Notes from the trail: A cycle of violence against the planet

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For the life of me, I do not understand why policy makers cannot see the link between various resource sector operations and the people they are supposed to be supporting; and intimate partner violence.

This is a bold statement but it is a present day reality we see with increasing frequency as work on the TransMountain pipeline proceeds in Alberta despite protests across the country and as trucking companies in the North providing services to the mines head for bankruptcy. As a consequence, almost 150 local businesses and those some employ will be without expected money they’ve earned at Christmas. And with the same sense of denial that a victim in domestic violence practices when hurt one more time, we too turn away from the environmental and social wounds because of our dependence problems. And like the victims in domestic abuse, we forgive the spill, the bankruptcy or the heavy environmental footprint one more time, believing the partners when they say – things will be different this time, I promise.

This awareness came to light from the new cabinet’s statement at the Geoscience forum when the minister of ITI said, “(The) government’s priorities line up with the priorities of the mining, exploration, and geoscience industries. We intend to be allies for miners and explorers looking to responsibly develop our vast mineral resources. We support the idea of investing in geoscience to better understand our land – and the potential that lies beneath its surface. We are committed to building the bridges, roads, and energy infrastructure needed to advance resource development and create economic development.”

This is tragic. How soon they forget that the number one issue during the territorial and federal elections was dealing with the growing threat of climate change of which mining practices of the past are one.

Mining and exploration may be the cabinet’s priorities, but they are not the priorities of many who are concerned about the environmental impacts on the land, animals and people in the Northwest Territories.

We are standing on a precipice and anything the government does now must take into consideration the current fragile nature of our very existence. Scientists give us 11 years before moving into climate change disaster if influencing factors are left unchecked. What are we doing about it?

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Ellie Taylor and Makayla Lane of St. Patrick High School at a climate strike in September. “Remember, 1,000 people joined the climate march in Yellowknife,” columnist Nancy Vail writes. “We are aware watching.”
NNSL file photo

People who work in women’s shelters say that it generally takes seven times before a woman finally stops returning to her abuser and finds the strengthen to stand on her own. How many more times will we return before we too come out of denial and seriously look at alternatives?

There is no doubt that we need economic stimulus to survive and that jobs and healthy incomes contribute to our overall health. But all the jobs do not have to come from the mining sector which brings with it a plethora of social and financial ills we see on our streets every day. The territory does indeed have a wealth of natural resources which lend themselves well to tourism, education and agriculture. We in the North live in the most amazing natural terrain anywhere, much of which is still unblemished by the human footprint that continues to devastate countries everywhere.

But it is not necessarily what lies under the surface that makes us beautiful; it’s what’s on top. Protecting and showcasing that is what we need to capitalize on. Yes, mining has a role to play as we go forward, but not the role it played, almost unfettered, in the past.

It was interesting to note at the tourism department’s public meetings last week, the government spent five million dollars on tourism related activities in 2018 compared to over 4 million on fighting wildfires. The bulk of those wildfires were caused or exacerbated by climate change related activities which is related to resource extraction. That is not denial; it is truth.

This does not mean that there is no room for mining here or anywhere. It does mean that the focus cannot be exploitation but rather extraction for the sake of public good. A polished rock on someone’s finger will not save us – but lithium, copper, and cobalt just might.

Having said this, it is hoped that the government will take a close look at its economic development strategies going forward realizing that the decisions made today will determine whether or not we survive tomorrow. It is time to put our priorities in their proper place.

Remember, 1,000 people joined the climate march in Yellowknife last September. We are aware watching.

Postscript: This column was written on Chief Drygeese territory, home of the Yellowknife Dene, with gratitude.

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