Conversations about pipelines at Bytown Day; a volunteer’s experience

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I began an internship with Ecology Ottawa just over a month ago working on data management and communications. This position means that I spend all of my time in the office and not exactly at the forefront of the three campaigns, like our campaign leads, interns and volunteers. However on the Monday of the August long weekend, I joined the Renewable Cities team to booth at the CHOO (Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa) Bytown Days.

When I arrived at the boothing table, we were under a large tent overlooking the Rideau locks and (fittingly) the Ottawa River. This, we felt, was the perfect backdrop to drive home the importance of stopping the Energy East pipeline. If you’re not familiar with this campaign, I recommend you look through the Tar Free 613 section of Ecology Ottawa’s website. However, a brief snippet of what the Energy East Pipeline would mean for Ottawa:

In 2013, TransCanada announced they intended to build North America’s biggest tar sands pipeline, Energy East. The proposed $15 billion project would run from Alberta to New-Brunswick, sending 175 million litres of oil a day through the city of Ottawa, crossing the Rideau River… If there were even a single spill, it could devastate aquifers, poison our city’s water supplies, shut down the Rideau River all the way downtown, even affect the health of our city’s residents.”

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Being able to see the Ottawa river when talking to people at our booth allowed us to emphasize how lucky Ottawa is to be surrounded by so much water and how dangerous it could be having a pipeline crossing over the Rideau river.

One of the best moments of the day happened when a woman came to our boothing table halfway through the afternoon. I explained who we were and what we were doing and as we talked, she mentioned the recent oil spill that occurred in Saskatchewan earlier in July. She told us that she was from Prince Albert and that now she lives in Ottawa, but that her parents still live in Prince Albert. As a result of more than 200,000 litres of oil from the Husky Energy pipeline leaking into the North Saskatchewan River, the communities of Prince Albert, North Battleford and Melfort had their water intakes shut down and residents were told not to drink or use the water. When water restrictions were put in place, her parents received a note on their door saying if they used the water, they would be fined. The woman told us that her parents are older and are not able to leave their house, so I could understand her frustration and anger when no one came with bottled water or asked if they needed help. Her parents were stuck with no help and no clean drinking water. When the woman left, I started to think about how her and her parents story is just one of so many that continually remind me why we have to stop building pipelines, why we have to stop developing the tar sands and why we have to move on to renewable, clean and safer forms of energy.

I wish that the rest of the people I talked with could have been exactly like this woman. However, the reality of it is that not everyone was as understanding. There were people who said I was “preaching to the wrong crowd” when I told them what the petition was for. There were two people who talked over me with nonsensical arguments to drown out what they didn’t want to hear. But at the end of the day, these types of people were overshadowed by the people who listened to the facts, who recognized the threats to Ottawa’s waterways by building the Energy East pipeline and also who understood that being proactive on climate change, does not include extracting and transporting bitumen from the Alberta Tar sands.

These types of interactions and getting to spend time with the volunteers who were there, made my first boothing and Bytown day experience amazing!

If you’re looking to find out more about the Energy East pipeline, go to https://ecologyottawa.ca/tar-free-613/

Add your name to the thousands of other Ottawans who already said no to Energy East here http://www.ecologyottawa.org/tar_sands_oil

And if you too want to get involved and volunteer with some amazing people who share your values, get in touch by going to https://ecologyottawa.ca/volunteer/

Until next time!

Laura

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Categories: TarFree613

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