Climate change motivated author J.B. MacKinnon to stand up to Kinder Morgan
"I think the broadest scale point that really unites everybody who goes to Burnaby Mountain to protest is that climate change is the issue here. There are all of the local level issues and issues of jurisdiction and questions about process, but I think that the root of the anger is the sense that for 20 years people have tried everything, every means imaginable, to get governments to move off of the course of a fossil fuel driven economy and towards something more sustainable and nothing has worked. So people are feeling driven to take more committed action."
Canada's role in the climate change fight
As the protest on Burnaby Mountain continues to evolve and form stronger links with ongoing environmental and First Nations protests at other sites and regions across the country, a sense is starting to emerge that it is time for Canada to step up and either redefine itself for the future or continue to be perceived by the international community as an environmental villain.
It is with this in mind that I ask MacKinnon to comment about Canada's role in the climate change fight, and whether there is a special Canadian spirit that may be adventurous enough to undertake the task of rebuilding our national worldview and renovating our international image. MacKinnon had some interesting insights:
"Canadians have an appreciation for the ecological world that we call nature that we probably don't even recognize in ourselves. It's very strong, but it's so much a part of who we are that we often don't recognize it. I've seen throughout my life of observing environmental issues that this is very much the foundation from which so much Canadian political action comes."
"The other thing in terms of our position as Canadians, is that we do have the very good fortune to have a police force that is largely civil, that shows restraint. That treats us for the most part as citizens. We have democratic processes that protect us. We are a privileged people, and if we're not prepared to take these kinds of committed actions then we're leaving them to people in places where the police forces are far more dangerous and the democratic processes far less fair."
Could the type of actions taking place on Burnaby Mountain be a way for Canadian citizens to reverse the image of Canada in the world today as an environmental villain?
"I've been asked several times to write articles to try to explain to Americans why Canada has turned sour. I've been asked to write on the subject of 'what's happened to Canada?' 'What's happened to this Canada that we knew?' I've always drawn away because Canada's environmental history is spotted and complex and I'm not prepared to just say that Canada used to be great and now it's bad, bad bad.
"The way Canadians relate to the environment at home has always been complex and not all good and not all bad, but overall we were seen as a force for good by the international community. I think now, overall, we're seen as a force for ill. On so many fronts, not only the environment."
"I've been thinking hard about what the shift has been — and I'm still thinking through it — but I think what I'd like to say about Burnaby Mountain is that there are a lot of people out there in the rest of the world who have been saying what happened to the Canada that we know, and they will see that more familiar Canada in action in places like Burnaby Mountain."
Looking towards the future
MacKinnon is set to appear before the court to face the charge of civil contempt on the 12th of January, alongside the majority of other protesters who have been arrested for civil disobedience on Burnaby Mountain. In the meantime, although he is "a working person too" and has to make his living, he is "certainly going to try to get back out there to act in a supportive capacity for other people and to continue to be a part of the presence there."
Acknowledging that "protests have a real life of their own," MacKinnon suggests he has no idea how events on Burnaby Mountain will develop. All he has to say on this account is "so far so good." He does, however, hope that the protests will ultimately have a widespread impact and resonate with people long into the future:
"Who knows what will happen with this thing on Burnaby Mountain but I think it's definitely fair to say that momentum is still building, and even after the drilling stops, I hope that an example will have been made that people will take up in their own local communities in their own fights against the same thing: this relentless push towards ever deeper entrenchment in the fossil fuel system without any plan to address climate change. I think that's what people are trying to fight towards."
"We can't reduce this argument to this pipeline or that pipeline. The argument is: are we going to let our government totally and ever more deeply entrench us in the fossil fuel economy of the past without taking any responsibility for building a sustainable economy for the future? That's the issue. It's not one particular pipeline versus the other pipeline, or one coal port versus one fracking station, it's all of it. People are fighting it at the local level but they have that global sense of it in mind."