First Nation tribes tell the story of creation and the growth of wisdom through animals. Raven, the Creator, needed a reminder for the time before The Green. He chose the Black Bear to carry the memory and serve as a reminder. He requested one of every ten members in the Black Bear population to turn white so that he could remember the trials of the great Ice Age. In exchange for this service, Raven promised the Black Bear a life of peace and harmony. The Black Bear accepted the honor and produced the Sacred White Spirit Bear as requested.
Most of the 400 surviving sacred spirit bears live in the Great Bear Temperate Rainforest. They rely on clean rivers to provide healthy salmon stocks for food. These rivers spill out into the Pacific Ocean where the salmon feeds endangered whales and eagles, in addition to numerous other animal populations. The Great Bear Rainforest is listed as a protected habitat for wildlife. Yet, Canada entertains the idea of allowing Enbridge to construct the Northern Gateway Pipelines to pump highly toxic bitumen through the heart of the Rainforest, and British Columbia.
One spill from any of the proposed lines would contaminate land and water resources, affecting protected species, as well as tribal residents. The pollutants from a spill would end up in the Pacific Ocean where critically endangered species dwell year-round. The prohibitive expense associated with environmental recovery from a spill are so staggering that British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark issued a public statement saying the costs of the Tar Sands pipelines outweigh the economic benefits. In other words, it would cost more to fix a problem than Canada would make in profit. She wants the constituency to understand that spills with this toxic sludge will not exist in a vacuum. Its contamination would be widespread and long lasting.
The Premier is wise to express concern, based on pipeline failure rates. A spill in the state of Michigan in 2010 dumped 843,444 gallons (3,192,782 liters) of oil, which Enbridge has failed to contain or cleanup. Consequently, wetlands, creeks, rivers, wildlife, and people are either exposed or contaminated. The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a scathing review of Enbridge's corporate practices. The company and Canadian governmental responses to the NTSB stated that the findings would not be included in the review board's final ruling of the Northern Gateway project. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency stated, "An aid to cross-examination is generally not considered evidence and cannot be relied on for the truth of its content." Haisla First Nation Chief Councilor, Ellis Ross, responded in outrage, as the purpose of the review board is to examine all risk aspects of this project. The materials used to construct the pipeline through Michigan are the same as those for the proposed Northern Gateway project. The objective for the Northern Gateway project is the same as the proposed Keystone XL scheme plaguing the United States, namely exporting bitumen sludge to China.
Since the Canadian government and oil corporations like Enbridge and TransCanada care about profiteering over all other issues, there are simple solutions to put a stop to this recklessness.
- Stop purchasing goods made in China. This would send a clear message that the world no longer supports the country's destructive business practices, of which acquiring Tar Sands is a part. The message would be in an economic language that would be heard.
- Stop vacationing in Canada. The Canadian Tourism Commission stated that Canada receives $74 billion annually from the tourist dollar. The loss of this dollar amount would give Canada reason to reconsider its position on the Tar Sands scheme.
The Raven still speaks on behalf of the Spirit Bears; it is up to all to listen. Just as the Black Bear accepted the honor to serve as a reminder of past hardships, so do humans have the same calling to regulate their behavior and responsibility to The Green. The Spirit Bears weep before the world, calling each forth from the shadows to hold those that harm accountable for misdeeds in order to restore balance and harmony.
For those interested, sign the Stop Extracting Tar Sands Initiative.