LNG Canada project in Kitimat has been estimated to be in the $12 billion range, while the Coastal GasLink pipeline is estimated at $ 4 billion, and according to BC Energy Minister Rich Coleman is slated as “one of the largest, if not the largest, investments ever in B.C.” The pipeline dimensions are projected at 48″ (1.2 meters), six inches larger in diameter than PTP. In short, everything about this pipeline is big.

On October 16, 2012, after a presentation to District of Kitimat Council, North West Coast Energy News reported that “Rick Gateman, President of Coastal GasLink Project, told council that the project is now at a ‘conceptual route’ stage because TransCanada can’t proceed to actual planning until it has done more detailed survey work and community consultations.”

The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en camp, however, will tell you that a conceptual route is all it will ever be. On December 10, 2012, Lihkts’amisyu clan chief Toghestiy was being interviewed by Focus Magazine. When asked what the future of the pipelines was and what the future of the camp was, he replied, simply, “The Pipeline is not happening. The camp is going to be here forever.” He was referring more specifically to the Pacific Trails Pipeline, but the grassroots community of the Wet’suwet’en have made it unanimously clear that whether PTP, Enbridge Northern Gateway, Coastal GasLink, BG/Spectra or any others, oil and gas pipelines period will not be allowed through their territories.

What is amazing is that the model being developed is grassroots-resourced community resistance that is standing up to 6, 8, 12 billion dollar industry investments, standing up to some of the biggest, most expensive, and most threatening energy infrastructure projects in the history of Colonial canada.

What is significant about this recent upsurge of resistance communities is the awareness that their effectiveness and sustainability lies in building long-term, radical alternatives. A few of these such communities are the Anishinabek Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp in Southern Ontario, the Nuu-chah-nulth Sovereign Housing Project in Ahousat, near colonial Tofino, the Gitksan Unity Movement beginning cabin building on their traditional territories, and dozens of others across Turtle Island. The Community Corridor, which is currently being developed, aims to do exactly what these communities are doing, but to combine their efforts in an organized, integrated support network across Turtle Island. Many of these current communities are Indigenous, but the Community Corridor will be inclusive to those and farming, anarchist, and permaculture communities alike.

The structure should be a very well-organized and well-coordinated network, akin to a federation of collectives that each remain very much autonomous while working very closely with each other. The collectives, communes, and communities engaged in this effort should work very closely not only in land defense and resistance, but also in terms of trade and mutual aid. All of these communities should be autonomous in terms of their territorial sovereignty, their decision-making processes and governance structures, and their means of production for food and otherwise. In resisting the system and dependence to industrial consumerism these autonomous communities will need to create networks as alternatives. First they will need to develop networks of mutual aid; collective systems of support to compensate and protect from the resource and capacity vulnerability of operating outside of industrial civilization. This network would serve as a collective safety net for inter-cooperation in security, resources, and capacity between communities. Call this mutual aid support network ‘alternative social security’.

Alternative governance is also a primary component. Communities will each need to determine their forms of autonomous decision-making processes and social organization, and how these can effectively link together across collective networks or a structure of decentralized federated communities. Lastly, these collective communities will require the creation of well-organized trade networks to efficiently exchange food and resources across territories and regions, an alternative economy that should be grounded in mututal aid, collective support, and reciprocity.

The Unis’tot’en camp is now a major resistance front in the battle against the expansion of oil and gas infrastructure and pipelines in North America. The Pacific Trails Pipeline and Coastal Gaslink are strategic pieces of the international infrastructure of the capitalist economy, and the Unist’ot’en resistance camp stands to impede that strategic expansion.

As Brett Rhyno outlines in a separate Community Corridor analysis piece, “It’s time for grassroots networks to boldly unite together in an integrated effort to stop the East, West, and South pipeline corridors with the ultimate goal of shutting down tar sands and fracking at the source.” East, West and South means a comprehensive allied network, and a continent-wide strategy that covers all of North America. The nature of the industrial oil and gas infrastructure is such that it aims to cover vast distances, and so ecological resistance must respond in kind to beat pipelines at their own game.

The Community Corridors must match industrial capitalism’s regional strategies with integrated continental efforts and organization, carefully calculating industry’s plans and projects and responding with countermeasures like pieces in a chess game. However, it is pivotal to understand that resistance in this context will mean not only frontline resistance to extraction and industrial infrastructure, but also the active building and creation of sustainable autonomous alternatives. The strength of this project lies in its ability to build its own power by generating capacity in self-reliance. Federated communities can aim to achieve this together through collective systems of localized, decentralized production and trade. Let communities depend on each other instead of depending on the system that aims to keep them divided and competing.

Community Corridor is a long-term project, and one that is going to be very challenging to carry forward. It is an ambitious plan, but a plan that gives us a legitimate chance at overcoming material and social dependencies to the industrial system. In other words, dependence is captivity and slavery, and self-reliance will be our freedom. Sovereignty is an important condition, but it is relevant to the whole of life, and not just to politics.

We must have sovereignty economically, socially, sovereignty over our media and our information, food sovereignty to be the owners of our own health and nutrition. Imagine a world where local and regional mutual-aid networks of communities begin to substitute globalized industrial production. We can make it a reality. It is a very comprehensive project and will take years and decades to carry out, but it is not complicated in nature. It is a plan that can conceivably be carried out in our lifetime and one that keeps the future, and those who will inhabit it, firmly in mind. A friend and fellow organizer, Anton Bueckert, reflects that a plan and strategy that does not hold future generations as the crux of what we are doing today is not a strategy that is going to bring about the type of change we are looking for. He is absolutely right. Let us build a strategy inherent of systemic change and long-term possibilities that puts human and ecological substance as central to a free, healthy, and sustainable future.

