While some Americans still envision Canada as a wilderness utopia with a few scattered igloos, a handful of polite hockey lovers, and millions of bears, the reality is that America’s northern neighbor is home to one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests and has its share of environmental issues that divide political opinion. The controversial Keystone XL pipeline has divided these opinions on both sides of the border, but another environmental threat hasn’t made as many headlines. The Canadian government is proposing a plan to pipe bitumen across the Rockies and to the inland coastal waters of British Columbia, where it will then be shipped by supertanker to Asia.
The Coastal First Nations are vehemently opposed to the project, known as the the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project — a proposal to construct twin pipelines running from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, British Columbia. The Northern Gateway would not be simply a pipeline across a barren land to a busy port, but rather a pipeline through Canada’s only rainforest to the inland waters of British Columbia – one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet. While the Amazon comes to mind when we think of rainforests, the Great Bear Rainforest is actually the world’s second largest temperate rainforest, a lush forested area and the home to countless animals like bears, wolves, and bald eagles.
The proposed route of the supertankers which would carry the oil from the pipeline ending in Kitamat, BC to Asia cuts through dozens of miles of pristine, winding inland waters — the habitat for 17 marine mammals including several endangered species of whales. Oil tankers have never plied these waters, but one needs only to reference the recent 2006 sinking of the ferry ship, Queen of the North, who ran aground and sank in more than 1000 feet of water to illustrate the dangers that come with navigating rocky inland waterways. The environmental impact of a ferry sinking is minimal compared to the devastation a wrecked supertanker would wreak on this beautiful region. Rockslides, fog, and fierce storms compound the risks and there is no local emergency infrastructure to handle a massive oil spill.
Three friends decided to go see the area for themselves, making a film that strives to be nonpolitical, simply sharing the beauty of the region. Spencer Taft, a masters ecology student at the University of Alberta, Paul Manning-Hunter, a member of the Canadian National Whitewater Kayak Slalom team, and Daniel Robb, an outdoor guide and adventurer packed everything they would need for an 8 day journey, and pushed off in their kayaks in search of something which is becoming increasingly rare: wilderness.
This short film paints a moving picture of this lush landscape — a landscape that’s difficult to envision supertankers in. Whatever your opinions may be, you can’t help being inspired by this beautiful place.