Rafe: Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change

Rafe: Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change

Rafe: Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change
84 year-old retried librarian Barbara Grant getting arrested at Burnaby Mountain (Burnaby Mountain Updates/facebook)

I’m inspired, if that’s the right word, from two quite irreconcilable sources.

First, the Vancouver Sun editorial of last Thursday, and secondly a wonderful movie called Revolution, by Canadian Rob Stewart, which I urge you to see.

The Sun editorial, amongst other things, mocks those who are protesting at Burnaby Mountain and all who generally oppose pipelines, oil companies and the like and it points out of the need for air travel to Kamloops and other such things.

[quote]It is time for those protesting against Kinder Morgan work crews on Burnaby Mountain to stand down. They have made their point and are now breaking the law…It should be remembered that pipelines are of national importance, with international trade implications, which is why, ultimately, the federal cabinet bears responsibility for sanctioning such enterprises.[/quote]

In the movie, Revolution, Patrick Moore is once again – as if it were necessary – exposed as a blithering idiot as he alleges that if protesters are listened to, then 50 million motorists, or some such number, won’t be able to start their cars and go to work tomorrow. Better, I suppose, that they all start their cars than we try to minimize the impact on the atmosphere of people going to work!

Sprinkled in this is the issue of whether or not school boards ought to accept large sums of money from oil companies.

Let’d deal with the last issue first.

It’s a question of morality. Would the police department accept a large annual sum from the Mafia in order to train officers, on the basis that the Mafia wants to give something back to the community?

Now, when I thought of that example, I said to myself, “Rafe, you are being terribly irresponsible. There’s no equivalence between Chevron, say, and the Mafia. Let it go.”

OK, I will let it go, but leave you with the question as to what the people of Nigeria think of how Shell has behaved in their country and ask whether, looking at the behaviour of oil companies everywhere in the world where law enforcement is lax, the example is so far out as it appears.

The Vancouver Sun and others are completely missing the point. There may be radicals who simply would shut down everything and a crawl back into a cave but the vast majority are simply asking, “What are our priorities?”

Why aren’t our governments doing at least as much to support non-fossil fuel enterprises as they are fossil fuels?

Why are fossil fuels being subsidized everywhere one turns?

Why are we on the one hand saying that we must wean ourselves off fossil fuels, while the governments we elect go out of their way to open more coal mines, more oil wells, and more LNG plants?

No one suggests that airlines stop flying and cars all stop running tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know anybody who considers that we should torpedo all ships, particularly cruise ships that Patrick Moore uses to make highly paid lectures.

No, what environmentalists say is that we have to make a start at reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and begin seriously encouraging alternatives.

Let’s look locally for an example.

LNG is a losing proposition as the government’s own figures substantiate. A 3.5% tax on the net profits, which may never ever show up on company books no matter how much money they make, is a subsidy and a huge one. The absence of any real rules on fracking is an immense subsidy to LNG producers.

If you look carefully at the negotiations the Clark/Coleman government is conducting, it would almost appear as if we are going to pay LNG plants to come into our province.

Now contrast that to what the provincial government is doing to reduce the use of a fossil fuels. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a thing.

This extends with even greater force to the federal government. It’s falling all over itself to find new sources of fossil fuels and new ways to transport it dangerously through the country and in tankers down our fragile coast.

At the same time, I know of no serious program to subsidize the use of solar power. In fact, Harper cut the small bit of federal funding we did have for innovation last year. One doesn’t get visits from solar power salesman or offers in their email to convert to solar power instead of the fossil fuels being used either directly or through electricity. This is because, in my view, the government has not done nothing to encourage through subsidy or otherwise the use of solar power.

We read a lot of learned articles about geothermal power of which we have immense sources. I’ve spent time in New Zealand where much of their power comes from thermal power and I’ve seen their power plants. What are our governments doing in this area? Is the BC government ensuring that the Crown corporation, BC Hydro, is embarking upon a serious program for geothermal energy to replace fossil fuels and new hydroelectric projects?

One suspects that will never happen as long there are hugely expensive, tax-paid sweetheart deals between BC Hydro – for which read the Clark/Coleman government – and private power corporations, those little “mom and pop” operations like General Electric.

97% of the world’s climatologists say that we have a fatal problem with global warming. It’s predicted that we have no more than until the end of this century to reverse this tidal wave and many say it’s considerably before that.

What the hell are we doing about this?

Almost the entire world, aside from Patrick Moore and the idiot who writes editorials for the Vancouver Sun, accept the global warming warnings and that by far the main cause is the use of fossil fuels. This is an emergency worse than war! What are our governments doing to meet this threat?

The valiant men and women at Burnaby Mountain, and elsewhere, are saying that individually and even collectively they don’t have the power to do anything except to point out forcefully to the governments which are the repositories of our wealth that they must immediately get off their asses and change from making matters worse to taking every possible step to make them better.