The Causes and Implications of Chevron’s Takeover of EOG and Encana in KLNG/PTP, and a Decentralized Energy Future

01/26/2013 § Leave a comment

Julien Delacroix, January 4, 2013

At present, one of the major LNG processing terminal and shale gas pipeline undertakings in northern BC is the Kitimat LNG/Pacific Trails Pipeline project. KLNG/PTP was until very recently owned by a consortium including EOG Resources, Encana Corporation, and majority owner Apache Corporation. The scheme would aim for PTP to connect shale gas from the existing Spectra Energy transmission system near Summit Lake, BC, to its processing terminal in Kitimat on the west coast. From there, the LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is to be loaded onto tankers via the dubious Douglas Channel, and bound for Asian markets.

In recent months and weeks, business news and analysis had been reporting that KLNG may have overplayed its hand, estimating itself too easily capable of securing contracts with lucrative Asian markets. Serious buyers such as Japan and China with some of the world’s largest markets hold the ability to dictate the terms of negotiation, and typically look for producers of size, clout, and reputation that can guarantee supply. KLNG has continued struggling to secure contracts.     

In a November 25th article in Alberta Oil Magazine, Jeff Lewis writes that “Apache Canada Ltd. and partners EOG Resources and Encana Corp. have struggled to ink sales deals with overseas buyers for their Kitimat LNG scheme, citing “unrealistic expectations” on prices.”1

In the same article, Asish Mohanty of the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie said in an interview that “the Asians see that Kitimat LNG, as a partnership, doesn’t really have any partners with significant LNG experience, or an LNG portfolio that it can draw upon.”2 Dave Cooper of the Edmonton Journal in a November 13th article writes that what Asian LNG buyers seek is “experienced operators with their own supplies from other regions of the world.”3 Mohanty, for his part, goes on to say that Apache and its smaller partners “don’t bring that level of credibility in the marketplace. That’s why the market expects a discount on the LNG price.”4 The three giant projects in Northern BC that are seen to have everything it takes to lock down the higher-end Asian deals are Shell and PetroChina’s LNG Canada, Petronas/Progress, and BG/Spectra.

The plan for KLNG had been that profit for the operation would come from the difference between the North American market price and the higher Asian price. But, in October and November, 2012, it became clear that Apache and the KLNG consortium would struggle to find the contracts they were looking for when “Cheniere Energy, owners of the only approved U.S. LNG export terminal project in Louisiana, signed a deal with foreign customers that is based on North American gas prices, not the hoped-for oil-linked index used in Asia. The difference is huge.”5 That sought-after Asian price is called the Japan Cleared Customs price, which is a percentage of the price of oil. Some analysts even go as far as saying that if Cheniere has set a precedent for future North American LNG deals, that some of BC’s touted LNG projects will not be built.

Grassroots Resistance

On November 20th, 2012, Apache-contracted surveyors doing work for PTP were intercepted on Unist’ot’en territory. The field workers, employees of a smaller land surveying and engineering company Can-Am Geomatics out of Fort St-John, BC, had set GIS and mapping equipment some 20 kms west of the Unist’ot’en resistance camp. They were ordered to vacate the territory immediately and told that industry activity was unwelcome on Wet’suwet’en territory. The surveyors returned the next morning and were engaged in the Unist’ot’en’s Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol, but were denied access to the territory. They had come to retrieve their materials left behind the previous day which were instead confiscated by the resistance camp.

Following the eviction, a call was put out for a broad day of action. On November 27th allies mobilized from twenty cities across Canada and the U.S, stretching coast to coast from St. John’s, NF to Victoria, BC, with support actions south of the border in New York, California, and Texas. Letters were delivered to PTP consortium companies as well as major shareholders RBC, and Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd. The letter asserted the sovereignty of Wet’suwet’en territory and clearly re-iterated their denial of consent to the pipeline project, stating that “any further unauthorized incursion into traditional Wet’suwet’en territory will be considered an act of colonialism, and an act of aggression against our sovereignty.”

Chevron Steps In

It may have been EOG and Encana desisting due to Unist’ot’en resistance and grassroots divestment pressure, or Apache may have urged a shift in the project lagging under emerging challenges. Maybe a little bit of both. On Christmas Eve KLNG/PTP announced that EOG and Encana had sold their shares in the project to Chevron, allowing the California-based oil giant to move into a 50% ownership position along with Apache. It seems likely that Apache felt it necessary to make a change under building adversity by enlisting brunt and experience from a big player to help muscle through.

What does this mean for the grassroots resistance to KLNG/PTP? Absolutely nothing, in the sense that the effort must remain as determined, pointed, and focused as it has been. The community resistance to PTP must take this as an opportunity for a renewed and reenergized sense of purpose, and to resolve in the new year to get even more creative than it has been up to this point. Stay alert, stay responsive, closely follow the movements of industry, always stay one step ahead, and dictate the terms of the engagement. Confidence, love, and resolve in a cause are worth more than any dollar amount of billions. 

Indigenous and radical environmentalist resistance has filled the action and awareness void that NGOs have left vacant during the recent months of endless one-track-mind Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway campaigning. So endemic has this trend been that certain chiefs and aboriginal nations along with settler communities alike have taken the deceived and confused position of opposing Tar Sands extraction and pipelines while seemingly treating the fracking and shale gas pipelines as inexistent. To be sure, much of the disconnect is a void of information over an issue that is just recently beginning to properly register in the collective public consciousness. The shale gas pipelines have largely fallen under the radar because of institutional social justice’s tendency to compartmentalize issues like high school subjects and treat them like pop culture trends. People eat up the Enbridge Northern Gateway hype like the latest Harry Potter movie. In other words, much of it has been the product of the narrow NGO campaign funding structure which isolates issues like islands, often obscuring the big picture perspective. We do, however, live in a big picture-world where ecological degradation and climate change are non-negotiable game cards which determine that opposing the Alberta Tar Sands while remaining silent on the pipelines slated to carry fracking’s shale gas is not a rational proposition.  

