This Blog Entry is part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project special report See the full report

Oil executive son's testimony at Prince Rupert Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel

Oil refinery in Jamnagar, India

The most moving moment of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince Rupert which wrapped up Saturday were spoken by Lee Brain, the 26-year-old son of an oil executive. 

Here is an excerpt of his speech:

My oral evidence today comes in the form of a story, an experience I had three years ago which directly reflects the impacts this project will have on me, and my community.

The story begins after a lifetime of debating with my father -he thought it was high time for me to finally experience first-hand the magnitude and power of the oil industry. 

So in the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to spend one full month on one of the world’s largest oil refineries, producing 800,000 barrels of oil per day. At the time, it was under an expansion project to produce up to an astonishing 1.2 million barrels per day and for confidentiality reasons, the company and details of the project will remain unnamed.

The catch was that this refinery was in a very rural area in a northern province of India -- right on the coast of the Arabian Sea, and bordering Pakistan.

So here I am, 23 years old traveling to India, and needless to say, tensions were high upon arrival. Coming through the airport, between the H1N1 virus outbreak and the one year anniversary of the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks of 2008, the military presence was simply overwhelming.

I landed in Mumbai, or Bombay to the locals, and spent a day travelling to the northern province of Gujarat, Ghandi’s home province. Situated outside the small village of Jamnagar, I stayed in a secured complex surrounded by high walls, meant for expatriates -- in literally the middle of nowhere. The land in the region was primarily used for agricultural production, but due to the strategic location on the Arabian Sea, naturally there was large military and industrial presence in the area as well.

Each day I would wake up at 6 a.m., and travel roughly an hour to the refinery. Guarded with AK47s, I remember the first day of my arrival I had the whole place in a stir, wondering why I was there. And to tell you the truth, I was thinking the exact same thing. It’s not easy being in a foreign country, being the only young Caucasian male in sight, amongst 50,000 workers constantly staring at me. But my fears quickly subsided as I spent more time there each day, and learned about the gracious, kind and humbled culture of the East -- regardless of the portrayals the media would have you believe.

I spent each day with two to three different managers from each department, and was able to learn a large portion of each faculty of discipline during my time there. I was very fortunate to have received such an in-depth, bird’s eye view of the entire project -- and not even the most qualified engineering intern would have had this opportunity. The experience itself changed who I am, fundamentally, forever.

I learned about the entire EPCM -- that is, the production process from engineering, procurement, construction, and management -- I spent many hours and days with managers from piping, documentation control, distributed control systems, civil, biological, chemical and environmental engineering instrumentation, quality control, marine operations, water management -electrical and on-site power production -- from construction management, procurement and materials, product creation and commercial supply, safety and security, and loading and unloading via rail, truck, VLCC (very-large crude carriers) and ULCC (ultra-large crude carriers).

I am not exactly sure if the average person could fully appreciate the sheer magnitude of the operation, and the intricate interrelationship dynamics between workers, departments, managers and corporate headquarters. It is nothing Discovery Channel would ever be able to portray.

The experience made me question many of the fundamental assumptions I had been making regarding the industry itself. I was realizing just how tricky of a situation we are in globally. My naïveness of the reality and immensity of this substance was not fully actualized until I had this experience. I can say right now, that I fully respect the power of oil.

One such day on the refinery stood out in particular. It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there -- I think it was most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas -- and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

See video

More in Earth Matters

What to do when the IPCC gets you down

There's only so much end of the world you can take. Here's what you can do about it.

Learning the language of climate solutions

If someone had told me how hard learning another language was I wouldn't have tried.

Failure not an option for climate movement

Saying the climate movement is a failure and we should give up is not an option.
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.

thank you

Wow, thank you so much for posting the transcribtion of this young man's testimony.

I am heartened by his words.



Respect. This guys father should be very proud of his visionary son.

Wonderful, honest and uplifting testimony.

This young man is my new hero. Very insightful and powerful words and sentiment. I hope he makes an impact. Thank you!! 

thanks from the heart

Telling a true story, from one's heart, is a powerful thing.

Makes me proud to be Canadian

This young man will influence a generation....remember his name....... On a seperate note....who's the biatch that kept interupting this inspiring/life changing speech??? Oh yeah...she probably holds shares in the oil industry....

