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First Nations Build a 'Watch House' in Path of Kinder Morgan Pipeline

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Protect the Inlet

By Andy Rowell

The campaign against the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline escalated Saturday when Indigenous leaders from across Canada and the U.S. came together to inaugurate Kwekwecnewtxw—"the place to watch from"—whilst others started building a traditional Coast Salish "Watch House" near the pipeline route.


Although the Watch House stands on the line of exclusion zone surrounding the pipeline, the local community have vowed to not move from the tower until Kinder Morgan is defeated.

Building of the Watch House is expected to finish Monday. It will then become a focal point for resistance to the pipeline, which if completed, is expected to bring some 400 tankers a year to the ecologically and culturally sensitive coastline.

The highly controversial $7.4-billion project was approved by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in November 2016. It has subsequently been challenged in court by First Nations, the City of Burnaby, the City of Vancouver and the BC government.

And Saturday the local community was out in force. Some 10,000 local supporters marched to the site in solidarity. Speaker after speaker then condemned the pipeline, criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's approval of the pipeline "a major step backwards" in both their relations with the Federal Government and also for the climate.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told the crowd: "We are gathering today to send a clear message to Kinder Morgan and Justin Trudeau that indigenous peoples across North America and British Columbians will never let this pipeline be built. I call on everyone in the crowd today and watching from home to join us in escalating action to stop Kinder Morgan in the coming days. Rachel Notley, we are not in the least bit intimidated by your desperate threats and we will not stop!"

Will George, a Tsleil-Waututh member also addressed the assembled protesters, who included members of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, Athabaska Chipewyan Nation and Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations.

George said: "My ancestors built Kwekwecnewtxw—'a place to watch from'—when danger threatened our people. Danger threatens our people now, as Kinder Morgan tries to send hazardous diluted bitumen through our territory. Today we build our own watch house to protect the Salish Sea and the people who depend on it."

George added that: "We're going to stop Kinder Morgan. We're going to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline," he said. "We're continuing to send that message that we're not going to allow this pipeline to be built.

George finished by stating that he will be staying in the Watch House "as long as it takes."

Autumn Peltier, a 13-year old internationally recognized water ambassador from Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario, spoke on behalf of the 150 First Nations and U.S. Tribes that have signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, as well as Keystone XL and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline.

"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said we can protect the water, the coasts, and the climate while still building new tar sands pipelines like Kinder Morgan. But I came here to join with other water protectors to say that he's wrong," she said.

Not only is Trudeau tripping up on Canada's climate commitments, but also on commitments he gave to communities back in 2013, when he said: "Governments might grant permits, but only communities can grant permission."

As the Other98 has pointed out, this is a protest that could go global. "There are clear echoes of Standing Rock in the fight, which has been indigenous-led from the start."

And if Kinder Morgan turns into Standing Rock 2, then Trudeau has a huge problem on his hands.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.

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Pexels

By Zak Smith

It is pretty amazing that in this moment when the COVID-19 outbreak has much of the country holed up in their homes binging Netflix, the most watched show in America over the last few weeks has been focused on wildlife trade — which scientists believe is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make no mistake: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is about wildlife trade and other aspects of wildlife exploitation, just as surely as the appearance of Ebola, SARS, MERS, avian flu and probably COVID-19 in humans is a result of wildlife exploitation. As a conservationist, this is one of the things I've been thinking about while watching Tiger King. Here are five more:

1. We are in a biodiversity crisis.

A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, including tigers. The leading drivers of species decline and the impending collapse of ecosystems are ocean and land use changes (like converting wildlands into other uses, usually agricultural) and the direct exploitation of species (like taking animals out of the wild for eating, "medicinal" purposes, or status motives). It is for these exact reasons that there are more tigers in cages in the United States than there are in the wild. Developers continue to destroy tiger habitat and, in the not-so-distant past, hunters shot and killed tigers for sport or for trade in tiger products (and some still do illegally).

