Saturday, August 18, 2012

Deconstructing Enbridge

The Douglas Channel and Kitimat are making some headlines this week after Enbridge produced a 'flyover video' including a classic propaganda map.  Below is a reaction, found on youtube and disseminated through participatory mapping and geoweb listservs (which is how I received it).  I am immediately drawn to the controversy because the Douglas Channel is a half hour drive from Terrace, my home town.

I finally located the original video on the Enbridge site. There is a disclaimer right at the start that states "The animation is for illustrative purposes only.  It is meant to be broadly representational, not to scale."  This, however, is an obfuscation if not an outright lie.  The disclaimer is repeated three times, once at the beginning, once at the appearance of Douglas Channel, and once at the end.

It is interesting to see how various interests are squaring off around a proposed pipeline and how obviously ideologies are coming to the forefront.

The geopolitics of the Enbridge pipeline are complex.   Environmentalists stress how the Great Bear Rainforest will be affected by the proposed pipeline, but those same environmentalists rarely include images of Tsimshian or Haisla livelihoods (including logging) in their propaganda.  Further complicating any easy positioning, indigenous peoples in the area are taking sides.  The Gitksan seem to have flip-flopped in their support of Enbridge due to internal dissent.  The Wet'suwet'en (allies of the Gitksan in the historic Delgamuukw case) seem to be in solidarity against Enbridge.

The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta are squaring off as well.  The Vancouver Sun has reported that some BC First Nations are outraged at Christy Clark's putting a price tag on traditional Dene and other lands.  Clark has made it known that she believes British Columbia to be taking all the risk and Alberta to be getting all the gain.  The Calgary Herald has retorted that Clark might be doing Albertans a favor by polarizing the debate and driving moderates into supporting positions (as against the opposition which is now, according to the Herald, made up of extremists).

What is important for this blog are the maps upon which all of this is based.  So, getting back to 'that map' the one shown in the Enbridge video.  There is another very interesting video that appears to the right of the video tour.  This link shows Enbridge's justification for 'looking west' to the northern gateway of Douglas Channel.  The video is so packed with propaganda it makes the head spin, and most of it has cartographic and geographic content and overtones. But take note, at 4:33 in this tanker safety video, Enbridge includes a proper map of Douglas channel with all islands included and a detailed plan for addressing safety issues.

This blog post is more a compendium of links to information about the pipeline and its controversies.  It is also a prelude and invitation for beginning to sort out, by writing about it, thoughts about this debate, and what various parties' maps say that is unspoken in their actual verbiage.  Maps, like actions, speak louder than words.  A map is worth a hundred thousand words (or more), and more than that is likely to be spilled before we see the end results.  Should this spillage of words be seen as foreshadowing of things to come?  Who will then be to blame?  Can we blame it on the maps, or should we blame it on those who so adeptly twist their original purposes?  How can one twist a map's purpose when all maps are propaganda to some extent?  These and many other questions remain to be sorted out.  They are not new.  We are back to ground zero in terms of critical cartography.  Break out the Harley and let's have a heyday.

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