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper

I encourage everyone who read the words that this young man so bravely spoke to write a letter to the editor of their local paper with a link to the video and this transcript. Inform the citizenry, arm them with information, and we will win this one, my friends. Peace.

Lee Brian's speech.

I cried reading this article and speech by Lee Brain. As an elder and a decent from a native tribe his words are truth at we our children and grandchildren will be facing in the future. Mother Earth will face the destruction of what God has created for us humans. Our elders perdicted a long time ago the sea will burn, the sun will gett hotter, starvation will come. People will be fooled by money and this is happening already, greed etc. Our voiooces have to be heard and the native people are standing up for our future generations to come.

Lee Brian's Speech

A very moving speech! I like this man for his insightedness. A brave soul. For those of us that know and foresee the current illogical pathway how do we move to the new pathway? How do we participate in, initiate, support the migration and transition to a new pathway for the salvation of our civilisation and planet? We forget the old 20th century paradigms that set us apart from each other as a family of human beings and living things on this planet. We ignore so called Wars on Terrorism and threats from those that would challenge the superiority of ones' power and place in the scheme of things. We ignore the need for unbridled consumption and comfort at the expense of the majority. We reject hardline dogmas of all kinds. We rejoin with each other and build the new paradigm, a once ancient paradigm, that we are one and live for each other and are dependent on each others survival. We walk down the pathway of sustainability together for the sake of future generations of living things and this place we call Earth.

It's "byproduct" or

It's "byproduct" or "by-product", not "bi-product".

Lee Brian's Speech

This man is wise beyond his years!  A very moving, inspiring and insightful speech!

an inspiring speech

i was so moved and inspired by Lee's speech, more when i realized it was from a young person, and further more when realizing Lee is the "son of an oil executive." This only shows that stereotyping is wrong. There are many, many people like him, that understand the sad reality of our times and are ready to forgive, but not forget, and are taking action to change the path we have been traveling for so long and is getting us towards a high cliff. Thanks to Lee for his courage, and to Carrie Saxifrage to bring this wonderful speech to our attention.

Lee Brain's speech

Or is that Lee Brian? There are two spellings in the article. May I have your permission to reproduce the article, with appropriate credits / links to Carrie and the Observer, in my blog Toward an Eco-economy

The real villian

I thought over population was the the real villian. Not fossil fuels. They tell me that a population of 7 billion people on the planet is sustanable and it's still GROWING? Stop blowing sunshine up my ass and tell me when this boat gets too full and we start tossing people off.

Oil industry

We need someone like this running for PrimeMinister, if he ever does I will definately be behind him 100%

Lee Brian's Speech

Hey, Real Villian, Mr. Brian talks about the disparity between growth and a finite planet.  It does not matter if one speaks of oil or population as they go hand in hand.   As the population increases more and more oil is needed.  That said, this gives me more hope than I have felt in a lont time!



Difficult to explain

This makes for a difficult explanation to the next generation. How do you tell them they don't get to have our standard of living, they don't get to see Machu Pichu or the Great Barrier Reef or any natural wonder that is further than their backyard.  They won't have access to the world the way we do, to go out and explore it or have it come to them in the form of products and entertainment.  The health, the safety, the security we have, how do you explain to them they don't get to have it even though we did? it is the height of arrogance to deny them.  Instead, give them the choice, the one we had and still have today.  Let them choose to live with fossil fuels and all of its inherent problems or choose something else.  It is the least we can do for the future.  Are they not entitled to the same choices we had?  The people we call Prime Minister and CEO are merely reflections of us giving us what we choose. When they deny us our choices, we call them tyrant. 

Mindless Drivel

I feel sorry for the commisioners that have to sit through months of this mindless drivel.  There is nothing in this kid's statement that constitutes real evidence pertinent to the Enbridge pipeline.  He offers no facts to substantiate his claims.  If he'd have presented this arguement in my junior high English class, I'd have failed him.  You'd have to be on crack to think this kid made a meaningful contribution to the pipeline hearings.   

The Time For Regrets Is Now.

By their very design and the legal framework they exist by, corporations have no accountability beyond their liquidated value. They are designed to make a profit. That is what they do. To expect anything else from them is an illusion, spin.

