Oil Saturation, Oil Infatuation: My Journey to COP18
There is Alberta, and then there is Newfoundland. When it comes to an infatuation with oil, there are no two provinces more smitten with the fossil fuel industry. As a child growing up in Newfoundland, oil saturated our politics, economy, and started to seep into our notoriously unique and resilient culture. Historically, Newfoundland’s main industry was the fishery. It was everything we knew, it fundamentally shaped our province on every level. So when the cod fishery collapsed in the 90’s, there was incredible fear around what we would become. There was large scale migration, whole communities collapsed or disbanded. As a child growing up in this time, it was confusing. Ah, never fear, I was told. We had oil. Oil would fix our oppressive relationship with the rest of Canada. They would respect us. We would no longer be a have-not province. Jokes about our culture, lifestyle, intelligence and history would be stopped in their tracks because finally, we had some power.
As this rhetoric was being fed to me I started to learn and develop a deeper understanding of the place where I lived and loved. A place where our food, 90% of it, did not come from our land but had to be shipped to us on a boat. As an island that is predominantly coastal communities we are servants to the ocean; in the case of extreme weather and sea level rise, we literally live on the brink on destruction. I learned of one of our Indigenous peoples, the Beothuk who were driven inland by violence and colonialism. There is not a single Beothuk person left. What would happen to us, without the sea? Our culture, access to food, and connection to the rest of the world? As I grew older still, I learned of the loss of tradition and culture in Labrador, saw my University flooded by what would be the first of two hurricanes in two years, and felt other impacts that I was able to quickly name: climate change.
In order to keep below the 2 degree limit, we can only emit 565 gigatonnes of CO2 globally. Meanwhile, the global oil, coal and gas industries are planning to burn 2,765 gigatonnes, over 5 times the climate limit. I don’t want Newfoundland to have such large role in our own destruction. I don’t want us to feel the impacts; for the people I love so dearly to have to bear the brunt of a burning world. That’s why I’m a climate justice organizer. That’s why I am in Doha to challenge the path of destruction. And this is precisely why we need to succeed.