By Alex Browne, Peace Arch News, May 01, 2012
They've asked to meet with government, they say, to no avail.
Now members of the group British Columbians for Climate Action – who want the export of coal from B.C. phased out – are taking their message to the streets, or rather rails, of White Rock.
Peter Nix, of Maple Bay on Vancouver Island, who describes himself as a "retired scientist and Cowichan carbon buster" said he and supporters intend to occupy the BNSF line close to White Rock pier for 24 hours starting at midnight Friday (May 4).
Aim of their "peaceful civil disobedience," he said, is to block U.S. coal trains from travelling to the bulk-coal terminal at Roberts Bank.
Amtrak and BNSF are being informed of the protest, he said, and the aim of the group is not to disrupt passenger or freight traffic – only coal trains.
Peter Nix"We like trains," Nix told Peace Arch News Tuesday. "They have less carbon emissions than other forms of transportation."
BNSF public affairs director Gus Melonas told PAN the railway – including the Canadian operations centre – is well aware of the protest and BNSF police are developing a plan to meet it.
"We will be taking action," he said. "Our police take this matter extremely seriously. Trespassing is illegal and trains operate 24-7."
Melonas said that while he may respect the right to protest, "the rails are certainly not the location to voice your opinions on issues.
"The last thing we want is for anyone to get hurt."
In a news release issued Tuesday, Nix said that while the B.C. government sponsors domestic programs to reduce carbon admissions, including a carbon tax – "thereby admitting that climate change is a serious problem" – our coal exports ultimately produce as much greenhouse gases as all of our domestic production; the equivalent of adding "two new vehicles for every person in B.C."
Nix told PAN he could not say for sure how many protesters are expected to show up, though he plans to bring "10 to 20 people" from Vancouver Island, he said.
"You never know how many people will be there until it happens," he said.
He noted that more than 300 people from all over B.C. and the Lower Mainland have previously signed the group's pledge of direct action in fighting coal exports on the website www.stopcoal.ca
The group is also inviting local residents to come to the protest site near White Rock pier to either "join or bear witness to this event."
Nix said he fully expects protesters to be met by police and security personnel, and said the group has no plans to actively resist those who want them to move from the line.
"I expect we'll have a discussion about how we feel at that point," he said.
Nix said his involvement in the protest and the broader activities of British Columbians for Climate Action are a matter of conscience.
As a former environmental scientist, he said, he spent 25 years as a consultant to the Alberta Tar Sands project.
"I have black hands," he said. " I quit because I realized it was not sustainable.This is all about climate change – our kids are not going to have a good future if we don't stop pushing fossil fuels."
While he agrees that a phase-out of coal exports is no easy task, "something has to be done."
He said that "trillions of dollars" in profits from fossil fuels – and aggressive spin-doctoring by lobbyists – is closing people's eyes to the catastrophic consequences of climate breakdown, which could include everything from droughts, floods, forest fires, food shortages, to increases in in tropical diseases and political chaos.
Nix said a turning point for him came when he discovered that a major report he authored on the reclaimability of land after oil extraction had been edited to suggest that reclaimability was possible.
"I wasn 't saying it wasn't and I wasn't saying it was – I was just discussing the problems, including things like yellow groundwater," he said.
"That's when I realized that anything I had to say was going to be ignored."