New Documentary Highlights Ecological and Cultural Impacts of Enbridge's Proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline
British Columbian filmmakers Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello are leading a grassroots campaign to protect BC's waters from Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. In an effort to bring awareness to all sides of the pipeline battle, the duo documented the tanker route destined to carry diluted tar sands bitumen along rugged coastal shores if the pipeline is approved.
Concerns over the construction of the pipeline are only half the story, according to the film's trailer released last week. The other half begins where the pipeline ends, with pristine coastal waters and the life—both ecological and cultural—that depends upon it.
Following stand up paddler Norm Hann as he paddles the 350 kilometers that stretch from Kitimat to Bella Bella, the film, called STAND, showcases the region's biodiversity as well as its treacherous waterways. The documentary also tells the story of coastal communities through the creative protest of Bella Bella high school students and legendary surfer Raph Bruhwiler.
DeSmog caught up with Nicolas Teichrob and Anthony Bonello to learn more about their experience along the tanker route and inspiration for STAND.
What was the original inspiration for the project?
Anthony: I read about Norm Hann's paddleboard trips to the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR) in a magazine and when I went home and looked at his website, I learnt about Norm's StandUp4GreatBear SUP expedition along the proposed tanker route. That planted a seed for an environmental film. I called Norm and we had a coffee and he told me about the Bella Bella High School students making their own cedar SUP's [stand up paddleboards] and I knew then that we had a good story and a fresh angle to shine a light on this issue. When I floated the idea to Nic he was immediately interested and we were off. Personally, the inspiration for these films always comes from wanting to be out in our world and experiencing both the landscape and the people.
Nicolas: I had been thinking for a couple of years about working on a film that had a greater contribution to society other than pure entertainment. I have always been deeply passionate about the west coast and the ocean that provides us with so much, so when Anthony called me to see if I was interested in doing a paddle film, I was onboard right away.
Did you have any previous experience in the Great Bear Rainforest or Haida Gwaii? What was it like spending time in that part of the world?
Nicolas: Shooting for this project was the first time either of us had been up to the Great Bear or Haida Gwaii. I grew up going to Tofino on holidays and more recently doing remote surf trips up the central coast, but this was the first time I managed to get further north and west to Haida Gwaii.
What was it like meeting with local communities living on the front lines of the current battle over the Northern Gateway Pipeline?
Nicolas: It has been very interesting working with all these people who would be severely affected by a pipeline and tanker route. What I think was the most exciting thing to see was the unanimous opposition across the board to the proposed pipeline-tanker route, coupled with a keen interest in the work and stories we wanted to share.
What concerns did you hear from people in those communities?
Nicolas: That much of what they depend on for survival, will be destroyed and they will have to move. It is a very simple scenario, where hunting and gathering from the land and sea provides the vast majority of food for the year. The communities work to respect what the ocean provides, take what they need and eat what they take. All the stories of the past and present, and the culture they are of would be in jeopardy if their food source was destroyed.
Do most people feel like their voices are being heard in the fight to prevent the pipeline's construction?
Anthony: I was in Bella Bella for the Joint Review Panel hearings and spoke with Heiltsuk people during and after the hearings. Most felt it was a disgrace that they had to articulate why their home was their home despite living in their traditional territory now and 10,000 years ago. In short they felt their voices were not being heard but that they would proceed through the requisite channels.
Nicolas: The Gitga'at of Hartley Bay feel the same way as the Heiltsuk. The fact that the First Nations have to prove who they are is a big slap in the face. However, they were willing to go through with the process diplomatically.
In your opinion what does the construction of the pipeline mean for the Great Bear Rainforest and those who rely on the region's natural riches for their survival? Is this an argument over economy or is there more to it?
Anthony: I think the pipeline and tanker route has far greater implications than just those facing the GBR. In the face of First Nation opposition, provincial opposition, science and common sense, if this project goes ahead, it essentially sets a precedent for any type of proposal to go ahead in the future. That is the scary part for Canada and the world at large I think.
Nicolas: The GBR, fisheries, tourism and the west coast way of life would be threatened by a pipeline-tanker route. A fundamental problem in this consultation and assessment process is the lack of value put on nature and working with nature. The ideology of 'humans will conquer nature' is pushing the pipeline project, however, it simply doesn't make sense when you look at the greater scale of things in terms of time and space. A spill would likely affect the water, shores, and ecosystems from Haida Gwaii down through Vancouver Island. Fisheries and Coastal Tourism equate to 40,000+ annual jobs and $2 billion/year for BC, which is not reliant on oil supply, demand, and speculation, but rather a clean and healthy natural environment to work in.
If you crunch the numbers, there is no way this project makes sense for British Columbia. Even in a best case scenario, it will take away more than it provides. A worst case scenario would present BC with a $10 billion cleanup bill, a destroyed ocean environment, destroyed fisheries and tourism, and a lost First Nations coastal culture. That's a pretty bad case that is not an acceptable option for the sake of humanity and the globe.
What part of your journey so far has had the greatest impact on your personally?
Anthony: Spending time with the students building their boards. Seeing them create something with their own hands and then use it to discover the outdoors has been the highlight. They are really great young people and grew in confidence through that project.
Nicolas: Two things: 1) The ancient Haida totem poles, sites, and stories. Haida Gwaii is filled with so much history, that just walking around old growth in the forest feels like a surreal experience. 2) The nasty weather changes that occur on the north coast. At the end of our Haida Gwaii expedition we had a day of total glassy water, not a breath of wind. The next day it was blowing 56 knots (100km/h) and the ocean was chaos. Dangerous waters are ever present up there.
Were there any unintended lessons learned along the way?
Anthony: How truly rugged and wild BC's west coast is. I thought I had a sense before, but having traversed a good chunk of it this summer, it is totally wild.
How you can help
Anthony and Nicolas hope they can raise enough crowd-sourced funds to complete the film and ensure it is distributed to a wide audience. If you are interested in supporting the STAND project, visit their IndieGoGo page for more information.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.