Ben West From The Wilderness Committee

Ben West = Awesome Guy. I tend to speak fairly highly of everyone I interview, this is not because I’m flagrant with praise, it’s because I only ask awesome people for interviews. That being said Ben West is a true pleasure. His work at the Wilderness Committee is indispensable to preserving the stunning wild beauty of Vancouver and the West Coast. I’ve labeled some of our Projecting Change interviewees ‘Planet Fighters’ although Ben is definitely a Planet Fighter a more specified title I would like to bestow on him is ‘Tanker Fighter’. Fighting Gigantic Oil Tankers is tough work but after speaking with Ben I feel confident he is the man to lead fight. Check out our Q & A session below!

Q: Tell me about your work at the wilderness comittee?

The Wilderness Committee (the WC) is a really interesting place to work. The WC just turned 30 which means I am only 3 years older than it is. That whole time the WC has been doing grassroots organizing working in communities to help protect Canadian wilderness and wildlife. In the last decade or so that work has expanded to include more urban environmental issues like toxins and climate change. I am lucky enough to now be responsible for the Healthy Communities campaigns at the WC which includes climate change, toxins and transportation issues. We are trying to apply the lessons learned from on the ground community based campaigns to newer environmental issues like climate change. In practical terms this means working to stop the causes of climate change at their source. Fighting crude oil exports, coal mines and bad highway projects is “where rubber hits the road” in the fight against climate change in BC.

Q: Whats going on with the crude oil tankers on the cost?

In 2007 a decision was made very quietly to allow larger oil tankers pass through the Burrard Inlet for the purpose of exporting oil to Asia. This decision was made with no public consultation or even public awareness. For decades refined fuels have been exported up and down the coast but the export of raw bitumen from the tar sands is a new thing. Its only been the last years that Vancouver has been transformed into a tar sands shipping port. This makes Vancouver a very important choke point in the fight against the expansion of the tar sands. Not only is our coast now at risk of an oil spill but if we are going to play a responsible role in the world in the era of climate change this means phasing out the tar sands not expanding it.

The current Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby carries 300,000 barrels a day of crude oil. Of that 50,000 barrels are exported. There is a plan to expand the pipeline by 80,000 barrels a day all for the sake of export.

The other significant threat to the BC coast is the proposed enbridge pipeline that would carry 700,000 barrels a day of petroleum products. This proposed pipeline would connect with much bigger tankers than the ones that can pass through the Burrard Inlet and would be over a days travel closer to Asia in each direction.

Q: How can people in Vancouver take action to protect our coast?

We are hosting weekly public meeting in the Wilderness Committee office starting in June on Wednesday nights. There are many ways to get involved doing anything from research to tanker tracking kayaking tours. The number one thing can do is help spread the word. Still most people don’t even know what is going on. Talk to your friends and neighbours. Send our info page to folks you think might be interested. Http://WildernessCommittee.org/tankers. You can join our grassroots distribution team if you would like to help circulate our publications. Contact our office for more information and to volunteer at 604 683 8220.

Q: How do you think an event like the projecting change film festival has the power to invoke and inspire social change?

Film is a powerful medium. We learn from stories and a picture tells athousand words. Also screenings bring people together. New relationships are formed that can make a real difference

One of the Projecting Change Film Festival 2011 films I am most excited for is The Pipe. I’m sure you can guess what it’s about… Join us for the Canadian premier this Saturday http://projectingchange.ca/schedule/the-pipe.

- Rebecca @rebeccaapeel

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One Response to Ben West From The Wilderness Committee

  1. Hi

    I watched the news tonight. (dec02.2011)
    You were being interviewed, and pointed to
    anchored vessels, while making the comment that
    they could “spill 3 times more than the Exxon Valdez”

    I would challenge you on this statement, as
    no vessel of that that size has ever or could ever transit into Burrand inlet passed First and Second narrows.

    Can you supply names, deadweight tonage, and transit times of such vessels?.

    I am retired as a Vessel Traffic Manager, June 2011 , Vancouver Harbour, and never encounterd such vessels.