The downside of the growing world (Fourth in a series)

Skookumchuk Rapids, B.C.

Beautiful British Columbia at the Skookumchuck Rapids. Coastal areas like this, although not necessarily this one, could be affected by pollution and spills caused by oil projects proposed in Alberta. Photo credits: Nunavut (flickr)

Modernization is a major cause of decreasing populations of wild animals around the world, according to Theo Colborn of the World Wildlife Fund.

Many modern innovations are faced with opposition until those involved can reach a resolution or compromise. Currently in Canada, there is an issue present with proposed products of modernization, namely the Albertan pipelines, which has recently set a plan for resolution, but has not gained full public acceptance.

The projects are coming from many different companies, such as Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. The idea is to build pipelines that will take oil, in the form of diluted bitumen, from Alberta to B.C., where it will be loaded on to tanker ships to be transported overseas.

The economic benefits and job prospects look great for Alberta, but what is B.C. going to get from this multi-billion dollar deal?

“Increased employment is a very measurable immediate benefit, especially in the construction phase of the pipelines,” Jan Francois, exploration consultant and geophysicist at his self-titled company, said in an email interview. “However, a lot of this employment will be temporary because once the construction is finished, employment levels will fall significantly for the more steady oil and gas production phase.”

Francois does support the pipeline project in Canada because he believes that humans are smart enough to find a balance between development and the environment. We may be smart enough for it, but will that intelligence be shown prior to the pipeline’s creation?

B.C. premier Christy Clark has said that she wants five conditions to be met to resolve the issues with the pipelines going through. These include providing B.C. with a fair share in the profits, meeting the needs and wants of First Nations people in B.C., and also having “world-leading” environmental protection standards.

All this talk, and very little seems to be about animal protection. There will be positives and negatives to this project, as there are with many new plans working out the kinks. However, will there be time to work out the problems? What impact will these issues have on our environment?

In an article in The Globe and Mail on Nov. 8, 2012, the impact of the pipelines on caribou in B.C. was discussed. In many areas, the population of caribou is diminishing rapidly.

The caribou live in various places throughout British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Many of the herds in northern B.C. have been experiencing declines over the last few years due to the clearing of forests, according to the article. Currently, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline is cutting through “the ranges of at least five herds of caribou.”

Caribou tend to avoid open spaces or developed areas, meaning that their habitat has been shrinking over the years. Being out in the open makes them a bigger target from wolves and other predatory animals. The article says that many environmentalists think that “Enbridge is underestimating the impact [they] will have on caribou.”

In an interview with the Globe, Elena Jones, a wildlife biologist who has been studying caribou for many years with an organization called Resources North, said that “they don’t co-exist well with development.” This applies to other animals besides caribou as well.

An example of this would be the Kermode bear, also known as the spirit bear, which is a black bear with a recessive gene causing it to have white fur. The Kermode bear is native to B.C., and lives along the coast near Kitimat. They mostly populate two islands called Princess Royal and Gribbell, but they have been seen elsewhere on the West Coast as well.

Kermode bear.

A rare white Kermode bear around Kitwanga, B.C. Photo credits: Josette Prinson of Tour Guide Canada (flickr).

The Kitimat harbour may be the site for some of these proposed projects, and the tankers will be leaving there through a passage to open sea. If there was to be a spill, the pollution in the air and water could harm these unique bears, causing decreases in the population.

A paper by Wayne McCrory, a registered professional biologist from the Valhalla Wilderness Society, said that a couple of the problems faced by the spirit bears, if an oil spill were to happen, would be contaminated food and water, as well as chemicals getting onto their fur or skin, which could cause heat loss or kidney issues. McCrory guesses that all of the bears on Gribbell Island would come within “direct and fairly lengthy and toxic contact with stranded oil on the seashore” should an oil spill occur.

We must ensure that precautions are taken before environmental hazards are put in place. Certain things like the pipeline will impact many living things, and so far it seems as though the provincial government is watching out for us with their conditions and precautions but the proposers of the pipelines have not yet been able to meet all of the requirements.

Now that the conditions have been set by Clark, it will be interesting to see where the companies go and what will become of our beautiful coastline and its inhabitants over the next few years.


Journalism student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Lover of social media, photography, and reading the news.

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