SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2002

SpruceRoots Magazine - July 2003


by Amanda Reid-Stevens

Sometimes, if you make enough noise, it’s possible to stop something bad from happening. For example, if you were strolling along a pathway through a jungle and all of a sudden a gigantic, hairy, snarling monkey leapt out from behind a bush, how would you react? You could turn and bolt, but it’s unlikely you could outrun it. Or you and the monkey could wrestle one another to the ground, tumble around for awhile, and try to gnaw each other to death. But then again, you might find yourself considering a third and perhaps smarter option. You could give the monkey some of its own stuff. You could flap your arms up and down, stomp around, and bellow at the top of your lungs. And maybe, just maybe, you’d startle that monkey into thinking twice about taking a bite out of you.

To me, the prospect of the oil and gas moratorium being lifted is a snarling monkey. Just the thought of it makes me want to climb up to my rooftop and ululate. To warn the monkey off, I mean. Having been born with a naturally big voice, my yips and yowls could probably make more than a few people sit up and take notice. On the other hand, those people would likely be my next-door-neighbours, who wouldn’t necessarily appreciate me standing on my roof and hollering around. So then I’d have to climb back down, explain myself, and tell them that the noise was not intended for their ears but for those of the hairy monkey.

I’ve asked some Islanders how they feel about the possibility of the moratorium being lifted, which, in a few cases, was akin to asking their views on religion and politics. Eyes shifted and feet shuffled, mainly because it’s a sensitive subject. By the way, I’m aware that some folks just naturally have shifty eyes and shuffly feet, but they aren’t the people to which I’m referring. The people I’m talking about are those who seem almost apologetic for their opinions. Naturally, my preference would be to have everybody and their dogs agree with me that the moratorium should not be lifted, because I’m always right about these types of things. But I’d much rather have someone tell me straight up that they completely disagree with my point of view, than to have to listen to the laments of a sort-of-fence-sitter.

I’m bewildered by Islanders who say that they’re “totally against the moratorium being lifted, but just in case it is lifted, we should be positioning ourselves to reap the benefits." When it comes to something like oil and gas, either you agree that the moratorium should remain in place, or you don’t. Period. Sort-of fence-sitting isn’t allowed on this one, because it projects weakness and is painfully transparent. It says to the provincial and federal governments that we have little foresight; that we aren’t serious about taking excellent care of our home and the waters that surround it; and that we’re willing to risk settling for a handy “fix” that could quite possibly lead to perdition. It also gives the distinct impression that we are unable to find a united voice on a huge issue that begs a united voice, and that we do not believe we have the power today to influence what happens to Haida Gwaii tomorrow.

I don’t believe we are powerless. We have tremendous power because we live on islands that still cradle places of pristine and wild beauty. Places of natural beauty are rapidly disappearing in many parts of the world, which, to put it bluntly, makes Haida Gwaii a rarity. And it’s exactly this that inspires a sense of awe and wonder in visitors to the Islands. All human beings need a little awe in their lives, and, in our case, we have the great fortune to be awed daily by what’s right under our noses. What could be more powerful than that?

Nor am I yet convinced that the people of the Islands can’t find a wonderfully noisy, sensible, and united voice on the issue of the moratorium. Of course, if everybody would just hurry up and agree with me and my position on the subject, it’d make everything easier and we could all get on with it. Barring that, though, it’s clear that we, as an Islands’ community, have little time left in which to discuss oil and gas and to develop a loud, comprehensive stand. If it’s to happen at all, it will take a great deal of work, trust and cooperation on the part of our community leaders, and they’ll need our help.

You’ll notice I haven’t listed my reasons for believing the moratorium must stay in place, and I suspect you’re somewhat grateful. You’ve already heard and read a whole swack of stuff from a whole swack of people about the pitfalls of lifting the moratorium, so there’s no need for me to echo it. I do, though, want to acknowledge the ragged state of the Islands’ economy, which clearly has the capacity to influence our opinions on oil and gas. Lifting the moratorium cannot make amends for the ongoing mismanagement of Haida Gwaii’s forests and an entire ocean. There is too much potential for tragedy associated with it, and if that’s not convincing enough, oil and gas would simply become yet another gigantic-ass, resource-based industry over which Islanders have no control, thereby compounding the problems we already face. It is therefore not the answer to our economic (or environmental) concerns. The solutions to those concerns lie in Islands’ governance, but that’s a whole other story.

There is power in a voice, and it’s time to startle the monkey. •