Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt

Is B.C. a Third World backwater?

Behind Sierra Club and Greenpeace there is Tides Canada. Behind them is a California billionaire determined to save us

VICTORIA – We might call ourselves Super, Natural or even The Best Place on Earth, but how is B.C. viewed around the world?

Ever since U.S. billionaires and their environmental clients decided more than a decade ago to supervise our society, the impression that British Columbia is a primitive colonial backwater in need of “saving” has only been reinforced.

In late April, the province and coastal aboriginal leaders announced completion of marine planning areas for Haida Gwaii and the North and Central Coast. U.S. activists knew about the announcement weeks before the legislature press gallery did, and a documentary crew was sent up to advance the narrative of the saving of the “Great Bear Rainforest.”

Within minutes of the announcement, the World Wildlife Fund website trumpeted the creation of the “Great Bear Sea,” continuing the penchant of outsiders for renaming large parts of B.C. to fit their marketing strategies.

Unlike the “Great Bear Rainforest” land use deal of 2007, the Sierra Club, ForestEthics and Greenpeace were not represented. Instead, Tides Canada CEO Ross McMillan sat beaming in the audience.

McMillan’s role in directing U.S. foundation money to B.C. has prompted him to declare himself “a principal architect of the Great Bear Rainforest project,” although in the early years he and his staff (currently 24 people) stayed behind the scenes while Sierra, Greenpeace et al took the credit.

At the event, two aboriginal leaders gave a nod to the real funder of the ongoing effort to “save” the B.C. coast, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Gordon Moore is a co-founder of Intel Corp., maker of most of the world’s computer processor chips, now spending his vast fortune on the Amazon basin, B.C. and other “threatened” places.

Other Silicon Valley and Seattle billionaires helped finance the original effort, and a strategy document surfaced in 2008 describing their plan to de-market the Alberta oilsands by creating a blockade against energy exports on our Pacific coast. That campaign has featured a fake cancer study and grossly exaggerated greenhouse gas claims compared to U.S. coal and oil production.

The effort has since expanded to natural gas, with false horror stories about “fracking” finding a receptive global audience.

Last week I wrote about the plan by British manufacturing conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser to buy up farms in the B.C. Interior and replant them with trees. Contrary to my description, “RB Trees for Change” isn’t participating in the dodgy European carbon credit market.

They’re just doing it for global marketing purposes, covering pioneer-cleared farms of our colonial backwater with forest for 100 years so they can advertise their soaps and cold pills as carbon neutral. Another 10,000 hectares of B.C. “saved” from destruction by benevolent foreign interests!

Back to reality. B.C.’s Auditor General issued a report last week calling on the province to do more to prevent the “cumulative effects” of industrial development. A familiar example of this is the struggle to maintain caribou herds in northern B.C.

The B.C. government mustered a response from the multiple ministries that have worked on this since 2010.

Among other things, they noted that 90 per cent of B.C.’s vast area is now covered by regional land use plans created to manage cumulative impacts. A whopping 37 per cent of B.C. is designated as parks and protected areas for environmental and cultural values.

Maybe that’s still not good enough, but it’s better than anything I can find in Europe or the U.S. That’s particularly true of California, home of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, a pipeline spill, heavy oil refining and gridlocked freeways.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press newspapers.

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