NEW TREE PROTECTOR ASCENDS TO THE TREE TOPS to stop the cutting of these trees to make way for a bitumen pipeline we don't need!!!
August 12, 2020
Public health physician is replaced by Science YouTuber in anti-TMX tree-top camp
Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — After 10 days of protest and growing public support, a Vancouver-area physician is replaced in his tree-top camp by a former science teacher and YouTube personality while their support camp digs in for the long haul.
SFU professor and public health physician Dr. Tim Takaro, 63, has descended from a platform suspended between two trees after 10 days. He was immediately replaced by Kurtis Baute, a popular science communicator with over 170 k followers on YouTube.
The two men have put themselves physically in the way of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project construction to draw attention to the health and ecological impacts of fossil fuel expansion. Their tree-top camp is located within a section of the pipeline route along the Brunette River that is scheduled to be cleared between August 1st and September 15th.
A growing camp of supporters is stationed below the suspended platform around the clock, joining Takaro and Baute in a physically distanced protest since Takaro took to the trees on August 3rd.
“COVID-19 has shown us that we can respond to a health emergency with incredible strength by citizens and government,” said Takaro, talking to media after stepping on solid ground for the first time in 10 days.
“We are transforming our world at work in school and in our economic priorities. We’ve known that we must transform our energy system for decades and now is the time to bounce back better from COVID-19 by phasing out fossil energy sources. The Prime Minister’s new pipeline that has a 40-50 year lifespan, will enable expansion of the Alberta oilsands. This is not in the national interest and will harm the planet. Future generations depend upon us to do the right thing now, and spend our money on the future not the past.”
Kurtis Baute, 30, who ascended to the platform by pulling himself up using mountaineering ascenders is no stranger to uncomfortable positions for the sake of environmental awareness. In 2018 he made the headlines by sealing himself in an air-tight bio-dome for 15 hours in order to raise awareness about the climate crisis, while documenting the feat for his legion of YouTube subscribers.
“I'm going up there to protest for my right to a habitable future on this planet. We are living in a climate emergency. The science is clear that if we continue to build more pipelines like this one then the world will be nothing short of apocalyptic by the time I reach old age. Non-violent civil disobedience works, and if fighting for a livable future on this planet means risking being arrested, then that seems like a simple decision to me.” he said.
Despite the court injunction protecting the construction route’s right of way, police and contractors have not confronted the protesters. According to one supporter, that means the protest is working. “We’re here for the long haul, and we’ve already eaten into a quarter of the company’s construction window” said Emma Pham, 20, a UBC student and one of the campers below. “If construction continues there will be even more devastation to the land and its people” she said.
Civil disobedience is nothing new for this project. In 2018, hundreds of people stationed at “Camp Cloud” were arrested at the gates of the TMX terminal facility on Burnaby Mountain, including Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. The resulting delays and cost overruns from direct actions and First Nations-led court challenges prompted Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan to dump the project onto taxpayers. The promise of pipeline jobs and prosperity did not convince Brent Eichler, President of Unifor Local 950 and a supporter of the encampment. “There are no jobs on a dead planet,” he said.
The City of New Westminster, which opposes the pipeline, has embraced the protesters by giving them permission to use nearby Hume Park facilities and parking overnight, further facilitating a long-term presence for the land defence camp. Local groups including Mountain Protectors, Extinction Rebellion Vancouver, BROKE, and Climate Convergence have rallied around Takaro’s protest throughout the week: a march on Wednesday blocked traffic on nearby North Road. Educational tours led by Dogwood, Wilderness Committee, and Stand took hundreds of people into the proposed construction site on Saturday and gave direct action training workshops.
Will George, a member of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Protect the Inlet, is supportive of Dr. Takaro’s blockade; “We at Protect the Inlet will support anyone willing to do direct action, as our window gets smaller and smaller to stop the construction of the pipeline that, if completed, will increase tanker traffic through our waters by 700%.” Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt Nation also supports the action. Takaro also has thousands of people on-line supporting the effort on social media.
Location of Holmes Creek Resistance Camp
In the forested area southeast of where the Trans-Canada Highway crosses North Road in Burnaby/New Westminster. Parking available in Lower Hume Park, 660 E Columbia St, New Westminster, or in the nearby shopping centre at Lougheed Skytrain station.
The $12-15 billion pipeline project was purchased by the federal government in 2018, despite the lack of Indigenous consent and its conflict with Canada's commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius. The project would impact numerous drinking water sources along the route, Burrard Inlet and Tsleil-Waututh, Quaquat and other First Nations, Burnaby Mountain and Simon Fraser University. It would also spell a 7-fold increase in tanker traffic in the Burrard inlet and an increased threat to the endangered Southern Resident Orcas. The Province of British Columbia, the State of Washington, and 20 municipalities oppose the pipeline project.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is already a major environmental and public health hazard with a long history of disastrous spills. In June this year, 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pump station located above an aquifer that supplies the Sumas First Nation with drinking water. The thirteen 67-year old tanks at the terminus of the pipeline are too close together to put out in the event of a fire, according to the Burnaby Fire Department. 240,000 people live within the 4.2 km radius of the site that is considered an evacuation zone including 32,000 members of the SFU community. A growing number of insurers have pulled out of the pipeline project.
Dr. Takaro, who has been active in the review process of this pipeline project, deemed the National Energy Board (NEB) review “rigged from the start,” noting that the NEB specifically said it would not accept health assessments that discussed global warming impacts from the project.
ABOUT TIM TAKARO AND KURTIS BAUTE
Dr. Tim Takaro is a physician-scientist trained in occupational and environmental medicine, public health and toxicology, at Yale, the University of North Carolina and University of Washington. He is former Canadian co-chair of the Health Professionals Advisory Board to the International Joint Commission on border waters and a lead author for the water and health chapter for the national Climate Change Health Assessment 2021.
Kurtis Baute is a climate and science communicator with 173k subscribers on YouTube. During his MSc in Environmental Science (University of Guelph, 2015) he conducted research on renewable energy, and in 2018 he made international news by sealing himself in an air-tight bio-dome for 15 hours in order to raise awareness about the climate crisis. His videos over the years have spanned a range of science topics, but he is now focused solely on calling for action to the climate emergency.
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