2. We must fundamentally change our relationship to nature.

Transformative change is necessary to limit species extinctions and secure human well-being (functioning ecosystems provide the clean air, clean water, carbon sequestration, flood control, healthy soils, pollination of plants and healthy coastal waters humans need to survive). Transformative change in this context means "a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values." We aren't going to halt the loss of species and strengthen ecosystems if we continue to treat wild plants and animals as expendable and renewable resources that we can use however we want. The tigers and other animals in Tiger King are exploited for profit and personal interests. Regardless of how they may be respected, coveted, or cared for, they are still treated as exploitable objects, which reinforces other destructive attitudes toward nature. A tiger cub is something to be held and photographed, a wetland is something to be filled and built upon, a rhino is something to be killed so we can use its horn for fake medicine. It's a view of nature as being in service to human wants, an attitude that is destroying our planet and one that must change.

3. Most wildlife trade should be banned and we should protect more wild places.

As noted above, ocean and land use changes and direct exploitation of species are causing an extinction crisis and threaten the ecosystems we depend on for human well-being. In line with our exploitative mindset, we've been stuck for centuries with economic and social patterns that allow unfettered use of wild places and wildlife until there's a problem. We need to flip that model on its head and only use wild places and wildlife if we can affirmatively demonstrate that such use won't contribute to the biodiversity and climate crisis. Tigers and the other animals appearing in Tiger King wouldn't be endangered today and wouldn't require "sanctuaries" if we hadn't destroyed their habitat and taken them from the wild for food, pets, "medicine" and trophies.

To set things right, we should ban most wildlife trade and protect more of the natural world. I say "most" wildlife trade to account for the exception of well-managed fisheries. NRDC has long sought to limit irresponsible wildlife trade (fighting for imperiled species internationally, supporting state efforts to limit trade, providing recommendations to China on revisions to its wildlife law), and now we must go further by banning most trade. In addition, we should support efforts to set aside vast swaths of ocean, land and terrestrial water to rebalance the functioning of our natural world. That's why NRDC and others support an initial call of protecting 30 percent of the world's oceans, lands and water areas by 2030. In China, we're protecting areas in a way that helps tigers by supporting the government's development of a National Park system, with targeted efforts on one of its pilot parks, the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park, which provides an important habitat for China's struggling populations of Amur tigers and leopards.

4. Not​ all sanctuaries are sanctuaries.

A lot of so-called sanctuaries are dumpster fires; they serve no purpose other than exploitation of animals for profit, and the animals suffer needlessly. It doesn't look like the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park — the park formerly owned by Joe Exotic — is a sanctuary, though it styles itself as being one, so the public may be confused. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, legitimate sanctuaries "do not breed, allow public contact with, sell, or otherwise exploit the animals that they take in." Legitimate sanctuaries can play an important role in saving imperiled species, promoting animal welfare, and educating the public. But those that do not meet strict standards are part of the problem, not the solution. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) provides accreditation for sanctuaries that abide by a set of policies, including the maintenance of a nonprofit/noncommercial status. Big Cat Rescue, which is featured in the Tiger King series, "has held GFAS Accreditation status since 2009."

5. Changing our relationship to nature must include a just transition.

Throughout the world and in the United States, millions of people use nature in destructive ways for their livelihoods. I don't say this with judgement; often, people are just doing what we've always done — business as usual — which is unfortunately destroying the planet. Workers in the fossil fuel industry, fishermen in unsustainable fisheries, clearcutters in the tropics and boreal forests, and even people working at fake sanctuaries depend on the current system of exploiting nature to provide for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, it's at the expense of other people who depend on healthy, thriving ecosystems for their livelihoods and at the expense of human well-being overall. If we want to succeed in charting a new path for our planet, we must commit to making people and communities whole. The rampant exploitation appearing on the screen in Tiger King isn't just of wildlife — it is also of many desperate people brutalized by a political and economic system providing few options. We're not going to successfully realign our relationship with nature if we don't provide the necessary support for people and communities to transition to more sustainable, ethical means of providing for themselves and their families.

So, watch Tiger King and see if for you, like me, it informs the horror of the current moment, then maybe think about building a different world when we come out of this — a vibrant, natural world filled with wildlife and wonder, where we orient ourselves around preserving nature, not exploiting it, and embark on a new human journey.

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