It’s always more comfortable to sit back and say that there’s no problem. People like Patrick Moore and editorial writers for right wing news papers know this and make their living off that knowledge.

Those going to jail to protest this attitude have nothing to gain except the moral satisfaction of being right and being willing to make huge personal sacrifices to do something about a terrible and destructive situation.

I think of Harry Belafonte, who famously said, “Don’t turn your back on the masses, mon”. This is precisely what government and industry are doing and, as always, the masses are going to rise – indeed they are all already rising – and will have their way.

I pray that it’s soon enough.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

31 thoughts on “Rafe: Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change

  1. Good article. There are a lot of people who ‘dropped out’ in the past 30 years to pursue ( for better or for worse ) an alternative lifestyle less reliant on the internal combustion engine and more in tune with nature. It’s kind of like the de growth mentioned earlier but on a personal level. As one of these would be homesteaders I can tell you it isn’t easy. When you don’t have a traditional job your income can’t keep pace with inflation. Grow vegetables , raise chickens, get solar panels, don’t go anywhere. Like I said , it’s not easy and there is a physical and health toll to be paid. The present world and society makes this kind of commitment incredibly difficult. I’ve seen people die or give up and go to work in the oil patch. It’s depressing that this kind of idealism and commitment isn’t rewarded in some way by our country and governments. We’re we all naive to believe another more holistic and rewarding life was possible ? I’m not sure. All I know is that we gave it our best shot over 25 years and have had to give up on that dream. All the inertia in this society propels one in a different direction. One that creates a much bigger ecological footprint and one that props up the powers that be which is the big multinationals and the governments that are beholden to them. Sorry but I don’t see much hope for the future which is why we decided not to have children. At some point all this will crash but when is anybody’s guess. Too many people with an incentive to prop it up for just a little longer. Cheers 🙂

  2. I have to ask what should be an obvious question of Mr. Mair, can you name me a fossil-fuel-free alternative? Solar panels require fossil fuels. Turbines require fossil fuels. Nuclear requires fossil fuels.

    The only non-petro alternatives will, ironically enough, as you stated in your article, have many of us crawling back into caves. I personally am all for a slow multi-generational period of degrowth that takes us back to a hunter-gatherer-homesteader civilization, as I feel that is the only way humanity will survive, albeit with a few billion less of us when oil finally runs out.

    1. You’re on to something when you talk about degrowth, Darcy. At the same time, investing in more sustainable renewable energy makes sense too.

      As Rafe noted, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A photovoltaic cell that used some fossil fuels in its manufacture is probably still better than skipping that step and burning fracked gas or coal for its own sake.

      And Rafe mentioned geothermal – which is pretty darned close to an alternate energy source that requires no fossil fuels. Unlike wind and solar, it’s base-load (i.e. constant and predictable) and potentially voluminous on a level that can compete with fossil fuel-powered electrical plants. So you could have geothermal energy powering the plant that manufactures the turbines, steam pipes, etc. that go into building the next geothermal plant – pretty close to the kind of closed-loop system you’re suggesting can’t be done.

      In BC today, 85% of our electricity comes from hydropower – which carried huge ecological consequences, to be sure. But now that we have these dams in place and much of the damage has been done, we could already be manufacturing better, modern renewable energy technology with low-emission hydropower.

      The biggest potential for reducing our environmental footprint, though, lies with conservation – the only form of energy that truly has zero impact. This can come from degrowth, as you suggest, coupled with increased energy efficiency. On the latter, we’re already doing a decent job at this in BC, where, despite significant population growth over the past decade, our electrical consumption hasn’t really gown at all. The same thing can be said for the US. Yet we have so much room for improvement in this area.

      Going a step further is the degrowth you talk about. Our Western, consumerist economies have come to depend on this unsustainable growth model, which is seriously in need of a rethink. Dr. Bill Rees nails it in this talk we published earlier this year:


      I made these points in a Ted X talk I did a couple years ago called “Beyond the Techno Fix: Why the Prius Can’t Save Us”:


      So-called clean-tech and increased efficiency alone won’t do the trick if we keep growing our population and consumption – which I think is part of the significance of the opposition to new pipelines described here. The growth of cheap fossil fuels is interlinked with the explosion of our population and growth-based economy over the past 100 years, so blocking these new avenues for conventional growth seems like a good place to put our energies.

      1. Excellent, Damien. Thanks for that.

        And speaking of conservation, just think of all the good energy and resources – social, scientific, material, financial – that we continue to waste while having to wage a protracted fight against these fossil-fuel behemoths, their investors, and their friends in government who persist at obstructing the many changes that we all will have to make at many levels.Yes, Darcy, there are many unanswered questions, but we cannot move forward creatively with best intentions and earnest information exchanges as long as they insist on holding us captive to the current model of development, denial and confrontation.

        The clock is ticking.