As if we didn’t already have our hands full enough with the Tar Sands. But here we are, Turtle Island, Mecca of natural resources and coveted energy diamond in a future of scarcity. China is setting its pieces on the map; in South America with large energy stakes in Brazil and free trade deals with Chile and Peru, land grabs in Africa, and now taking its place amidst the shale gas and LNG export rush in BC’s northwest. U.S geopolitics will respond in kind with their giants, and Christmas Eve’s Chevron move could be an early indication. Either way you spin it, the Montney Shale Formation and the Horn River and Liard basins will be big names in the upcoming decades of jockeying and development for unconventional fossil fuel sources, and the northwest is playing out as an up-and-coming and strategic energy battleground. The greed mentality of industry and extraction seeks to lock up access to resources and markets before they are all gone, while the aspirations of grassroots communities aim to defend the sovereignty and integrity of the land for traditional and ecological living. Whether the Tar Sands, BC’s shale gas, or even the giant Green Point shale oil deposits in Newfoundland, the one thing that is clear is that they must all remain in the ground.

Finally, what also needs to be a game-changer is for us to cast aside the arrogant and grandiose globalized vision, and to forget about shipping energy half way around the world. The substance needs to be different, but the medium must also change.  Massive centralized solutions are not going to get us anything except more of the same. If energy is to be in sync with communities and to have a positive role to play in the future, it will have to be localized and decentralized. The second biggest U.S oil company is, of course, a far cry from this goal, but the question here is not who will be trying to pump all the fossil fuels out of the ground, but rather how we are going to stop them, and what radical, community-driven alternatives we will put in their place. It is not always the type of change that is most important, but how it happens, and it must be effectuated in a world that is ours, on our own terms. Creativity and resourcefulness will be the substance that guides this process. Let us put our hearts, hands, and minds together for a localized and decentralized energy future.       

 

 

1.     Jeff Lewis, Santos Ltd. talks collaboration on LNG amid rising costs, AlbertaOilMagazine.com: http://www.albertaoilmagazine.com/2012/11/collaboration-on-lng-urged-amid-rising-costs/, Nov.25, 2012.

2.     Ibid.

3.     Dave Cooper, Co-operation, Not Proliferation, Key to BC’s LNG Projects, Analysts Say, Edmonton     Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/energy-resources/operation+proliferation+projects+analysts/7543182/story.html, Nov.13, 2012.

4.     Ibid, Jeff Lewis.

5.     Dave Cooper, Depressed North American Price Makes LNG a Risky Business, Edmonton Journal: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Depressed+North+American+price+makes+risky+business/7351551/story.html, Oct.5, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Colonial Law Cast Aside on Unceded and Autonomous Indigenous Territory

12/06/2012 § Leave a comment

On the morning of November 20th, 2012, Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en encountered materials left behind by PTP surveyors at 48 km on the Morice River Forest Service Road West.

Later that evening, a crew of surveyors was intercepted at the cabin site entering Unis’tot’en territory. In the absence of Freda Huson, Toghestiy, hereditary chief of the Likhts’ amisyu clan of the Wet’suwet’en invoked biKyi’ waat’en, the right of the husband, in telling the industry surveyors to immediately leave the territory, and issued an eagle feather to the crew. In Wet’suwet’en law, an eagle feather indicates a first and only warning of trespass.

The surveyors in question were field workers of Can-Am Geomatics, a surveying, engineering and mapping company out of Fort St-John, BC. The workers who were intercepted on the bridge across the River Wedzin Kwa admitted to being contractors for Apache, the lead energy company in Kitimat LNG, the consortium in charge of the Pacific Trails Pipeline project (PTP). The crew asked permission to be allowed to return the following morning to retrieve equipment they had left behind at the surveying site, which was granted by Toghestiy. However, the crew was also informed that they would be subject to a Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol before reentering Unis’tot’en territory, and given a stern warning that they, or any pipeline industry workers were never to reenter Wet’suwet’en territory afterwards.

The surveyors returned the next morning and were engaged with the Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol. After deliberation from the Unist’ot’en camp group, they were denied access to the territory.

After the surveyors were turned back, a crew from Unis’tot’en camp snowmobiled some 20 kms out to Crystal Road to retrieve materials left behind by the work crew the previous day. The materials were successfully confiscated and brought back to camp where they are being held until Apache and PTP agree to open up appropriate lines of communication with the Unis’tot’en and grassroots Wet’suwet’en according to the Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol and laws of their sovereign unceded territories

In the days following the encounter with the Apache surveyors, a small media explosion occurred covering the activity and the subsequent blockade on Unist’ot’en territory. Much of the reporting was lazy and dotted with inaccuracies. For example, Dene Moore of the Canadian Press wrote on November 21st, “officials with the Wet’suwet’en, a First Nation comprised of five clans — none of which is identified as the Unis’tot’en on their official website — did not return calls seeking comment.”

The clan in question mentioned by Dene Moore is known traditionally as both the C’ihlts’ehkhyu (Big Frog clan) and the Unist’ot’en, but the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (OW) chooses to identify with the former title in an attempt to discredit and isolate the mostly grassroots, traditional, and sometimes more militant membership of the Unist’ot’en. Furthermore, the website that is referred to, that of OW, is not “their official website,” and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en is not the representative of the Wet’suwet’en people, it is an illegitimate colonial proxy-institution that remained after all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en opted out of the treaty process in 2008. Today the Office of the Wet’suwet’en remains as a hub for corrupt elected chiefs to sign up-front deals with industry, which normally come with cash incentives. Most recently, OW has signed confidentiality and communications agreements with PTP and are trying to reignite the defeated treaty process with the government.

