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Introducing Frontline Online: A weekly round up of environmental news and action from around the globe

January 12th, 2013

by Lorna Howarth

In her new weekly column, the Ecologist's Lorna Howarth reports on the stories that show standing up for what we believe in can and does make a real difference.

Shell is withdrawing plans to develop coalbed methane in British Columbia

There’s little good environmental news coming from Canada these days, but two recent stories buck this trend. The ‘Idle No More’ movement consisting of Canada’s First Nations people has organized the biggest Indigenous mass mobilization in recent history to highlight what they consider to be an all out assault on Indigenous rights, in particular, recent alterations to Bill C-45 which removes environmental protection and erodes long-standing treaties with First Nations people under the Indian Act. After two weeks of deploying tactics such as protests, e-campaigns, flash-mobs, rallies and a hunger strike, the Canadian Prime Minister finally caved-in this week and agreed to meet the Chief of the Attawapiskat peoples, Theresa Spence.

Spence began a hunger strike after being refused entry to the House of Commons to discuss concerns over environmental destruction by diamond mining and tar sands extraction. Since then the Idle No More movement has grown exponentially as First Nations people coalesce to raise awareness of “100 years of grievances” against the Canadian government. Many of their concerns relate to the environmental destruction of their ancestral lands for short-term profit. In light of news from the New Scientist this week, that carcinogen levels in lakes surrounding the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta have soared to record high levels posing potential health risks to local communities, the rise of the Idle No More movement could not be more timely.

In other news, the British Colombian government announced this week that Shell is withdrawing plans to develop coalbed methane (essentially, burning coal seams underground and harnessing the energy released), in the Skeena, Nass and Stikine river watersheds in Klappan-Groundhog tenure.

“Eight years ago, the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC) joined forces in western BC to say ‘NO’ to coalbed methane and ‘YES!” to wild salmon,” said SWCC Director, Shannon McPhail. “Today is an incredible day for local communities and First Nations people. Shell and the BC government deserve recognition for listening to these communities and making a decision to protect salmon, cultures and livelihoods.”

The region – also know as The Sacred Headwaters – has been permanently protected from any further gas developments: good news indeed for the resident grizzly bears, caribou and moose. An international e-campaign generated over 100,000 signatures to support the SWCC movement with protests at the Royal Dutch Shell HQ in The Hague too. “It’s an inspiring day when communities can stand up to one of the largest oil companies in the world, and win!” said ForestEthics Senior Campaigner, Karen Tam Wu.


Lorna Howarth is a writer and environmentalist. She is a contributing editor to Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and the founder of a small independent publishing ageny, The Writer Factor Contact:

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