A Post for a Pipeline

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In light of the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline (December 19, 2013), I want to re-share a poem, and a radio story.

In the fall of 2012, I wrote the poem “When the Glaciers Are Gone” to try and articulate how I felt about climate justice and pipelines, as someone born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta.

In the winter of 2012, Terra Informa (an environmental radio show I volunteer with occasionally, based out of CJSR FM 88.5, in Edmonton) released a two-part radio documentary called Rough Waters & Divide Valleys: Voices from the Northern Gateway Pipeline. In the summer of 2011, a team of independent radio journalists started in Edmonton, and travelled the route of the proposed pipeline, all the way to Kitimat, BC, having conversations along the way.  For their work, the team won the National Campus and Community Radio Association’s 2013 Award for Outstanding Achievement for a Syndicated Show or Podcast. You can listen to the podcast and check out their resources page at http://terrainforma.ca/northerngateway/.

Edmonton sky-Kathryn Lennon-2013

WHEN THE GLACIERS ARE GONE

Do you remember when the first snowflake of the season
was like a first kiss?
When we used to lace up our skates and
scritch-scratch-slide over silver ice
slapping cold-night slap shots off sideboards?
Remember when it was so cold that the Milky Way
froze over 
and our nostrils
froze shut?

Remember waiting for the bus
in 40 below, with windchill
line-dancing in your snow-pants,
wishing you’d gone pee one last time before suiting up?

I worry that when the glaciers are gone, we’ll reminisce.
But I wish that right now we’d say it like this:

Hello, people of the Great White North!
Can we have your attention, please?
You see, there’s something happening right now.
And if you listen carefully,
you might hear it happening…

You might hear…
mountain pine beetles
tap tap tapping
their tiny feet to
the beat, beat, beat of something happening….

You might hear
forest fires crackling
ice roads cracking
permafrost melting
water lap lap lapping at coastlines.

But it’s kind of hard to hear water lapping at coastlines
from here….
we don’t talk much about these things round here…
and maybe it’s hard to hear because here
pipelines run like lifelines beneath our feet
beneath our gardens
beneath our streets
beneath our farm-fields
beneath our creeks
beneath our forests
beneath our rivers
beneath our streams
beneath our mountains
beneath the beat
beneath the beat
beneath the beat
beneath the beat of this industrial heartland we call
home.

Here, power
plants have roots that reach down deep.
Deep down into the ground,
below the depth of a plow
they’re wrapped tight round
roots of wildrose, roots of birch
wrapped tight round
buffalo bones and beaver teeth
round ancient crustaceans and dinosaur feet.

Here, it’s hard to separate our lives
from this sticky mix of oil and politics
that separates people from power,
it’s hard to separate our lives
from this beat beat beat that says:

This is the only way!
Only this will save us!
Only this will save us from some uncertain future!

But even as we speak, we are hurtling towards some uncertain future
and what if when we arrive we find
we need to fracture the land
need to crack the land
to get out that last fracking drop?
What if we find that though refineries ring our cities,
we still haven’t refined our ways of thinking?
What if we still stake our claims
fence out the Indians
live with guns in our pockets
bibles in our belts
and fear in our bellies?

Maybe we are free, but we can’t fly
cause we no longer trust our wings.
Maybe we are free, but we can’t fly
cause we tell ourselves we cannot sing.
Maybe we are free but this freedom
does not mean a thing,
unless one day, we can say:

Remember that time when the tigerlilies grew teeth
and sank them deep
into the pipelines, and the pipelines leaked
til the oil ran dry?
Remember, then how we tapped
into the beat beat beat of
another kind of
renewable energy,
how we unleashed it from the tips of our tongues
our teeth, our lips
how it untied our hearts, our minds
how it made us step outside the lines
how we cultivated it carefully and called it
imagination.

Remember then, how we unchained building cranes
made pumpkins grow in parking lots
with Indian Paintbrushes painted sunsets over smokestack skylines,
so now, the only thing that leaks is
the northern lights.

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