BY: SINEAD MULHERN
Checking the mailbox and finding tiny samples of dish soap in the mail is a fairly normal occurrence. Finding samples of simulated bitumen oil among the flyers, bills and Christmas cards however, is not. But that was the case for hundreds of B.C. citizens in late November.
An environmental group, Dogwood Initiative, was behind the mini fake bitumen packages. The stunt was a part of their campaign, Let BC Vote – a campaign aimed at getting B.C. people decision-making power in key environmental issues. One of their latest and major issues: energy behemoth Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand their Trans Mountain Pipeline. This plan would mean that the current number of tankers shipping bitumen oil would increase from five to 34 per month.
And the Northern Gateway pipeline would be using 220 tankers every year.
Environmentalists point out that bitumen oil sinks when put in water. That would mean that spills would be incredibly hard to clean up.
So Dogwood Initiative stated in the letter attached to the samples which Huffington Post reported recently.
“There’s no way to guarantee the safe shipment of diluted bitumen,” it says. “That’s because it sinks in water. So we’ve enclosed this sample as a reminder of the environmental and economic risks of bringing more oil tankers to the British Columbia coast.”
Included in the letter was a mock warning notification saying that the package is fragile and could rupture, cause damage to your home, or catch fire and to keep it away from sharp objects, coral reefs, extreme weather, islands and earthquakes.
On the group’s site, they say that even though 96 percent of B.C.’s land is owned by the people, 88 percent of the land is controlled by big mining, oil and timber companies. This affects citizens who have chosen to make B.C. their home.
“Right now foreign oil companies are asking to transport diluted bitumen through our home province,” says Kai Nagata, Dogwood’s Energy & Democracy Director, in a press release. “We thought it was worth literally bringing the debate into people’s homes.”
“British Columbians are being asked to assume all the risks of an oil tanker spill, yet we’ve been given no meaningful input into that decision as citizens. With the federal election around the corner, we’re encouraging voters to let their local representatives know that’s unacceptable,” says Nagata.
The “bitumen” oil in the packets was actually vegetable gel dyed with food colouring – not quite bitumen but had the same look and molasses-like gooey texture.
Earlier in November, the group created a simulated oil spill scene. Looking through a pair of binoculars, people would see bitumen-coated sand, a dying orca, and oil fires.
They’re hoping to catch the attention of people who care about B.C.’s environment. Especially those who live in the western Canadian province. As they say, it’s to demand an independent review of Kinder Morgan’s plans so that the people of B.C. can have a say for once. Not just the people who constitute Harper’s cabinet.