Some First Nations wisdom for the rest of us, courtesy of Gitga’at elder and matriarch Helen Clifton (as quoted in Arno Kopecky’s book The Oil Man and the Sea):
When you watch bears and eagles time their cycles with the salmon, when you see whales breaching and sea lions shouting from the rocks, it has a deep effect on your psyche. It makes you a different person. It makes you healthy.
Clifton lives in Hartley Bay, British Columbia, a remote Gitga’at coastal community perched at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, a 90-kilometre inlet stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Kitimat. Clifton has seen these bears, eagles, whales and sea lions, first hand, for all her life. She, too, lives each day in time with the cycles of the salmon.
But all that might change: Kitimat is slated to become the western terminus of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands. Heavy oil from the pipeline is due to be shipped, in massive, hulking tankers, down the Douglas Channel, past the bears and eagles and salmon and whales and coastal communities, on its way to Asia.
An accident or spill is, at some point, inevitable. And that puts the health of coastal British Columbia — and, ultimately, the health of each and every one of us — at risk.
For more information, or to add your voice to those concerned about the health of our coastal marine environment: