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A Pipeline Runs Through It

And how many pipeline-river crossings are there in North America?  I understand that there are 88 more in Montana alone; so we’re probably talking thousands in total.

After hearing some Exxon rep blithering the usual bullshit: unforeseeable, unusually high river flow, minor leak, and older technology; I remain thoroughly unimpressed.

In some ways it is the ‘older tech’ excuse that is most disconcerting. Whether they cross rivers or not is immaterial; there are many thousands of kilometers of these older pipelines still in service.  When they were built, we were given glowing assurances of their durability and safety; now they are dismissed as relics of some distant ignorant age.

Pipeline companies are like shameless toothbrush or shampoo producers. “Our new product is the best thing in the whole world.”  So the old product was shit?    At least a discarded toothbrush is relatively harmless.  (Not so much shampoo, of course.  Estrogen mimics and nasty chemical soups abound; contaminating water everywhere.   A strong case can really be made for condemning all manufacturers who play the ‘new improved’ game.  Their duplicity and greed contributes immensely to the overall destructiveness of the entire …) but I digress.

Even the pipeline companies’, reluctant and disingenuous, acknowledgement of responsibility for environmental mitigation and financial compensation; falls far short of satisfactory.  It is mere PR; more product puffery.  For starters they will fight in the courts over every penny; delaying and stonewalling in hopes that the plaintiffs run out of cash.  But most important; the damage is already done.  I saw a nice goat pasture in Montana on the news; irreparably contaminated; useless for the foreseeable future. That pasture, and a large chunk of Northern Alberta, are beyond the capacity of even the best hearted and best funded attempts at reclamation.

The land is simply fucked.

There have been, and will continue to be, numerous pipeline leaks.  Each creates its own little Love Canal.  Cumulatively their toxic footprint grows.

But the old debates and hidden complicities around protesting corporatization still exist.  How can one possibly travel to a protest about rapacious oil companies without: contributing money to, and using the products of; the very evil one opposes?

My old friends in the hard-core ‘back to the land’ movement saw complete divorce as the only solution.  But the picture of the earth used on the cover of the ‘bible’, The Whole Earth Catalogue, was taken from space by the US military industrial complex.  And Stewart Brand now supports nuclear power.

This machine, at which I sit, is a product of destructive technology.  The server farm through which this message will be routed uses as much energy as a pulp mill.  I will be driving to a friend’s house later today.

I do, at times, despair.

Michael Kidder can be reached at: mkidder@shaw.ca