KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Some two or three years ago, while enjoying a walk at Mount Uniacke, I got a polite but angry call from Pieridae CEO Afred Sorensen, the man behind the Goldboro LNG project in Guysborough County.
Did I realize how damaging the Nova Scotia Advocate stories by Ken Summers were to thousands of well-paying Nova Scotia jobs, he asked. Didn’t I know Ken was the kind of man who enjoyed nothing better than seeing perfectly good initiatives like the Goldboro project fail?
My two takeaways from that call were to always turn my phone off when going for a walk, and more importantly, to reconsider the difference activism can make.
We protest, we write letters to members of parliament, we picket, but often we don’t really think it’s going to change things in a real sense.
But maybe we are wrong. After all, why would a busy CEO of a venture with billions of dollars at play care about what the tiny Nova Scotia Advocate was writing?
You never can tell, but right now the notion that we should build a liquefied natural gas export plant in Nova Scotia seems dead in the water.
Despite being built on sand, the project might have been successful if it hadn’t been for a few activists here in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Germany.
Two kinds of activism contributed to Goldboro’s demise.
One is the research people like Ken Summers and others conducted, the kind that so greatly troubled Sorensen.
As early as 2018 Ken was asking (still unanswered) questions about pipeline infrastructure capacity. He kept it up for years, and he wasn’t the only one. For instance, folks like Andy Gheorghiu in Germany established that Pieridae’s claims of a US $4.5 billion in loan guarantees from the German government were effectively hot air.
Similarly, when the international alliance of activists discovered that Pieridae wanted $1 billion in federal support the group immediately raised the alarm, despite legal threats from the company.
Note that none of this was brought to light by journalists as such, although some helped amplify the activists’ findings. And by the way, the Chronicle Herald, loyal to the bitter end, is still blaming Pieridae’s problems on the pandemic while the Globe and Mail is still referring to a German loan guarantee as if it’s a thing.
Which brings me to the second kind of activism that made Goldboro LNG, in its current form at least, a thing of the past.
“I think we learned in the sixties and the seventies that mass movements can indeed bring about systematic change. If one looks at all the legislation that was passed, the Civil Rights Act, for example, the Voting Rights Act, that did not happen as a result of a president taking extraordinary steps. It happened as a result of people marching and organizing,” wrote Angela Davis.
That same principle is at work here.
There has been little direct activism against Goldboro, and what little occurred has been recent. However, this is where activism around climate change and in support of Indigenous rights more generally comes into play.
As Ken Summers pointed out, the Goldboro project would increase Nova Scotia’s GHG emissions by at least 18%.
Politicians know that these days that’s not something they can sell to voters. “We’re trying very hard to move away from the use of taxpayers’ money to increase fossil fuel production,” Central Nova MP Sean Fraser told the CBC when asked about Pieridae’s request.
Similarly, when Mi’kmaq grandmothers like Margie Ann Cook recently spoke out publicly against the construction of a huge camp for Goldboro construction workers they didn’t start from scratch but were building on activism against man camps out West and for Indigenous rights, well, everywhere. Alton Gas also comes to mind.
It’s impossible to quantify, but did activism make a difference?
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