January 22, 2012

Trifecta, Week 10 - Sway

UPDATE: I say in the comments below that it is only "poor them" till it becomes "us". This spill happened in my neck of the proverbial woods yesterday. This is in a community just outside of Vancouver, BC and in one of regional Vancouver's most fertile farmlands. The them is now us.

"Only when the last tree has died,
the last river been poisoned,
and the last fish been caught,
will we realise we cannot eat money.
Cree proverb

This week I am once again veering far from fiction with my entry for the Trifecta Writing Challenge. I could not resist, I am afraid. The third definition of the word, sway, held too much temptation and proved impossible to resist given all that is happening close to home and slightly further afield.


The current lack of democratic values in Canada shocks those looking to effect change. Some, though, have never had the luxury of such illusions.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is one such person. She belongs to the Lubicon Cree First Nation and is an activist with Greenpeace, not because she always dreamed of being a political figure but because she felt she had little other choice.

The oil sands have raped and polluted the land her family has lived on for generations. Not so long ago, her father still ran their trapline and the family gathered food and lived off the land. It may sound romanticised, but no other way of life has replaced it; it was still the norm until the 1970s when Alberta started to develop the tar sands. Oil rigs, pipelines, spills were the new normal, but any and all profits flowing as quickly south as the oil itself.

Not only did the Lubicon lose their livelihoods, no new opportunities have ever arisen to replace what they lost, to benefit them. Spikes in illnesses and cancers followed.

A recent spill on the pipeline (May 2011) was the largest to date -- 28,000 barrels of crude oil. School children and villagers were ill from a noxious substance for five days before the government officially informed them of the spill, located seven kilometres away. That oil seeped into the ecosystem and remains there today.

What leader doesn’t tell a people about a disaster in their surrounds? But that collection of oil will continue at all costs. The Lubicon people will end up no different than the Ogani in Nigeria: collateral damage.

Today our leaders are putting more pipelines through lands they don’t have legal rights to build upon, but it is money that will hold the ultimate sway. Regardless of those who stand in the way, of those who wage war (and there will be war), the pipelines will go through as blood and oil will stain the path.


This week, as mentioned above, we have used the third definition for sway, as found in Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary.

3 a : a controlling influence
b : sovereign power : dominion
c : the ability to exercise influence or authority : dominance

(I rather liked that there existed still three choices for that one definition.)


  1. Considering these things one feels so helpless. And I hate that common policy is to play a disaster down (disaster PR) before all the facts are known. Like in Japan or the BP Gulf of Mexico spill. I try to avoid using the car whenever possible and try to save energy and avoid producing too much waste, only little things - drops in the ocean. I admire people who actually have the courage to become activists.

  2. So sad. It's important to share the stories of these people; we know about the problems as a whole, but not the individual tribe's stories. Thanks for educating me.

  3. I had to read through twice to find the word because I was engrossed the first time. I love your passion for your country and the people within it.

  4. So beautifully written about something so ugly.

  5. Thanks for joining us for this week's Trifecta Challenge. This piece is really tightly-written. You've got a ton of emotion here, but none of it threatens the information you've given us. Nicely done. I hope you'll join us again next week.

  6. That's a powerful piece of nonfiction. Very persuasive.

  7. Jeez, woman. Very, very well-written. And I am glad you stuck to non-fiction; reality needs to be faced. This made me sad, and made me want to DO something. Thank you for sharing.

  8. What amazes and makes me feel that I still have a soul is that I can still be astonished at the complete and blatant disregard for anything but money. For people, for the land. For effing money.

    I hope Obama continues to block the pipleline that will bring more profits to tar sand oil. This is so sad, and so unnecessary. Good pice, Karen.

  9. You guys. I love these comments so much. The woman who speaks, I've seen her. She is very city, very stylish and educated, as you can tell from her speaking voice. The way I see it, if we keep letting stuff happen to "those poor people", as some people think of them as being, at some point it will be some of us. I truly think that we are turning that corner ... I hope we can find enough of us to resist.