Written by Grant G
Number 577, The Unluckiest Number
The 10 year anniversary next month of the Bengal Lion Star tragedy and I had to come to ground zero to see for myself, perhaps it was a mistake to come here, from what I have seen i`m way too angry to cry and too sad for fury, in fact I almost have that peaceful easy feeling.
How I miss my dad`s analytical explanation and mom`s hope springs eternal talks, yet I fear that neither parent could explain away this tragedy, 10 years later, 10 years of black death extending it`s reach.
Looking around by boat off Banks island, one mile from ground zero the feeling is of the surreal, trees are still green but any ocean life or bird activity is eerily quiet, no salmon fry swimming , no squawking gulls just silence, for tens of miles in every direction the great kelp forests are gone, who gave us permission to gamble and lose what we didn`t own and what we could never replace, sacrificing little Fish lake was a horrid environmental mistake, imagine deliberately destroying a huge natural watershed for trinkets of gold, thousands of migrating birds executed for the mere sin of just landing, how many species of frogs or insects still get near or in the lake only to perish or leave half dead, what insanity compels man to convert clear clean water into a poisonous tailing lake devoid of life, but as horrible as the deliberate execution of little Fish lake, the scale of the Bengal Lion Star oil spill off Banks island in Hecate Strait is beyond compare, how is it that my only terms of reference in attempting to describe the aftermath is that of dead zones, in a way its very peaceful, no eternal battle for life here, those days are long gone.
Only if I could turn back the clock, why did it happen, the Bengal Lion Star should not have went out, a deep pacific low moving in, was the Captain pressured to leave, why why why, even with two large commercial tug boats assisting wasn`t going to stop the wreck, maybe if there were extra support tugs who knows but when lead tug boat Kitimat queen capsized in heavy seas nothing was going to stop the massive oil carrier from grounding on White jagged rocks that stormy (March 14, 2017) night, 30 to 40 foot high waves capped with fury pounded the Bengal Lion Star on unforgiving rocks, section after section burst like watermelons, spewing millions of gallons of tar sand oil, the 3rd largest oil spill in the world, maybe if the oil containment teams had gotten out here sooner but with storm force winds blowing for 2 days along with extreme high and low tides, my god, oil sprayed the shore line high on exposed rocks and layered thick into the lowest tidal zones, mountains of Alberta bitumen flowing in deep water, who could imagine the oil and heavy sheen would have spread 50 miles in different directions over 2 days, coves, bays, narrow channels coated in black death, as far as I can look in any direction this paradise is dead, who knows what the bird count will ultimately be, millions of direct bird deaths with millions more that died in subsequent migrations, birds all along the coast found dead, birds with clear signs of contact with heavy oil, the natural engine in this migration route blasted with Alberta crude, indeed, the scale of the Bengal Lion Star oil spill can`t be measured in millions of oiled birds or the 40 distinct salmon runs that were decimated and or all of British Columbia`s wild salmon teetering on extinction, the sea lions, otters, coastal bears, eagles, ferrets, no salmon spawning led one extinction into another, we broke nature`s bond, too many dead for one`s heart to count, oil stained carcasses feed other animals that ultimately die too, black oil`s death-grip reaches on and on, only with time, generational time, perhaps millenia before this area recovers, can it recover, and for what, to spill another tanker of crude.
I don`t what is harder to take, the fragile existence of a few northern runs of salmon and southern Sockeye, it`s almost like the cycle of life has been thrown out, this large swath of nature, thousands of square miles destroyed forever, well at least for my lifetime, perhaps 6 or 7 generations before this area will become fertile again but with continued oil tanker traffic when will black death strike again, even if the shell fish recover, even if herring spawns again, the Orca will never be seen again, the birthing females were first to die then the small adolescent Orca perished, 2 adult males are all that is left of the species, maybe mankind should have figured out how to start a new Orca pod before destroying the only one we had, unique species and west coast wildlife gone, in a blink, for all time, gone, why didn`t we learn from the Valdez disaster, there is no going back, First Nations have mourned, the northern and island tourism industries decimated, maybe I should have fought harder against the National review 15 years ago, 10 years out from this disaster and Hecate Strait still lay mortally wounded, you can still smell crude oil, I can only think of Charlton Heston`s Planet of the Apes movie when he sees New York`s Statue of Liberty and realizes that it was mankind itself that burned mother nature, this area is no longer worth fighting for, top scientists are mostly in agreement that outside of decades of time there is nothing on scale that can be done to remediate the damage.
