The BC Sierra Club has been at the forefront of eco-activism for almost 50 years. Mark Leiren-Young talks to their campaigns director, Caitlyn Vernon, about protecting the whales, the oceans and her award-winning book about the Great Bear Rainforest.

“This is where the ludicrousness of the way we measure economic progress comes into play: an oil spill is good for GDP”

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The Killer Whale Who Changed the World….

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Show Notes:

  • Introductions [01:51]
  • What Sierra Club BC is all about–conserving the wild, big trees, and Flathead River valley [02:03]
  • Post-election talk: Still lots of speculation, but a majority of British Columbians voted for environmental protection [02:47]
  • Why the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is personal–what’s happening in our home, how a concussion linked her to the whales [03:44]
  • The “cocktail party” effect: whales shouting louder and louder [04:49]
  • First time she saw a whale, and saw them from a kayak near Robson Bight [06:52]
  • Fall in love with whales because, no matter who you’re with, when there’s a whale, everyone goes quiet [08:10]
  • Inspirational books from childhood (or places, or animals) [09:20]
  • Campaigns Sierra is working right now:  [10:50]
  • Pull Together campaign (raising fund and moral support for First Nations groups who are fighting KM in court) [12:25]
  • The Sierra Club tracking the events on the North Coast, with the federal government bringing in a legislated tanker ban [16:45]
  • Why Sierra BC is separate from all other Sierra Clubs (but talk to both of the others regularly) [17:28]
  • Does US environmentalism impact Canadian policy? (A: hard to tell in politics, but probably in finance) [19:30]
  • How the Sierra Club influences international environmentalism [22:05]
  • Some other projects: The active plan to stop the site C dam, looking at the provincial government subsidizing fracking and LNG through reduced hydro rates [22:39]
  • When Premier Clark approved Kinder Morgan, it was with the promise that they would gift the province $25-50 million/year. But Kinder Morgan will be subsidized $27 million/year in hydro bills. [23:32]
  • Remember, logging is still happening at a massive rate on Vancouver Island, and the old-growth is not a renewable resource [24:25]
  • How Nowhere Else on Earth: standing tall for the great bear rainforest came to be [25:30]
  • After Caitlyn, Orca publishing only wants to work with nonfiction writers who are passionate about their subjects [29:34]
  • Protecting the Great Bear rainforest—everyone has finally all agreed to protect the area, and it’s not just the cookie-cutter park system [30:06]
  • There’s a national organization for equitable reading—and they converted Nowhere Else on Earth into audio [33:10]
  • True costs v. Perceived costs, and some indication that Site C approval and KM approval hinged on each other [34:11]
  • In their submission to the National Energy Board, Kinder Morgan points out that an oil spill would be good for BC economy [35:18]
  • Talking about hidden costs of the pipeline, such as putting 98,000 jobs at risk, in addition to the wild salmon economy,  tourism industry, [36:30]
  • Making Waves
  • And much more…

Significant quotes:

“We work to conserve wilderness and wild places within the urgent context of climate change” [02:10]

“What’s really exciting is that a clear majority of British Columbians voted for environmental issues.” [02:59]

“The science is super clear—that, with the 400 tankers that would come as a result of the Kinder Morgan proposal, these endangered whales would likely go extinct. Even without an oil spill. Simply from the sound getting in the way of being able to find their food.” [05:12]

“Anyone who’s had the great honour of seeing one of these whales knows how amazing they are, and I feel like we all have the responsibility to try and protect their homes so they can survive” [06:41]

“When I was around 10 years old I went kayaking around Robson Bight and got pretty close to some killer whales… I was pretty small, they were pretty big, and they were very close to our kayak…it made an impression.” [07:13]

Not just for the whales, also for coastal jobs, and coastal economy, and recreational values, and our climate—there’s so many reasons why [the Kinder Morgan] project is not in the interest of British Columbian’s communities or ecosystems. The whales are one piece of that.” [11:13]

“[The Kinder Morgan Project] faces 19 legal challenges.” [13:47]

“We don’t think it’s just or right that these First Nations should have to devote much-needed community funds to pay for these legal challenges when we all stand to benefit from the outcome.” [13:56]

“In the case of the National Energy Board review, neither Canada nor BC has properly consulted with the first nations. ” [15:35]

‘Even if only one of the cases succeeds, that will be enough to stop the project.” [15:49]

“The Kinder Morgan tankers and the whales go on both sides of the border. This is not just a Canadian issue, this is a cross-border issue.” [18:23]

“The more diversity of people in places speaking up in opposition to this project the greater the financial risk. ” [20:58]=

“There doesn’t need to be a dichotomy between protecting postage-stamp areas over here, and then over here, we’re just going to do status-quo, business as usual. We can look at conservation holistically. We can ensure that outside of conservation areas, business that happens operates within ecological limits. ” [30:55]

“This is where the ludicrousness of the way we measure economic progress comes into play: an oil spill is good for GDP” [35:27]

“There are very few jobs, long-term, that would come from these pipeline and tankers, and it would put 98,000 jobs on the coast alone at risk, plus all jobs that depend on a wild salmon economy.” [36:30]

Links Mentioned:

Caitlyn Vernon and Sierra Club BC

Sierra BC twitter:

Sierra BC facebook:

Sierra BC home:

The Killer Whale Who Changed the World

Nowhere Else on Earth



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