That they would savage the earth and the people standing between them and profit is just the way it is. It is their nature. Expect it.

That the senior executives of such companies lose their moral grounding is also normal given the power they can wield and their zero accountability to anything else besides making a profit. Expect it. It’s their nature. It’s the “game” they play, and they pride themselves greatly for being good at it.

These corporations and their executives should not be expected to self-regulate according to terms of goodness, truth, sustainability and society because that is not how they are measured, rewarded nor mandated. It won’t happen. Don’t expect it.

Governments are similar to corporations in exactly the same way except that the “profit” of an elected official is another term “in power”. The same intoxicating power, the same lack of accountability, the same lack of self-regulation with regard to the rest of life.

The speaker Lee Brian describes the situation he saw in India - there is no reason the same couldn't happen here in Canada. After an aquifer has been killed by a spill, it is too late for regrets. After the land has been raped and denatured, it is too late for regrets. After the peoples of these lands have been displaced, economically raped and morally dismembered, it is too late for regrets. The harm is done. It can never really be put right again, and no manner of money and apologies can make it so.

The time for regret is now, so we can implement right now what we would have wanted to see done before the pipeline and the fuel ships spill oil and tar on our mountains, plains, rivers, coasts and oceans.

What would it take to make such spills impossible? Whatever the answer to that question is what industry must be told to do. And we, the people, must verify that it has been done. Otherwise, don’t build the pipeline and loading docks. Don’t savage us, our lands, our children’s children.

Oil is a merely a stepping

Oil is a merely a stepping you know what is infinite? Human capital. Let the immaterial (in scope of human/earth history) issues go; relish in the fact that humans will always succeed to innovate their way to prosperity

Maybe there is hope that this

Maybe there is hope that this project will be defeated. These words are inspiring.

Brave and Powerful Testiomony

Well done Lee for courageously and publicly challenging the growth consensus and calling for us to create a future beyond growth, and graciously enduring the BAU questioning the 'relevance' of this testimony.

We've shared this with our 2,000+ Facebook page followers


Oil man's son

I have written a play which is moving toward production about a character very much like Lee Brian.  I would love to talk with him.  Could you get a message to him to ask him to check out the play on my blog and contact me?

Thank you.


Enbridge and oil exec. son's speech

This is the heart of our humanity. A young person speaking the truth as they see it. It should be a guiding principle when dealing with the manipulated "facts" of powerful people with invested interest in keeping the status quo and it is essential as a reminder of our naked vulnerability. We think and we feel. One does not negate the other, but rather, they inform each other. What I feel influences what I think. If I feel my power is at risk, I will think along the lines of defending my power and may ignore an opportunity to reduce the offending risk without being defensive. If we want concensus on issues of this magnitude, then we must respect everyone's feelings and thinking and explore what it means to find balance between the two. Thank you for persisting with your thoughts through the interruption of "fact seekers", those who believe their thinking has risen so high above feelings, they can referree the play.

Lees speech relevance to Pipeline

@ "Mindless drivel"... Firstly, did you miss the section of the speech where he mentioned he drove passed NOW impoverished villages, where once were fishing, farming and a flourishing environment, and the resulting water aquifer spoilages due to spillages caused by the pipeline? Secondly, Lee Brain..(The correct spelling of the in that thing in the head that most people apparently use for no more than holding ones ears apart) is a member of a family that LIVES in Prince Rupert...My father worked with his Grandfather in the now closed Pulp mill in that town, and I went to school with his father, so after seeing what destruction to a society that can be brought down by the greedy, uncaring CEOs of a big oil corporation,WHO BETTER than a third generation member of the community, HIS community, can you think of to warn the residents of the REALITIES of what will be coming to the area if the pipeline/loading port is built, than one who has been there and seen it first hand, as a true insider, and is now worried about the impact these will have on his home town?? I applaud his truth, and hope more will see this, and decide that money may be better spent thinking of future generations and more sustainable ways to power the earth than fossil fuels.

The next generations

To Chris Pastor ("Difficult to Explain"): If we continue to keep both the fossil fuel and alternative options open for the next generation to decide between, we will never actually get rid of fossil fuel. Leaving the choice up to our children because it's "not fair" to take their options away simply means that they have to make the choice for their children, or leave it open once more. This passing of the decision would never end, and no true change would ever come.