It appears the only ones left fighting about the Bengal Lion Star are the litigants, where have we seen this picture before, the Exxon Valdez law suit still lingers unpaid(40 years later), the Liberian registered Bengal Lion Star oil tanker had but minimum insurance, $200 million dollars yet the insurance has been contested, Bengal Lion Star hadn`t paid premiums in 2 years, Honshu commercial carrier insurance company have claimed bankruptcy, between the Province and Ottawa more than $14.9 billion has been spent on clean-up and species mitigation, First Nations, affected business`s and local town`s folk have law suits filed worth more than $15 billion dollars, everyone suing and litigating for compensation on something no one can return, Enbridge pipeline inc washes their hands of any responsibility, Shell, Exxon Mobile and the Chinese petroleum company are all pointing fingers at each other, owners of the Bengal Lion Star blame the escort tug company, tug company blames act of god and file for bankruptcy, how long will these trials go on and who will ultimately pay, what price, what price to return nature to the way it was, all this pain to secure dirty Alberta crude oil to China, oil use falls for the last 7 years, a dying product needing desperate tyrants, we sold out nature on British Columbia`s wild west coast for a handful of pesos, how can ancient dregs of plants take so much away from present and future life cycles, I can`t shed tears anymore, my life, my personal battles, millions of wasted words warning of potential harm or should I say risk management, I `m too old to repeat the warnings and too tired to muster passion, the battle for Haida Gwaii is over.
Even the First Nation`s blockade attempting to stop the very first oil tanker, 8 First Nations elders gave their life that day, not near enough pressure to stop that massive Vessel, oil tanker Shell diamond and its Canadian naval escort, dugout canoe versus high-speed frigate, symbolic but futile, the time to stop Enbridge was before it started, certainly native voices on opening day weren`t going to stop it, you can`t stop $5 billion dollars spent, never-the-less, January 13/2016 was the day the first super tanker left Kitimat, thousands of small protest vessels, nothing, not even Greenpeace and Suzuki foundation`s concentrated efforts could stop the Stephen Harper Federal Conservatives and the Gordon Campbell Christy Clark B.C. Liberal administration from rubber stamping this project from the git-go, proceeding at full speed behind closed doors, no matter how much evidence anti pipeline opponents, scientists, biologists and environmentalists put forward they were all but ignored, the NDP government vowed to stop the completion of Enbridge if they were elected in 2013, was the fix in, too much money invested to stop, too big to fail, needed economic growth, jobs jobs jobs, yes I heard everyone of those excuses justifying the completion of Enbridge, what jobs, imported foreign workers building the pipeline and 120 permanent after construction jobs, was it worth it.
Madness, I knew something really big would happen, not the 5000 barrels that spilt into the Skeena river, not the 50,000 barrels dumped at the port of Kitimat but something epic, mathematicians also knew it was coming, not if a big spill would happen but when a spill would happen, I can still hear Christy Clark talk about risk management, the best corporate spinners hired to say we can manage the risk, how come no one asked how do we manage armageddon, how do we clean up, how do we create more Orca, how do you bring back thousands of square miles from the dead, I wonder what Gordon Campbell would say today, Adrian Dix, the rejected NDP leader stated he regrets that the NDP didn`t do more to stop Enbridge, Gordon Campbell is long since dead, yes Stephen Harper and Gordon Muir Campbell I pass blame on to you and your complicit Cabinets, your legacy, Enbridge, bankrupt utilities, a dismal health care system, a dead central coast and slow dying life cycle, well, no one is listening to me, not the Governing federal Conservatives, not Premier Gordon Coons of the newly elected Refederation party, no, no one wants to listen to the left wing, after the BC Liberal led economic collapse, the seeds of P3s, IPPs and insider deals dominated, it didn`t matter who was Government in British Columbia, so many bad deals were signed, how many can the court overturn, the extent of the economic damage that came to fruition, what happened, like the Spanish flu in 1919 that killed millions, no one talks about the harm Gordon Campbell`s corporate Government inflicted upon us, the extent of one way contracts that ate up every Provincial dollar and more, I can`t help but think back to our 2010 Olympics, the pride, the I am Canadian attitude, Super Natural British Columbia but just a few short years after the closing ceremonies we have poisoned interior lakes, lost countless wild salmon runs to fish farms and now the third largest oil spill in the world, a death blow to our BC Coast, a massive spill in our migration engine.
Just picture heaven covered in oil, and what hurts even more, the people of BC don`t seem to care anymore, in the latest public opinion poll by Ipsos Reid job creation and big industry are more important than the environment, 67% for jobs and 16% say protect the environment, it`s times like this when I stare across at Mc Caully island or look into Norway inlet, smell the oil, I see the end of the world being played out, there is no shoulder of comfort to lean on, no soothing hugs that can squelch my silent anger, 576 successful departures from Kitimat, 576 loaded oil tankers that safely managed the inside passage, risk management, reward versus risk, despite 5 years of cruise ships not plying the inside passage, despite the loss to tourism, despite a sterile ocean desert, despite the tiniest of recoveries on the outer edges of the spill zone, despite of everything tanker traffic is predicted to triple over the next 3 years, an insatiable Asian appetite for oil and now that paradise is lost there is nothing left to fight for and no reason to stop, perhaps other Edens can be spared.
Number 577, no tears of anger no screams of silence, nothing but...
"That peaceful easy feeling."
The Straight goods
Cheers Eyes Wide Open