There is also issue from many of the Wet’suwet’en with the term First Nation, which is the designation in name placed onto native communities by the colonial government. The grassroots Wet’suwet’en are not a First Nation because they continue to operate according to their traditional system, their lands are unceded, and they are not under treaty with the Canadian government. First Nation is also a term that has come to be used by the Canadian state in referring to band councils, and a false label to place often irreconcilably divergent interests under the same umbrella. Under Canadian law, a band is defined as a “body of Indians for whose collective use and benefit lands have been set apart or money is held by the Canadian Crown, or declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act,” a definition which makes clear that band councils are extensions of Canada’s colonial infrastructure.

It is time that mainstream media and the colonial government stop misrepresenting the nature of band councils as representative of entire communities. The band council is a neo-colonial institution composed of elected chiefs, which in the case of the Wet’suwet’en, undermines and disregards the traditional hereditary system that has existed since time immemorial. By imposing the electoral process on a traditional system, the government engages in an act of political and cultural colonialism by replacing hereditary chiefs with elected band councils and traditional territories with Indian Act reservations.

In fact, the reservation system amounts to not much more than a form of well-disguised western contemporary apartheid. The Britannica Online Encyclopedia, albeit relating to the former policy of the National Party in South Africa, defines apartheid as “racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against nonwhites.” It would follow that if segregation is defined as “the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means,” then the social and political policy of the colonial Canadian government of taking people off of their lands based on their culture and ethnicity and placing them within demarcated territorial boundaries certainly qualifies as racial segregation, and stealing their lands and handing them off for the profits of private corporate interests certainly translates to political and economic discrimination.

On November 27, 2012, a day of action across Turtle Island was held in solidarity with the Grassroots Wet’suwet’en. In a letter addressed to industry and government, the Unist’ot’en wrote:

“To the illegitimate colonial governments of Canada and British Columbia, and to all parties involved in the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) project: Apache corporation, EOG Resources, Encana corporation and all of their affiliated investors, including the Royal Bank of Canada, Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., and many others…. Wet’suwet’en territory, which extends from Burns Lake to the Coastal Mountains, is sovereign and unceded territory which has never been ceded to the colonial Canadian state… Under Wet’suwet’en law, the people of these lands have an inalienable right to their traditional territories, and the right to defend it…. As such, any further unauthorized incursion into traditional Wet’suwet’en territory will be considered an act of colonialism, and an act of aggression against our sovereignty….”

With the Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol the grassroots Wet’suwet’en aim to undo the colonial racism that has been wrought on their territories and communities for decades and centuries. They aim to do this by reclaiming their territories for future generations, and for the ecological future of the earth. One of the greatest necessities in addressing the global ecological crisis is the imperative to localize our economies, and this also requires us to localize our communities. As such, this new emancipatory process that the grassroots Wet’suwet’en have adopted offers an opportunity not only for political and cultural decolonization, but for the creation of healthy, local, and sustainable communities. The collective aspect of their strategy is that they are not claiming ownership over the grassroots FPIC protocol, but actively encouraging other clans, nations, and territories to do so as well.  The Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol is the phasing-out of borders and barriers infringing on human movement and freedom via the practice of indigenous localized territories exercising community sovereignty and autonomy. It is a step forward towards an eventual world without state borders.

 

 

 

Community Corridor – Part 1: A Strategy to Resist Industrial Infrastructure and Pipelines from Kitimat to Texas

10/30/2012 § Leave a comment

The other day I was watching videos of the Tar Sands Blockade where environmentalists were resisting the path of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. In a recent series of direct actions activists there have deployed ingenious configurations of tree-houses, platforms, ropes and banners erected and organized in an almost ‘Ewok-style’ resistance. These remarkably well-organized actions have created enthusiasm and inspiration for many, and for me evoked reflection and brainstorming strategy.

These eco warriors were able to delay for two days loggers clearing the right-of-way for the Keystone XL pipeline. After they were removed and arrests handed out, they returned further up the route and set up the tree resistance yet again to force industry and police to go through the same process of removal a few days later. This way the delays and the complications continue for industry, and so does the necessity to dispense time, money, and resources time and again to remove the disruptions. If these efforts continue and multiply themselves in frequency and into different areas, it gets more and more difficult for industry to operate. With environmentalists, and more prominently and importantly indigenous communities resisting on the frontlines, industry is forced to employ either private security contractors or to turn to the state in order to remove the activity disrupting business. This gradually begins to affect industry’s bottom-line, and as for the state, it is forced into the uncomfortable and politically precarious position of having to use repression against “citizens.”  Eventually the cumulative impacts of this resistance will begin to show results and become a deterrent to the further expansion of industrial infrastructure.

For its part, the state is now bracing for increased opposition and resistance to industrial and extraction projects. The Canadian government’s new deal with China, the Canada-China version of FIPA (the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement) effectively guarantees China’s investments. Those investments are in the form of natural resource extraction in the north, namely in Quebec and British Columbia, and in oil and gas flowing to the west coast via the would-be Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails Pipelines. China does not have direct investment in Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails, although much of that oil and gas will be going to Chinese markets. It is, however, invested in a consortium of companies called LNG Canada including Shell Canada, KoreaGas, Mitsubishi corporation and PetroChina for an LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) processing plant in Kitimat, BC, and a pipeline called the Coastal Gas Link project to be built by the now notorious TransCanada corporation, the same company contracted to build the Keystone XL.

Through FIPA amongst other measures, the Canadian government is building justification in the name of economic stability and the rule of law and setting the framework for the increased criminalization and repression of internal dissent. Under this new set of draconian circumstances the government guarantees itself the right, the privilege, and the obligation to suppress environmental and native resistance to extraction projects and industrial infrastructure. The Canadian state is further institutionalizing the rights of profit-making and corporations over the rights of people and the environment. The increased militarization of the state worldwide, therefore, is not a measure of security against outside threats, but rather a very deliberate act to exert force and control within its own borders.