I agree that IF the developed world's standard of living would significantly change from getting rid of fossil fuels, it would be difficult to explain to our children. But it would by no means be impossible. I think kids would find it easier to understand "we were killing our planet" than you seem to believe.

re Difficult to explain

I'm sorry Chris..(Well maybe not) but why do you and other people feel that if we stop using fossil fuels...the only other choice is to go back to wax candles and the horse and buggy?...If I misunderstand, I am sorry, and please explain any other reasoning for your questioning of the abilities of our next generations to travel to the Grand Canyon and Macchu Pichu and France etc....The point of those of us who would like to see a change away from fossil fuels is...find a more ecologically responsible source of energy...there are advances being made daily in electric power, Hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, and even a compressed air engine...if 10% of the money being spent on the LOBBYING ALONE of fossil fuels was directed towards the betterment of alternate, clean, renewable energy resources, just imagine how far they could imagine larger amounts of time and money being spent... we CAN have an electric car with unlimited mileage...maybe even a hydrogen cell powered electric airplane, or cruiseliner, and there are already mag-lev trains..that travel 600 travel would not stop, just be more responsible...of course, all to the financial detriment of all these huge oil companies and thier CEO's, but since they don't give a damn about me, well, I don't give a damn about them either...quit being brainwashed (By said oil companies,thier lobbyists, and CEO's by the way) into.."Its either oil, or horse and buggy"...that just makes no sense with todays, and tomorrows' technology!!! Think of it this way...if all the oil just disappeared tomorrow, do you really believe humanity is so stupid that we would allow ourselves to revert back to 14th century would find another way..because the technology already exists...and as thinking humans, going forward is what we do..and the time to do it is..NOW.

A beautiful speech with

A beautiful speech with sentiments I echo. However, I can't ignore pragmatic issues. Our society - and, in fact, much of the world - depends heavily upon petroleum products every day. How do we meet this practical need and still maintain a social and environmental consciousness that's so badly needed? If not Northern Gateway, then what?

Practical concerns

A beautiful speech with sentiments I echo. However, I cannot ignore pragmatic concerns. Our society - and, in fact, much of the world - depends on petroleum products every day for more than just heating homes and driving cars. How do we meet our practical needs and still maintain the social and environmental consciousness that's needed? If not Northern Gateway, then what options do we have? I agree that we need to protect our world, our people and our environment. But we are still a world dependent upon petroleum. How do petroleum companies lessen their impact and still deliver the products we ALL rely on?


The Big(ger) Death:  Environmental Loss


Submitted to: Eunice Gorman

GRBV 6007 – Losses Across the Lifespan (summer 2009)


Submitted by: Cassandra Yonder (Hurd)

Date submitted:  June 30th 2009








This Loss Across the Life Span course started with the notion that grief and loss happen in many areas of people’s lives.  It was helpful to imagine the breadth of loss by making a list of all of the life losses we could think of, using Beattie’s Master Loss Checklist (Beattie, p.316) as a starting point.  Many students added to the list.  I was compelled to add the loss of Wilderness or Nature which is a loss I feel personally.  Wilderness generally refers to ecosystems and their inhabitants that remain mostly unaffected by the influence of human beings.  Nature includes the entire natural world.  It is the total environment; therefore the loss of Wilderness and Nature can be referred to as Environmental Loss and includes such things as species extinction and loss of natural habitats.  It is easy to imagine that we as Homo sapiens, as well as we as members of the total universe have indeed experienced drastic loss and are continuing to be bereaved of the environment in which we are embedded.

When I added grief for the loss of Wilderness to the master list of losses and a classmate replied that she also missed the woods near a cottage she used to go to, it did not seem to cover what I was talking about.  I noticed that all of the other losses on the list were considered from the perspective of a human as a social construct within a human centered culture.  To simply add Environmental Loss wasn’t extensive enough for me. My list would contain thousands of losses that might fall under the heading of Environmental Loss but are precious enough each in their own right that I would not condense them so.  The tree in the backyard of my youth, half the world’s species of frogs, clean water for my children to drink, shared culture around the spirits of nature - to name a few.  Other losses that were on the master list of losses would also be on my list, but by comparison they would be few.  I suppose that each person’s master list would be unique in that those losses which are most impactful for them would be infinitely extensive since secondary and tertiary losses would be most obvious.

