5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
The Oil Man and the Sea
Navigating the Northern Gateway
With Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway proposal nearing approval, supertankers loaded with two million barrels of bitumen each may soon join herring, humpbacks and salmon on their annual migration through the tumultuous waters off British Columbia’s Central Coast—a place no oil tanker has been before. The contentious project has aroused intense opposition, pitting local First Nations, a majority of British Columbia’s urban population, and environmental groups across the country against an international consortium led by Enbridge and backed by a federal government determined to make Canada an “energy superpower.”
Arno Kopecky sails into the controversy aboard a forty-one-foot cutter for a closer look at a legendary region with a knife at its throat. Without any prior sailing experience, Kopecky and his sailing companion—photographer Ilja Herb—struggle to keep afloat as they make their way through a volatile labyrinth of fjords, inlets, and evergreen islands known as the Great Bear Rainforest. This amphibious ecosystem is among the last great wildernesses on earth, housing a quarter of the world’s temperate rainforest and a thriving ocean environment that together host forty per cent more biomass per hectare than the Amazon. But as Kopecky soon discovers, the politics of Big Oil and First Nations can be every bit as treacherous to navigate as the shifting currents and hidden reefs for which the Northern Gateway tanker route is known.
In this rich evocation of ecology, culture, and history, Kopecky meditates on the line between impartial reportage and environmental activism, ultimately arguing that there are some places oil tankers should never go.
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