Last year in November, president Obama denied an application for the 1,700 mile long Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring Tar Sands oil from Alberta, to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast. In December, I wrote on Rabble.ca, “having too much faith that the U.S. government will make the right decision on an environmental matter, and being under the illusion that the decision will be subject to a thorough scientific review and “truly public input process” would be a mistake. Celebrating a perceived victory which is actually closer to a setback is not a good idea…. And finally, the only reason why the Keystone XL decision has been postponed is because Obama and company don’t want it to be an issue come election time in 2012…Those from the ENGO community overreacting to the Keystone XL postponement as a victory, misinterpreting the situation, are actually doing the climate justice movement a considerable disservice.” Now, with the clearing of the right-of-way for the pipeline moving full steam ahead, the so-called “Keystone XL victory” is, quite predictably, rearing its ugly head.

In the US, the Republicans have already promised that if elected the Keystone XL would be approved immediately. TransCanada corporation, for its part, anticipates approval of the presidential permit application, which is required only as the pipeline crosses the Canada/U.S. border, in the first quarter of 2013. Even though it is unlikely that the pipeline will be that far along by April of next year, industry is using loopholes and sheer insolence to force through industrial projects even though it still does not have full approvals. This is an indication that industry is trying to ram through the final phase of industrial capitalism and the destruction of the earth, with or without the state’s approval. What remains of the life systems of this planet, the ecological world, is now ground zero for the unchecked expansion of industrial infrastructure.

It is under this context that Damien Gillis and the team for the documentary film Fractured Land recently named the threatening advances of industry in northern BC, and other provinces, as “Canada’s Carbon Corridor.” I will add to that Canada’s ‘Colonial’ Carbon Corridor because environmental racism and the exploitation of indigenous peoples has always been a central feature of the Canadian state’s application of the industrial capitalist economy. What is meant by ‘Carbon Corridor’ is the expanded and systematic industrialization and exploitation of the Canadian North; the integrated impacts of industry from all of mining, oil and gas, fracking, logging, hydro-electric damming, new highways, etc. A major component of capitalism’s plan moving forward is the transformation of entire zones into industrially-facilitated natural resource reservoirs.

It is from this brazen devastation of nature that the need arises for something just as audacious to counter it. We must put life and creativity in the place of aggression and destruction. On Wet’suwet’en territory in what is colonially known as northwest British Columbia, grassroots community members of the Cilhts’ekyu (Unis’tot’en), and Likhts’amisyu clans have re-occupied their traditional unceded territory to resist the Pacific Trails pipeline. Their means of resistance has been community-building.

The Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) is the intended trailblazer of a prospective ‘energy corridor’ that would see multiple dual pipelines stretch 463km from fracking fields in eastern and northeastern BC, all the way to the Douglas Channel on the west coast. Like the Coastal Gas Link project the Pacific Trails pipeline would carry shale gas and would also target LNG processing terminals in Kitimat and tankers bound for Asian markets. PTP could be as much as three kilometres wide and threatens ecological damage along a trail of wetlands, streams, forests, native communities and farmland along the way.

As such, the grassroots Wet’suwet’en have committed that no pipelines will cross through their territory, but what is now unfolding on their land is not simply resistance to a pipeline and the defense of a territory, but the building and rebuilding of a radical alternative and traditional living. That is why such a strong emphasis at camp has been placed on community building and empowerment so that organizing and resistance can be integrated into the spaces of everyday life. This is pre-figurative organizing that confronts an injustice by counteracting it with a direct alternative. The resistance community, therefore, is the illustration that building and creating is the most comprehensive form of resistance, that there is no separation between life, and the defense of life.

The extraction and industrial development boom in the north is really a strategic plan of components where inter-industry cooperation sees a combined effort, for example, that would see LNG flowing via westbound pipelines and condensate flowing back east as a petro-chemical dilutant for tar sands bitumen, hydro dams providing energy for mining and oil and gas extraction, highways being built for all of industry, etc. That is why all these struggles and resistance fronts cannot be understood separate of each other, and why the collective response must leave no community behind along the pipeline routes and the path of industry. These resistance communities can be effective by operating through a well-coordinated and well-organized network. This network should link anarchists, permaculturalists, native and farming communities alike on a basis of trade, collective support, and mutual aid. Set up these established and organized communities who are all working together in mutual defense, and have the state and industry face the same time-and-resource-consuming challenges every few kilometres, over and over again. Community is attrition against the privatization and enclosure of territories.

Where industry says it will build energy corridors we will build community corridors in its place. The movement must move from isolated blockades and direct actions, as bold as they may be, to actively building radical alternative communities, resistance communities, directly in the path of extraction and industrial infrastructure. Environmentalists, with indigenous communities in the lead, must collaborate to establish fully permanent communities, self-sustaining and autonomous from the industrial system in order to be genuinely effective in resisting it. Where the Northern Gateway pipeline seeks to pass, where the Kinder Morgan, the Coastal Gas Link, the Pacific Trails, the Keystone XL and all other pipelines seek to cross, the movement must build community corridors in their paths. The resistance spokes cannot be simply passive and sparse direct action blockades but rather fully intentional and deliberate permanent communities everywhere. Let us saturate the pipeline routes with radical community all along the corridor, at every kilometer, at every turn. Stop the industrial veins and the black blood of the capitalist economy will not flow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bridge Over Wedzin Kwah: From Camp to Community

09/28/2012 § Leave a comment

By Julien Lalonde, September, 2012

The Action Camp

In early August, grassroots community members of the Wet’suwet’en people hosted an environmental action camp in the area known by its colonial name as northwest British Columbia, which is unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. The camp was held to raise support and awareness in the ongoing resistance to a planned ‘energy corridor’ that would see the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP) run 463 km from Summit Lake and the Horn River Basin, through Wet’suwet’en territory, all the way to the port town of Kitimat on the west coast. The ‘energy corridor’ which could end up being as much as three kilometres wide threatens to force its way through hundreds of kilometres of wetlands, waterways and forests, and farming and First Nations communities alike, carrying natural gas from fracking fields in eastern and northeastern BC.