My reaction to this exercise provoked some self analysis and some research which is the basis of this paper.  What exactly is Environmental Loss and why do I feel grief for the losses that are being suffered in the Natural world?  Herein I will attempt to examine the bereavement we as human beings are experiencing through the lens of grief and bereavement.  There seems to be much agreement about the fact that our environment is continuing to be radically depleted, but what can we learn about our reactions to this loss by applying some theories from the field of grief and bereavement?

When I initially set out to look for signs of grief regarding Environmental Loss in my culture I found many.  There is a great deal of literature and media coverage detailing what we have already lost permanently (such as species that have gone extinct), what we are losing (such as access to clean water) and what we may lose if radical change in the way we live does not come about (such as biodiversity).  When I asked people around me if they personally felt the impact of these losses they all replied positively.  Many had a look of deep sadness in their eyes but could not articulate any more about their bereavement.  There seems to be a lack of vocabulary around such issues, and this made me wonder:  Are we as a culture and/or as a species experiencing our Environmental Loss in a healthy way?

Certainly the loss is ambiguous.  There is no single event or moment in time that embodies Environmental Loss, though there are stories such as the plight of the Panda bear and now the Polar bear which bring this loss acutely into public awareness; however I think it would be more appropriate to think of Environment Loss as an accumulation of small losses that are constantly being added to.  Those who work in the field of grief and bereavement are well aware of the particular challenges associated with loss that is ambiguous.  It can seem as if the loss is so universal and ongoing and all encompassing that it almost becomes invisible in its universality.  Such losses can become easily disenfranchised because it is difficult to separate the experience of loss from that of everyday life.  In that sense the loss and grief becomes a way of life even if people are not consciously aware of it.

In many ways Environmental Loss is traumatic.  Images from the Exxon Valdez oil spill that devastated thousands of miles of the coast of Alaska in 1989 is an example of an aspect of Environmental Loss that disturbs many people in a fundamental way.  So is the harpooning of whales, the demolition of rainforests, the damming of rivers, the felling of the oldest trees and the extinction of the great buffalo herds, all of which bring about a sense of shock and numbness, of recurring and disturbing thought patterns and other signs of post traumatic stress (for many, but not all people).  With increased media coverage and globalization we have ever more access to such news concerning the losses in Nature and it is interesting to note that many of us may be continually traumatized by the way Environmental Loss is happening.  When loss is traumatic grief is complicated.  When the trauma is ongoing grief can be very complicated.

Understandably, there is an immense sense of shared guilt about Environmental Loss since it seems that we as human beings are the cause of the loss.  Guilt and blame often complicate grief too, especially when grieving people blame one another and the question of who has the right to grieve comes into play.  It is easy to forget that sometimes it is those who may have caused the loss are most at risk for complicated grief.  Ambiguous relationships with what has been lost and a sense of guilt for causing the loss tend to lead to unhealthy grief processes.

Do the above factors prevent us from adapting to our bereavement of Nature in healthy and constructive ways?  Considering that many of us might be considered to be at a high risk for complicated grief reactions to Environmental Loss, are we as a species really able to maintain a healthy attitude toward our lives in the context of such overwhelming loss?  In other words, if we could cope more successfully with our grief for the Wilderness, might we be better prepared to make good decisions about our changing identities within the context of our environment, possibly causing us to become a less destructive force in Nature?

Such questions interest me.  My search began with books which only served to further articulate the one thing that is already painfully clear to me; that the magnitude of the loss is immense.  I’m not sure how, in a few sentences (or a few thousand) to summarize the overwhelming destruction that is happening to Earth’s Wilderness; however, I think that E.O.Wilson does it best in The Future of Life as he describes the rate of acceleration of loss of biodiversity in the global environment.  Maybe the series “Planet Earth” does a better job by simply showing flickers of the intense beauty of the Wilderness and allowing that bittersweet nostalgic feeling those images inspire in us to tell the story.  Either way, we have access to evidence of all kinds which point to the great decline of Nature.

