Open letter to Mr Newman

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Mr Montpetit, from La Présentation, Qc. answered Mr Demian Newman’s open letter to « those who oppose Canadian  pipelines and oilsands ». Hopefully, it will lead to a dialogue about our addiction to petroleum.

Open letter to Mr Newman

I have read the “Open letter by Demian Newman to those who oppose Canadian pipelines and oilsands” [1] Since Mr Newman «…desperately wants to have a conversation with…” people like me, I will try to be “… the opposing opinion…” which he welcomes in his letter. Yes, like thousands, I have been opposed to Energy East, as others have been opposed to Northern Gateway, to TransMoutain, to the NLG gas pipeline in BC and even to KeystoneXL in the USA. Using solid ecological and economic arguments, I also plan to denounce the planned gas pipeline (projet gasoduct) from Eastern Ontario to the Saguenay River. 

I agree with Mr Newman on one point. The massive development of the oil industry”…has become a name calling divisive shouting match, where no one listen to the other side...”These “open letters” must avoid this pitfall at all costs. The information for our respective position must not come from “…rogue websites…”; or for that matter, from think tanks financed by the industry. This leads to PR (public relations) campaigns that systematically try to obscure the facts. One glaring example; EXXON Mobile knew for at least 40 years of the links between its product and climate change; its scientists and engineers were aware of the facts. Yet, in public, Exxon systematically denied that CO2 could have a significant effect on the climate. Presently, New York and possibly California are preparing to sue Exxon and other companies for misleading the public. [2] 

The reliability of the sources of information is at the heart of your argument “for” the tar sands as well as my argument «against». The foundation on which I base my opposition to the petroleum industry is Science. The «Collectif des scientifiques» (scientific advisory group) double checks our texts to weed out any inaccuracies before they are published on our website.[3] Furthermore, there is the document signed last year by 15 364 scientists warning humanity to drastically reduce our carbon footprint. [4] Another reliable source of information are the periodic reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their overwhelming evidence about climate change is the best support for my opposition to the tar sands [5]

You mention that Canada has better environmental standards than many countries. Perhaps! But I have seen the photos of the tar sands near Fort McMurray; if things are much worse in the rest of the world, then God have mercy on our planet!!! [6 ]

Even those who don’t care about the environment, may notice that the economy is being mauled by a climate gone berserk. Think of the cost of those massive wildfires in British Columbia and California; floods in Quebec during the spring of 2017; monster hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma and Maria in the USA; empty water reservoir for the 4 millions citizens of Cape Town(South Africa). And, did I forget to mention the monster fire which forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray two years ago. True, it is difficult to pin each climate catastrophe directly to climate change, but the trend toward global warming is undeniable. As governor of the Bank of England (and former governor of the Bank of Canada), Mark Carney must weigh his words carefully. In September 2015, he “…said insurers were heavily exposed to climate change risks and that time was running out to deal with global warmingThe challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come… So why isn’t more being done to address it?…” [7]

Indeed! I can understand that you and the workers in the oil patch feel vulnerable; your way of live is threatened. Just like the breeders of horses and the manufacturers of buggies a century ago, you bemoan «the good old days». Back then, blacksmiths and harness makers lost their jobs; but new job opportunities appeared for car mechanics.

The times are changing. Coal was the main source of energy in the 19thcentury; Oil became the standard in the 20th. At the dawn of the 21st, 7,4 billions humans have to realise the wisdom of Dennis Meadows; “infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet”. To burn fossil fuels at the present rate, means that mankind is digging its own grave. You claim to write this open letter not as a Calgarian, but as «…a human being with two young children, and one who doesn’t go a day without being concerned about how we’re leaving this planet…».

“To be or not to be; that is the question!” Mankind faces a Shakespearean choice. Either we deny the problem and keep on burning fossil fuels leading us into the sixth great extinction of species. [9] Or we develop a more sustainable economy based on renewable energies so that younger generations may have a future. [10]The latter choice means that 80% of fossil fuels – and that includes tar sands- must remain in the ground. Therefore, the choice is not between Canadian oil versus foreign oil; its about having the courage to give up our addiction to a substance that is destroying us. 

I believe the maxim “Think globally, act locally” was coined in Rio de Janeiro. Alongside science, that admonition is the reason I was opposed to the Energy East pipeline…. and to the tar sands. Each person must do their share in the global scheme of things. In your letter, you ask “ What if you win?“If our side wins, we all win! Alberta can finally get to work on a diversified, sustainable economy of the 21stcentury. But best of all, the children of the world, like your daughter Olivia and and your son Liam, will not have to face the horrors of an apocalyptic wasteland… as the preliminary step to the 6thgreat extinctions of species on the planet![11]

Gérard Montpetit

Member of RVHQ (Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures du Québec)

Member of comité des citoyens et citoyennes pour la protection de l’environnement maskoutain

January 8, 2019

PS. I am willing to continue this dialogue in a series of open letters. 

Besides the rvhq website, you may read my texts at

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/author/gerard-montpetit/(English)

http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/author/gerard-montpetit/(French)

1]https://energynow.ca/2018/12/open-letter-to-those-canadians-opposing-canadian-pipelines-and-oilsands-what-if-you-win-demian-newman-please-share/

2a]https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/01/10/new-york-city-sues-shell-exxonmobil-and-other-oil-majors-over-climate-change/?utm_term=.c586088950f3

2b]https://www.reuters.com/article/legal-us-usa-oil-climatesuits/california-cities-sue-big-oil-firms-over-climate-change-idUSKCN1BV2QM

3]www.rvhq.caon the left side of your screen , check under “comité réplique”

4]http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/

5]https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

6]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2015/aug/03/canadas-tar-sands-landscape-from-the-air-in-pictures

7]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/29/carney-warns-of-risks-from-climate-change-tragedy-of-the-horizon

9]http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

10]http://gas2.org/2017/07/16/scientists-say-sixth-mass-extinction-way/

11]https://350.org/why-we-need-to-keep-80-percent-of-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground/