Over-consumption, not pipeline, is the real issue
By Evan Boudreau
Enbridge has been working on its pipeline proposal since
the early 2000s but didn’t formally make a public announcement
until 2006. The project currently aims to build a 1,177 km sub-surface
pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta., to Kitimat, B.C., and its port on the
The religious voice has not been silent either. Recently
the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination at about
three million strong, publicly opposed the pipeline expressing similar
fears. And the Anglican bishops of British Columbia and the Yukon issued
a statement questioning the integrity of the pipeline’s environmental
impacts, while Presbyterians representing 28 parishes in British Columbia’s
Lower Mainland also made their voice heard. They wrote to Prime Minister
Stephen Harper criticizing the government for weakening environmental
reviews, citing the same concerns as their United and Anglican brethren.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is still considering if it
will release a public statement regarding the issue. The matter came
up for discussion Aug. 22 when the CCCB executive met outside Calgary,
but there has been no public comment to date.
But there’s still a missing piece of the puzzle,
said Gordon, and that makes things more problematic.
“I don’t know if we (should be) taking a position of opposing
it. We (should be) taking a position of let’s give this a longer
second look and a longer view on the real outcomes for Canadians,” he
said, hoping the CCCB takes this stance. “We need to check our
consumption and figure out a more simple way of living.”
Gordon’s not saying that we need to abandon every byproduct of
the oil industry — he isn’t willing to give up his V8 4X4
Toyota Tundra and doesn’t expect anyone else in North America to
ditch their ride. Rather, he’s suggesting that we re-evaluate how
we use, and at what rate we consume, oil-based goods such as gasoline.
It’s an idea wholeheartedly supported by Dennis Patrick O’Hara,
director of the Elliot Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology, as well
as an assistant professor of theology, at Toronto’s University
of St. Michael’s College.
“We wouldn’t be needing some of these (pipelines) if people
weren’t consuming so much and if people weren’t so wasteful
with resources,” said O’Hara, adding that oil companies are
not to blame.
“We’re building this (pipeline) because we have a voracious
appetite for this oil. That’s a part of the conversation that I’m
not seeing or hearing.”
According to Statistics Canada, the annual gross sale of gasoline rose
by 1.5 per cent in 2011 to 42.1 billion litres, marking the third consecutive
increase despite prices rising at the pumps for Canadians.
“We have a petroleum-based economy and that’s not going to
be changed overnight,” said O’Hara.
While profits are measured quarterly, the payoffs of environmentally
friendly living aren’t truly seen for many years.
“We’ve got a cultural mindset that is set against, it is
contrary, to the very thinking that we need for the kind of issues that
we have now,” said O’Hara. “With climate change you
improve your behaviour and you’ll see the benefits about 35 years
later. It’s not that if you behave well today things are going
to be better tomorrow.
“Things are actually going to get worse before we
see the benefits and things getting better.”
A necessary commitment to consumption reduction Gordon
said will only be successful if parishioners, who are the consumers,
have their parish’s
“We’re shepherds of souls,” said the bishop. “The sacrifices of a simpler life are quite daunting for most of us.”