After accepting that such knowledge is to a certain degree (most definitely in the realms of science and reason) universal, why is it something that seems elusive?  Is it that what we collectively understand to be the Truth about the future of life is too disturbing to accept or maybe that we don’t accept the Truths of this positivist era and chose instead to believe that Earth is rather inconsequential in the greater, spiritual Truth?  Are we as a species still guided by a literal interpretation of the bible which articulates man as somehow separate from, or above Nature?  Do we truly believe in Dominion, that we are stewards – or more than stewards - of this planet, that everything else is merely a resource for our own endeavours?

“Christianity also developed the notion that if an individual led a virtuous life and developed a relationship with Jesus, she or he would be rewarded in heaven.  Norman Wirzba calls it a “life preserver” approach.  Just as the individual with a life preserver survives his ship’s sinking, the doctrine of personal salvation renders the fate of the planet meaningless (Gibson, p.109).”

Here I encounter my Truth, and must test it within my own life and belief systems.  In A Reenchanted World I read about the increasing spiritual meaning people are finding in Nature.  Gibson describes a movement towards a new human identity that is conscious of itself as part of a greater whole that is our environment.  We are Wilderness.  Gibson and Wilson both describe transcendental experiences people are having which seem enlightening and have the potential to address this apparent chasm (or not?) between Religious and Environmental belief systems.  One example is what Gibson refers to as the consecration of animals (p.40).  He notes that many people are having profound experiences with animals (often around the event of looking deeply into their eyes near the moment of their death) which are found to be enlightening.

I am triggered.  When asked why I became interested in the study of thanatology, I always reply that, “it has something to do with the fact that my father is a veterinarian and I literally grew up in the kennels of his clinic where I shared the birth and death experiences of many animals, but I’m not clear about the connection myself.”  I realize now more clearly after reading The Reenchanted World that I have always been enchanted by the Natural world, but that not everyone shares my life experiences. I make note of this distinction I have felt between myself and most others in the culture in which I have been raised because I think it offers an explanation as to why I feel more affected by Environmental Loss than my counterparts; however, I don’t think it is as simple as concluding that Nature means more to me than it does to other people.  When I read The Reenchanted World and learned that many people have moments of spiritual awakening to Nature and feel that communing with Nature helps them to make meaning in their lives, I realize that this is a shared phenomenon. If what people are doing with this sense of sacred connection to Nature is to feel the pain of Environmental Loss then I think that is healthy grieving.

This sense of connectedness to Nature tends to be expressed mainly in two ways; one is this expression of the sacred which acknowledges intrinsic value in Nature and the other is that Nature is something that is being lost.  When I view such expressions as acts of grief I am taken aback by the appropriateness not only of the sadness people feel about Environmental Loss, but also of all of the other feelings, thoughts and behaviours we in the field of grief and bereavement are so familiar with.  We as a species, along with all other life and matter with whom we share this Earth, this Home, this Gaia are collectively grieving an overwhelming loss.  As I look for evidence of psychological, emotional, social, physical, spiritual affects of the bereavement of Nature I find all of these; but not obviously.  As with other losses, our culture tends to focus on the sadness of grief to the exclusion of other symptoms, possibly hampering healthy grief processes.

How would a grief counselor appropriately address this grief?  Firstly by recognizing it as such.  If she were to follow a grief work model, Warden’s tasks may offer suggestions.  1) To accept the reality of the loss (Warden, p.27), and in this case of ambiguous loss, is continuing to occur at an increasingly accelerated rate.  When viewed through this lens of recognition, the literature on rates of population explosion and extinction, of global warming and devastating pollution becomes very alarming indeed; however, for the first time I am able to view this sense of alarm as an important part of the grief work we share!  2) To work through the pain of grief (p.30).  Knowing that grief is not just sadness but also anger, fear, numbness, loneliness, sadness, guilt, shock, anxiety, depression, agitation etc. then the fact that people’s emotions sometimes get in the way of a rational search for the most appropriate way to move forward together as a species is totally understandable!  3) To adjust to an environment in which the the deceased is missing (p.32) and learning new skills and to survive without what you have been bereaved of.  The thought of survival without biodiversity on Earth is unimaginable.  Many people need to deny the magnitude of the losses we face in order to cope with life in the present and this may be considered a healthy response to loss (denial), while at the same time other people are focusing their energy on learning to cope without the wilderness we are bereaved of.  That might involve embracing aspects of technology which allow for maximum efficiency of resource allocation given the growing scarcity of [human] life-sustaining necessities such as clean water and food, but such initiatives are conflicted because they involve prioritizing human life which is what caused loss in the first place.  4) To emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life (p.35).  The idea of identity reconstruction is the most difficult part of bereavement to grapple with successfully when the loss is ambiguous.  Here I stumble upon a possible reason why our Environmental Loss may often be unhealthy:  We really don’t know who we are hurdling through space on this planet that is in ruin! Looking at our response to the loss of Nature according to Warden’s task theory indicates that we as a species seem to be coping to varying degrees with regard to the first three tasks, but accomplishing Warden’s fourth task may be necessarily complicating.