Our hosts were the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en, who were hosting the action camp on this site for the third straight year. The Unis’tot’en or C’ihlts’ehkhyu (Big Frog Clan) is the oldest and most storied clan of the Wet’suwet’en, and its people the original descendants.

As we arrived on the eastern side of Wedzin Kwah, a large painted sign blocking the entrance to the bridge informed us to “Stop: No Access Without Consent.” Wedzin Kwah is the stream otherwise known by its colonial name, the Morice River. We were approached by Mel Bazil, Skiy’Ze of the Gitimt’en clan, who indicated that we would be subject to a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol before being granted permission to enter the territory. He explained to us that the FPIC protocol was part of an ongoing process to transcend rights, because rights, he explained as he formed a small pyramid with his hands, come from a top-down structure, and that indigenous law does not recognize colonial laws and constructs. We were then asked to approach members of the Unis’tot’en, Gitimt’en, and Likhts’amisyu clans to engage in the protocol which consists of introductions and questions; What is your name and your history? Where are you from? Have you previously worked for government or industry? What are your intentions on the territory? What skills and contributions can you share with the community?

The Free Prior and Informed Consent protocol which is part of an ongoing process of decolonization serves as a reactualization of natural law and a manifestation of mutual freedom and respect in moving across land and territories without state borders. It also presents an opportunity to implement a new emancipatory standard of autonomy within first nations territories, re-establishing spaces free of the existence of the state. The grassroots Wet’suwet’en are not only implementing the Free Prior and Informed Consent protocol in their territory, they are actively encouraging other nations and clans to do the same.

As we settled in for the welcoming circle, hereditary chief Toghestiy explained to everyone that the large number of people present is an indication of how much support and solidarity the community needs moving forward in its ongoing fight.

From the very first afternoon the camp was buzzing everywhere with energy and enthusiasm. People gave all sorts of workshops during the daytime. Additional wash stations were constructed and latrines dug, banners were erected, and the kitchen began its perpetual motion which was sustained through a constant collective effort from the beginning of camp to the end. The ad hoc community was actively running the camp together.

The Community

The action camp has come and gone, but for several weeks now the Unis’tot’en and their friends and allies have transformed the site to the point where it can no longer simply be called a camp. With projects, ideas and organizing abounding, the site has transitioned from temporary installation to permanent community.

In early September, the days are marked with wildberry picking in the afternoons, the fruits of which will be canned and preserved for the winter months. All the salmon consumed at camp flows through a local, sustainable, ecological food system and is fished according to traditional custom and obtained from the rivers and tributaries of Wet’suwet’en territory. Likewise the hunting of wild meats follows traditional protocol which combines spiritual, traditional, and ecological elements. Moose meat is a camp favourite.

This past season a potato patch was planted by the river which soon promises to yield a generous harvest, and a root cellar is being built to that effect. The soil and different areas of the camp are slowly being explored and considered to maximize next year’s growing season.

Despite these early efforts, the camp still has ways to go in becoming self-sufficient in food production, but is making active strides in that direction. There is also talk of getting chickens for the winter as an egg source during difficult food times, and early planning for the building of a cob oven which will give the community the capacity to bake its own bread.

During the action camp in early August a smokehouse was built, the result of a day-long collective flash-effort that now allows the community to smoke and preserve wild meats on site. Shortly after camp, a banya steam bath was also built for relaxing down time in the evenings. Future planned projects include other cabins and structures, and a traditional pit house to be built in the pine terrace as additional sleeping quarters.

The Future

Traditonally, the Gitemden clan would construct fishing weirs across the shallow parts of Wedzin Kwah to catch salmon for their yearly sustenance. In fact, the word ‘gitimt’en’ in the Tsimshian language means “people who build weirs.” But they would not overfish and they would not burden the natural life systems that spawn the waterways. The Gitimt’en practised selective fishing where they would study each fish individually to gage its spirit and its energy, and trusted their intuition to determine whether to keep it or to let it swim free. Their custom was to let go the first fish of the season, so that he or she could carry the message to all the other fish not to be scared, that they could return along the same river path the following year. The Gitimt’en respected and took care of the salmon, so that the salmon would take care of them.

Today we drink directly from Wedzin Kwah, its water is pristine and crystal clear. It is this that the Unis’tot’en are defending; it is the river, the salmon, the forest, the moose and the berries that they are defending.

What is perhaps the most important distinction to make about the character of this community is that it is a community is resistance, yes, but it is also a community that is thriving, a community that is being cultivated and actualized. The Wet’suwet’en against the Pacific Trails Pipeline must defend their traditional and ecological territory, but they should not have to. Mother Earth should not be degraded and the ecological world should not be threatened by the greed and the destructive indifference of industry. Dini Ze Toghestiy explains that all this time resisting should instead be spent building and cultivating the elements of their culture. That is why the Unis’tot’en camp community has centered itself on autonomy and self-sufficiency, to free itself from the colonial grasp of the state and the industrial system in order to create space for itself. The building of this community is a profound process of decolonization where traditional territory is being reasserted and re-inhabited. Through an emancipatory historical reparation, the grassroots Wet’suwet’en and their friends and allies are carving out autonomous zones where life and culture can flourish in freedom once again.