      2. I don’t think the government or the central bank will go for de-growth, because it would involve crashing the present system, which demands endless gdp growth. But endless growth is impossible in a finite world. Governments don’t seem to understand this. De-growth will inevitably impose itself upon us, though.

  3. No, Heather, it sure as hell isn’t going too far. They own the government, the media and even, I hate to say, the Labour movement for whom the devil they know etc.

    Let me take a quick look at Vaughn Palmer who today examines Site “C” and Independent Power Producers. There is a weeks look at IPPs if he truly wanted to present the facts. The environmental damage is horrific and government enforcement of rules all but non existent. The cost of this degradation isn’t even borne by the companies but by taxpayers.

    The cost of the power to BC Hydro is horrendous and they must pay that price no matter what the market value is … AND, it’s several times higher than BCH can produce it for..

    IPP power is generally only available during the run-off …

    On it goes yet it’s not in the interest of fellow capitalist compadres to expose this and Palmer, either under pressure or because he’s a piss poor journalist (which we know isn’t so) ignores this.

    The Official Opposition, admitted by their leader, as supporters of their energy policy, is silent.

    You are left with The Common Sense Canadian, which is without funds, and thetyee.ca on limited funds, to try to get the truth to you. In case you’re wondering, no one gets paid to write for the CSC nor does the guy who keeps it going, Damien Gillis.

    1. Regarding your last paragraph, Rafe. Discovering coverage by the Common Sense Canadian and the Tyee some years ago was no small revelation. In fact, with all that is happening in BC, I am still a bit stupefied by how so little news concerning the environment and the politics of fossil fuels and fish farms ever make it south of the border to the mainstream and regional US media. You would think your province were a world away. Lately, however, BC stories are beginning to trickle in from a number of sources. And good to see Dr. Morton featured on 60 Minutes.Thanks to you, Damien, and all for the hard work. I’ll share this article as I have with others. A donation will be in the mail come Monday.

  4. In the 1950’s a small country called New Zealand with a population of 2,000,000 souls, made the decision to utilize geothermal power generation. The did and it was a huge success.
    In 2014 a Canadian province called BC can do the same and develop geothermal power generation. However, we a blessed with fools, idiots and criminal elements in the government of this province, so continued raping of the public coffers seems to be the norm.


    1. With the world price of oil dropping, both BC LNG export and oil sands pipelines look even less economically viable.

  5. Heather, our governments *are* owned by the big energy corps, as is the media. There’s also some money in there from the famous Koch brothers. Unless someone starts paying attention to where the media, and gov’t, and big oil agenda is going, our world is lost.
    Great article Rafe. Keep it coming.

  6. Great article, Rafe! On mark, again and again and again. So much so that I am simultaneously left speechless yet unable keep from wanting to pile it on, so permit me to do so, briefly.

    That so many corporate and government leaders today show disdain for the heart-felt concerns, sentiments, and even good science of activist citizens is tragic and sad enough with regard to restoring any hope that we might reach sane and sound solutions. That these so-called leaders are so willing to manipulate unconscionably public discourse toward an end of neutralizing their critics as misinformed or lacking intelligence, and by extension, not worthy of being engaged, betrays our so-called democracies as sham, in shambles, and all about privileged powers-that-be. Then I think of those growing numbers of fellow citizens – and I meet them every day – who can only muster dire fatalism when faced with a biosphere that seems to be going nowhere good fast, who cannot find time or energy to voice their concerns because they are too busy, too insecure, too weary, from trying to pay the mortgage, raise their children, or just put food on the table in such an unstable, uncertain atmosphere. Oh, let me guess, the fracking, the dilbit, the pipelines will bring them jobs and prosperity. That said, more power to the protesters, the activists, the rebels.

  7. I wouldnt sully the bottom of a bird cage with a Vancouver Sun editorial.
    The Sun media chain, Global tv , et al…. all sold their souls long ago to the almighty corporate advertisng dollar. Hence their lack of credibility with the public and their continuing spiralling loss of market share.
    Lets call the local media what they are…..Pathetic shilling for a paid agenda .
    And, more importantly.

    Rafe, your comments on alternative energy sources is absolutely spot on.(geothermal in BC would make a LOT of sense). But the thought of another subsidized govt boondoggle like the Run of River projects makes some voters cringe)
    If we are to successfully move from an oil based economy (which we currently are, like it or not). We must start electing govts that will move in that direction.
    The Greens or the NDP seem to be the only alternative.
    The other federal and Provincial govts are same old same old.
    Throw out the old regimes.
    The new regimes may not be any better but it will at least make the others stand up and take notice.

  8. Is it going to far to say that our politicians are owned by the big energy corporations?? If we have the technology to replace fossil fuels at no inconvenience to ourselves then why hasn’t that happened yet? In BC, the goals of the LNG industry are taking over the education system! I never thought I’d live to see the day! Great article, Rafe!

Comments are closed.