Since the idea of continuing bonds is so often included in the grief work model it is worth some discussion here.  What is the nature of the bonds we maintain with aspects of our environment which are gone as well as those we anticipate losing in the foreseeable future?  I cry as I wonder how we honour the frogs, the rainforests, the rivers, the oceans etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.  How are we as individuals to experience resiliency and post traumatic growth when We (by that I mean Gaia, we-as-wilderness, as a collection of all life energy) are but a damaged fraction of our former self?  What are our strengths and weaknesses in terms of coping with Environmental Loss?  What are some examples of ways we are coping effectively and it what ways is our collective response to this grief maladaptive? How are we to maintain healthy bonds with the languishing planet on which we live?

Strobe and Shut put forward a dual process model of coping with grief.  They articulate how it is normal and healthy to oscillate between a focus on loss and one towards restoration.  As a society, we might spend time mourning those animals and habitats our children and grandchildren will never know while spending other time implementing policies to slow down future destruction.  We can also use the dual process model to understand why at any given point in time there will be those of us who are pining and yearning and those of us who are taking a break from our grief and aren’t considering the effects we are having on the planet by flushing our toilets or driving our cars and throwing our coffee cups out the window.  It is understandable that such disharmony can be as disruptive for policy makers as it is within a family system when grief is affecting each member differently.  It is challenging to act as a cohesive unit and to move forward in a way that is right for all.

Many theorists in the field of grief and bereavement agree that we must be gentle and compassionate with ourselves as mourners and with others who are grieving to allow for healthy adaptation to loss.  I think that point can inform healthy coping strategies when it comes to dealing with Environmental Loss in the sense that we may recognize that it is a loss we all share.  Every single one of us suffers this bereavement and therefore all action can be considered an expression of grief though certainly we all experience our grief in our own way.  When we acknowledge that we are grieving then we can take ownership and responsibility for our own processes.

In summary, it is apparent that we cognitively understand that we have had and are continuing to witness Environmental Loss that is substantial.  In fact it is fundamentally life altering, but it is the process of coming to experience the personal grief associated with the loss that opens one to the possibility of healthy adaptation to such huge changes.  As long as loss remains merely a fact, it is something that can be intellectualized, pushed away and blamed on others. It is only when it can be felt as a personal experience, or even shared as a collective experience that will be manifested uniquely in each of us that we can make use of theories that have been developed about loss and grief to engage in a healthy and adaptive grief process.  Such a response to loss allows each to take ownership of their experience and as a consequence to feel empowered to live according to an authentic personal identity and to make choices that are right for them without excess burden of complicated grief reactions such as debilitating anger, guilt, avoidance, etc.


When we can recognize that we are a people in grief, we can begin to be gentle with ourselves and to tap into the shared experience in a motivating way rather than a stagnating one.  Then we can allow our sense of responsibility to Nature as our home (instead of as something we are removed from) to guide our actions with honest intention. When we speak of our sacred connection to Nature we honour that attachment.  When we analyze environmental devastation we articulate what we are losing and make it personally real.  When we scream and cry and laugh and rage we suffer change and feel that in our bodies, minds and hearts.  When we allow that suffering to change us we grow.  When we change our behaviours and our policies as a result of that growth we adapt.  When we embody a dynamic identity we find our authentic paths.  When we are authentic we find forgiveness and we can accept this damage, this Environmental Loss and our embeddedness within it - and still find meaning in life.  All these steps are part of normal, healthy grief.