What is now unfolding on the west bank of Wedzin Kwah is not simply resistance to a pipeline and the defense of a territory, but the building and rebuilding of a radical alternative and traditional living. That is why such a strong emphasis at camp has been placed on community building and empowerment, so that organizing and resistance can be holistically integrated into the spaces of everyday life. This is pre-figurative organizing that confronts an injustice by counteracting it with an alternative. The resistance community, therefore, is the illustration that building and creating is the most comprehensive form of resistance, that there is no separation between life, and the defense of life.

Moving forward Unis’tot’en camp needs committed support in materials, resources, fundraising, awareness, and people. To join the effort and contribute please contact casgw.network@gmail.com.

Republished from Rabble.ca

Forbidden Fruit

09/28/2012 § Leave a comment

By Julien Lalonde, November 23, 2011

A few weeks ago I had with me a bag of food from the farmers market that I had filled up from there on my way to work. Before leaving to go back home I shared some of the contents with a couple of my co-workers. A sample of delicious ground cherries, and a glance at those beautiful pumpkin-shaped bright white and purple eggplants which they had never seen before, both of which, of course, grow right here in the GTA. I also had never seen this type of eggplant until this past summer; they are an heirloom variety indigenous to Italy called Rosa Bianca. I’ve made stuffed eggplant from them, and the late-season bloomers were great for Baba Ghanoush.

There are so many other varieties of local fruits and vegetables that fall well short of the mainstream radar. Not only have variety and diversity been casualties of industrial food production, but it has also created a huge separation between food and human beings; food has become drastically depersonalized. The supermarket variety of food that people consume en masse these days has very little to do with people. The point of production, most of the time, is very far away from them. The methods used in production are counter to, and aim to eliminate and delegitimize traditional cultural food practices. And, the production, packaging, and distribution of industrial food is unsustainable, and devastates the environment and ecology that support life and make the growing of food possible in the first place.

I remember talking with one of my friends a while back, we were talking about fruits and I was telling him how much I love mangoes, and mentioning how I was already a little bit older when I tried a mango for the first time. The mango was delicious, I was blown away so I remember it clearly. I was at my dad’s house, I was in Grade 8 or 9, I’m born in ’83 so 13 or 14 years old at the time, that’s ’96, NAFTA started in 1994, it all adds up. Free trade was making giant strides as the northern countries realized that they could flood and undercut third world local markets with cheap subsidized crops.

Prime example is ex-president Bill Clinton last year famously admitting that neoliberal economic policies in the ’90s had devastated Haiti’s rice sector. A similar situation took hold in Mexico, even up until recent years, with regards the accessibility and price of corn, and its adverse affects on local markets. These agricultural policies in Mexico also threaten small farmers’ ability to grow traditional corn varieties because of transgenic crops, a problem that is duplicated in many parts of the world. The Global South was swindled as food sovereignty and local producers were devastated, and North American and European supermarket shelves were suddenly overflowing with exotic fruits and vegetables.

So there are, when it comes to food, some political and economic consequences of free trade and globalization that are unacceptable, but I’d like to zero in on one even more simple and fundamental reason: the environmental and climate consequences.

The industrialization and globalization of food production brings us food that comes to us from thousands of miles away, from other countries, and other continents. So, kiwis from New Zealand, and grapefruits from South Africa, and apples and salmon from Chile keep the carbon footprint of industrial nation consumers alive and way too high, disproportionately so, and create emissions that are rapidly warming the planet. These environmental impacts are happening with such speed and intensity that they have surpassed the earth’s regenerative and ecological capacity. In other words, the planet is now incapable of protecting itself from the industrial system; that protection is going to have to come from a radical redesigning of human activity. The environmental devastation currently unfolding on the planet, however, is not solely due to the industrialization and globalization of food production. It is due to industrial production in general, it is due to resource exploitation, it is due to the licentious waste of water by industry, it is due to petroleum extraction, and the list goes on, but food certainly is a large part of it. Eating regularly is a non-negotiable activity, and when seven billion people are involved, it is done at exorbitant volumes.

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation, talking about an experience we had both had at the supermarket, at different times. Both occasions happened to be at No Frills, and similarly we described the feeling of standing in the cash-out line and being dumbfounded by the endless row of tellers, and the sterile, generic, mind-numbing continuous sound of scanned-item beeps. This is something that many people experience every day, but if you think about carefully, it can really begin to put things into perspective. Industrial consumerism is taking us farther and farther away from our humanity. It is a malignant phenomenon that threatens culture, and threatens life; it is deceitful, it is silent. Tumours are dangerous because you often become cognizant of their existence only after it is already too late. Materialism and over-consumption take us away from what is integral to life, and they leave void and decay in its place. We must be on our guard against too much decadence. We cannot lay the foundations to the future with something that holds no substance.

Localtopia

A few weeks ago I made and canned applesauce with green apples that came from a 225-year-old tree; 1786 the farmer told me the tree had been planted. I got the apples of course, from the farmers market. It is incredible to think that a tree, after 225 years of existence, can still be producing perfectly good food. It is amazing what nature can do, and the benefits, and health, and life that it can provide us, if it is properly respected and nurtured.

So the point is that, and now I’m speaking for our region, Ontario and especially southern Ontario produces a tremendous variety of beautiful and delicious fruits and vegetables; we can do without papayas and plantains and dragonfruit and lychees, and mangoes for my part, despite how delicious they are. Try pears and ground cherries, or purple beans, carrots, or potatoes instead. And now, with the outstanding organization and coordination of farmers markets, the resurgence of the local food movement, and the passionate, creative, and quality-oriented small producers of our region, the pieces are in place, and the community will is there to make it happen. Also, with a growing strategy that extends into the fall, improved methods for preserving produce for market later into the season, with certain vegetables extending well into the winter, and with canning to bring your local fruits and veggies with you into the winter, local year-round is gradually becoming accessible to everyone. There will not be fresh abundance in the dead of winter, and we will have to make small sacrifices, but we must learn to live with the environment around us. Our parents and grand-parents did just fine before Mexico starting blasting NAFTA avocados and tomatoes across the border; we can do so again. There is time and work involved, and there is certainly a transition period ahead, but it is a fun and challenging one.

