This week, just as we as a nation are considering opening our coast to huge supertankers off the coast of Kitimat, BC, we are also remembering the oil spill when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska this month, 23 years ago. The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will bring raw bitumen from the Alberta oil sands across northern British Columbia to be shipped via giant supertankers to the oil hungry markets of China. The threat of an ecologically devastating oil spill on our pristine coast is all too real. Eighty percent of British Columbians support the current moratorium on oil tanker traffic through our coastal waters. At the same time the federal government, as Prime Minister Harper has made abundantly clear, supports the development of the Northern Gateway pipeline and doing away with the oil tanker moratorium.
Do people of faith have anything to contribute to this national conversation?
As a member of the United Church of Canada, I have been encouraged in my faith community to live with respect in creation and to live in grateful response to God’s abundant love made evident in the beauty and wonder of our earth and the web of life. As members of our faith community, we are urged to join in the Spirit’s work of healing and mending creation, especially in the face of the injustice and destruction wrought by human activity on the earth.
To join in the Spirit’s work means more than simply pray. Important as prayer is, it is not enough to simply pray for our political and corporate leaders with the hope that they will make the right decisions in support of the common good and the preservation of the integrity of creation. In my faith community, it is assumed that action is a form of prayer. We are urged to get our hands dirty, to join the political processes that give shape to our human community, and to work for justice, healing and right relationships with each other and the earth community. And when we, as individuals, or collectively, see that decisions are being made politically and corporately that bring harm to the earth, and will benefit the few at the expense of the many, then we as people of faith must take action.
Now it seems to me that there is so much patently wrong about the Enbridge Northern Pipeline proposal, and the political process that provides the context for this development, that now is the time for people of faith to act. Government has already made up its mind without taking into consideration the many, many voices that speak out against the proposal – First Nations communities, local governments, economists, environmentalists, coastal communities, and climate change academics, etc. Oil Corporations and their shareholders, foreign owned at that, appear to be the only ones whose private interest will be served, at the expense of the common good.
Does the wisdom of your religious tradition have anything to say about tankers off the BC coast, and the potential of oil sludge on our beaches?
What can people of faith do? Can our communities be means for collective action? What would that look like? What are the mechanisms within your own faith community that would embody the Spirit’s work in and through you?
I hope that people of faith can be in dialogue about the Enbridge proposal and act where we can.
Originally appeared in the Times Colonist on March 28 , 2012.