Professionals in the field of grief and bereavement know that to deny loss is to cease to move forward in life.  Unhealthy grief leaves us feeling insignificant.  We believe ourselves to be hopeless, helpless and dissociated from our authentic selves.  We throw up our hands and say that our actions don’t matter because life on earth is a lost cause.  We ruminate without changing.  We look to God and other supernatural forces to fix our problems.  We become uninvested in life and come to believe that this life, this planet, this time; doesn’t matter.  We find ourselves stagnant and without trust in ourselves or hope for our future.  Considering the fact that Environmental Loss tends to cause complicated grief as discussed above, such unhealthy responses to the loss of Nature should not be surprising.  We are all at risk.  Compassion for one another as well as for our environment is essential at this moment in time.

 Finally, I have found evidence for both healthy and unhealthy responses to the Environmental Loss we face.  Discovering our reenchantment to and embeddedness within Nature is a crucial step to coping effectively with the changes that are taking place.  I believe that Native traditions exemplify some effective coping strategies (Ross) and I hope that we as a species might seek the leadership of our Native Elders to guide us in maintaining our self respect as integral members of this shared life in Nature.










Beattie, M., (2006).  The Grief club;  The Secret to getting through all kinds of change.  Hazelden:  Minnesota.

Gibson, J., (2009).  A Reenchanted world;  The Quest for a new kinship with Nature.  Metropolitan Books:  New York.

Ross, R., (2006).  Dancing with a ghost;  Exploring aboriginal reality.  Penguin Canada:  Toronto.

Strobe, M., Hansson, R., Strobe, W., and Schut, H. (2001). Handbook of Bereavement Research; Consequences, Coping, and Care.  American Psychological Association: Washington.

Suzuki, D., (2002).  Good news for a change.  Greystone Books:  Vancouver, B.C.

Weisman, A., (2007).  The World without us.  Harper Perennial:  Toronto.

Wilson, E., (2006).  The Creation;  An appeal to save life on earth.  W.W. Norton and Company:  New York.

Wilson, E.,(2001).  The Future of life.  Random House:  New York.

Worden, W., (2002).  Grief counseling and grief therapy (third edition);  A Handbook for the mental health practitioner.  Springer Publishing Company:  New York.

We need to stop this pipeline

If there is any public event against this pipeline and tanker project here in the Vancouver area or Van. Island area, let's attend, raise our voices and let the government know they can't push it through when so many don't want this potential disaster to proceed.  If someone can organize it, I and we, will come.




Dan wrote:

Respect. This guys father should be very proud of his visionary son.

and ashamed of him self and his deeds

Brilliant and Moving

One small error though when he refers to "the slow decline of our civilization"  Ain't nothing slow about it.  It's getting faster every day.

I feel sorry as well.

David wrote:

I feel sorry for the commisioners that have to sit through months of this mindless drivel.  There is nothing in this kid's statement that constitutes real evidence pertinent to the Enbridge pipeline.  He offers no facts to substantiate his claims.  If he'd have presented this arguement in my junior high English class, I'd have failed him.  You'd have to be on crack to think this kid made a meaningful contribution to the pipeline hearings.   

I feel sorry for all the juniour high schoolers who have to sit through your English classes.  Although I am impressed that it took you less than 75 words to prove that you are a horrible teacher.

Oil executive son's testimony

Seems to me that producing oil and pipe-lines in a country that demands proper safety procedures and mandatory clean-up for accidents are a far better alternative, to letting oil companies produce oil in counties that have no rules or accountability to the governments in power. If we don't allow oil production in Canada and the jobs that go with such, then the oil production and the jobs will be transferred to poor countries that allow the poor to be kept poor with low wages, no accountability for clean up, and give oil companies a huge savings, at the expence of the planet. Oil is going to meet the demand of the world, let it be produced where it is better managed and monitored to more benefit everybody including the environments.

He only got one thing wrong

He only got one thing wrong "the slow decline of our civilization". It isn't going to be slow. Most research and history shows civilization collapse as extremely rapid as systems will be a long way into overshooting the resources before they realize that collapse is imminent.