So it is undeniable that we have to localize our economies, and absolutely necessary that we change our consumption habits, especially what we eat and where it comes from, and the irony of this giant problem of which we are all contributors, is that the first and most significant victim of climate change will be the food supply. So how will we feel 40, 50, maybe 60 years from now, or more importantly what will future generations think, if it becomes clear that our complacent eating habits of today were responsible for the food crisis of tomorrow?

It is strange to think that from one day to the next we have to stop eating certain foods that we have always taken for granted; it is a difficult reality to imagine, but one that is necessary if we would like to continue living on this wonderful planet. So next time you’re eating a mango or a banana, or any exotic fruit or vegetable that is not grown in your region, just consider that every bite you take, every fruit you consume is hurting the planet. It is a difficult and complicated thing to explain to your children maybe, and unfortunately, the forbidden fruit will persist on supermarket shelves long after local and sustainable have permeated mainstream consciousness, but it is a small price to pay for what is at stake.

Republished from Rabble.ca

Not Time to Sleep on the Keystone XL

09/28/2012 § Leave a comment

By Julien Lalonde, December 8, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, we can look back at the deepening of the economic and ecological crises, and one of the most socially and politically explosive years in the history of humanity. Most will remember the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring as the defining moments of 2011, but lets take a moment to reflect on the first chapter of the saga that will occupy the attention of the Environmental Movement in the coming decade; the Keystone XL Pipeline.

In the last few months there has been a lot of activitiy surrounding the Keystone XL, a mega-extraction infrastructure project with invetsment slated to come from Transcanada corporation. The proposed 1,700 mile-long pipeline would transport Tar Sands oil from Northern Alberta to Texas refineries in the U.S, a distance that covers two-thirds of North America.

What the Tar Sands consists of is not conventional crude, but a thick, dense, and difficult to extract and process bitumen. The primary method of extraction for the Tar Sands known as SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage) is extremely energy intensive, wastes 3 to 4 barrels of water for every 1 barrel of oil produced, and this extraction is devatsating the Athabasca River system, the third largest watershed in the world. The Tar Sands is the most environmentally destructive extraction project in the history of humanity.

Furthermore, the sheer size of the Tar Sands makes it the biggest carbon pool in the world, and James Hansen, the U.S` top climatologist at NASA, has stressed repeatedly that tapping the tar sands via this cross-continental pipeline to bring it to U.S markets, would effectively mean “game over for the climate.”

An important aspect to note is that the route of the Keystone XL pipeline, as it was originally proposed, would cross through the Sandhills region of Nebraska, an ecologically sensitive area that supports the Ogallala Aquifer and water system for millions of people.

In late August, early September of this year, a campaign against the Keystone XL mobilized for two weeks in Washington, targeting the White House to put pressure on President Obama. Participation was high with a good turnout, siginificant numbers, and hundreds of arrests were made. Then, in early November, ten thousand people gathered to form a human chain, and encircled the White House several times over, again calling for the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The action was very successful and drew impressively large numbers. This action came exactly a year before the 2012 U.S presidential elections, and the pipeline was shaping up to be a major political issue.

During this time, Obama announced that the final decision on the Keystone XL would no longer rest with him, but with the State Department instead, and then shortly thereafter reversed his position and said that the decision once again would be his to make. Most significant of all, about a week after the climate justice action that encircled the White House, President Obama made another important announcement in regards the Keystone XL pipeline; that there would be a new environmental review on the pipeline, and that the final decision would be postponed until at least 2013.

Some of the Environmental NGO reaction and narrative was as follows: Obama and the U.S administration have felt pressure due to the actions and campaigning to make a decision in favour of the environmental community. President Obama and the U.S government have postponed the decision in order to allow the environmental assessment to be done fairly and properly, and the delay will give the administration time to do it right. Surely, the delay will mean a more thorough scientific review and a truly public input process, free from oil company influence. This development sends a powerful message to the oil industry, and they now understand who they are up against. This is a tremendous victory, and we should all take a moment to applaud this decision and to send President Obama a letter thanking him for his leadership.

Technically, the Obama administration`s announcement was simply for a NEW environmental review of the Keystone XL, to reevaluate the ROUTE of the pipeline. Five days after the postponement was announced, TransCanada announced that it would agree to reroute the pipeline around the Sandhills region of Nebraska. In response, Bill McKibben made a statement saying “we`re offly happy that the Ogallala Aquifer is going to be safe and the Sandhills, that only leaves the entire atmosphere of the planet to worry about.” This perceived victory was predictably shortlived. Why were we being told to celebrate?

Putting too much faith in that the U.S government will make the right decision on an environmental matter, and being under the illusion that the decision will be subject to a thorough scientific review and a `truly public input process` would be a mistake. Celebrating a perceived victory which is actually closer to a setback is not a good idea. We have seen for decades with the U.S government, and especially in the last year and a half with the BP Oil Spill that this administration also is far more likely to side with industry than it is to side with people and the environment. And finally, the only reason why the Keystone XL decision has been postponed is because Obama and company don`t want it to be an issue come election time in 2012. It doesn`t matter if the decision is made in 2013, 14, or 15, it is the outcome that matters, and sure as the sun will set, this pipeline is coming.

Those from the ENGO community overeacting to the Keystone XL postponement as a victory, misinterpreting the situation, are actually doing the Climate Justice movement a considerable disservice. “Game over for the Climate”, lights out for the planet, whatever you like to call it, this is THE environmental battle of the 21st Century, and way too important an issue to be off our guard, even for a moment.

Republished from Rabble.ca

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