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Monday, February 20, 2012

Compelling testimony at Prince Rupert Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel

The following is the testimony of Lee Brian at the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings in Prince Rupert on February 18, 2012.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak today.

Who am I? My name is Lee Brain, and, I am no one in particular.

I want to say that I'm not here today as a representative of any political party, business organization or special interest group. I have no agenda today but to simply offer my personal experience about how this project will impact me, and my community.

I am here today as sovereign, natural being of the planet who has been born into a certain time, and into an already established system of institutions.

As an independent observer of our collective reality, in coordination with 7 billion others, I am here regulated by my own internal self-governance process.

At the ripe age of just 26, I am old enough to have been humbled by the lessons of life, yet, not old enough to fully appreciate the whole journey it has to offer.

In Prince Rupert, I work as an After School Activities Coordinator, working with children in elementary schools. I also run a computer skills education company as a sole proprietor.

But I am truly here today representing a new generation of leaders that is emerging at this time, and speaking on behalf of a younger generation than myself that is still coming into awareness.

My story doesn't begin very conventionally. Born in oil town Canada – Fort McMurray, Alberta – I am associated with one of the biggest oil men I know – my father. Having worked all over the world, he is primarily a start-up engineer and EPCM contractor that over sees some of the largest projects this world has to offer. He has worked in over 35 countries, speaks 7 languages fluently and is one of the most brilliant men I have ever personally encountered – and not just because he is my father.

Although ideologically, we do not see eye to eye all the time, we are connected by a deeper bond – an energy that is love that only a father and son can know. And this is not a fact I can easily share with my peer group, in fact, many of them are just learning about this in this very moment. In my generation, there is a growing frustration and anger towards men and women who operate at that level and caliber of things. And granted, I feel these same frustrations as well.

So I consider myself living somewhat of a hybrid life. On one hand, I am deeply passionate about a resilient, sustainable and flourishing planet – on the other hand, well, there's my father – and I am forced into having to balance some of the most ideological paradoxes that we are faced with at this time. And I'm sure that the Enbridge representatives here today also have a sons or daughters who are just like me.

At 9 months of age, I fell down the stairs backwards and cracked my skull open. Parts of my brain went onto the floor, and at the time there was an outbreak of airborne meningitis, which I caught as well – needless to say, I should have had permanent brain damage and should not be here speaking to you today.

So I consider myself very fortunate to be here.

Shortly after that incident, we moved back to Prince Rupert where 3 generations of my family have resided. Growing up here my whole life, I am deeply attached to this region. I have watched as my family and friends have made their living off many of the many natural resources this area has to offer. At a young age, I was able to learn about many First Nation cultures, and how their stewardship of the land has kept this area in balance for thousands of years.

My oral evidence today comes in the form of a story, an experience I had 3 years ago which directly reflects the impacts this project will have on me, and my community.

The story begins after a lifetime of debating with my father - he thought it was high time for me to finally experience first-hand the magnitude and power of the oil industry.

So in the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to spend one full month on one of the world’s largest oil refineries, producing 800,000 barrels of oil per day. At the time, it was under an expansion project to produce up to an astonishing 1.2 million barrels per day – and for confidentiality reasons, the company and details of the project will remain unnamed.

The catch was that this refinery was in a very rural area in a northern province of India – right on the coast of the Arabian Sea, and bordering Pakistan.

So here I am, 23 years old traveling to India, and needless to say, tensions were high upon arrival. Coming through the airport, between the H1N1 virus outbreak and the one year anniversary of the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks of 2008, the military presence was simply overwhelming.

I landed in Mumbai, or Bombay to the locals, and spent a day traveling to the northern province of Gujarat, Ghandi's home province. Situated outside the small village of Jamnagar, I stayed in a secured complex surrounded by high walls, meant for expatriates – in literally the middle of nowhere. The land in the region was primarily used for agricultural production, but due to the strategic location on the Arabian Sea, naturally there was large military and industrial presence in the area as well.

Each day I would wake up at 6am, and travel roughly an hour to the refinery. Guarded with AK47s, I remember the first day of my arrival I had the whole place in a stir, wondering why I was there. And to tell you the truth, I was thinking the exact same thing. It's not easy being in a foreign country, being the only young Caucasian male in sight, amongst 50,000 workers constantly staring at me. But my fears quickly subsided as I spent more time there each day, and learned about the gracious, kind and humbled culture of the East – regardless of the portrayals the media would have you believe.

I spent each day with 2-3 different managers from each department, and was able to learn a large portion of each faculty of discipline during my time there. I was very fortunate to have received such an in-depth, bird's eye view of the entire project - and not even the most qualified engineering intern would have had this opportunity. The experience itself changed who I am fundamentally, forever.

I learned about the entire EPCM – that is – the production process from engineering, procurement, construction, and management – I spent many hours and days with managers from piping, documentation control, distributed control systems - civil, biological, chemical and environmental engineering - instrumentation, quality control, marine operations, water management - electrical and on-site power production – from construction management, procurement and materials, product creation and commercial supply, safety & security, and loading & unloading via rail, truck, VLCC & ULCC.

I am not exactly sure if the average person could fully appreciate the sheer magnitude of the operation, and the intricate interrelationship dynamics between workers, departments, managers and corporate headquarters. It is nothing Discovery Channel would ever be able to portray.

The experience made me question many of the fundamental assumptions I had been making regarding the industry itself. I was realizing just how tricky of a situation we are in globally. My naïveness of the reality and immensity of this substance was not fully actualized until I had this experience. I can say right now, that I fully respect the power of oil.

One such day on the refinery stood out in particular. It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there – I think it was most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas – and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the Jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through 9 different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing – now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup – just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?

Converging onto a thin strip of man-made road spanning about 2 miles in length, we arrived at the Jetty, greeted by military personnel. After a lengthy process of clearing me for entry, we walked onto couple massive docking stations. To my right, men were conducting repairs on a rather standard sized vessel, no larger than the ones you would see here in our Harbour. In the distance, an ULCC fresh from the Middle East was rolling in from the horizon. The size of the vessel stopped me in my tracks. After 10 minutes, the ship stopped and made a slow bank horizontally out at sea.

I asked one of the managers, Jitesh was his name, why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship, they had a floating unloading station, and through another piping system they unload & load way out there, and that connects to the main routing station at the Jetty, to be piped a few miles back to the refinery.

I asked him why, and he said "even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily."

This, in open seas, I thought.

So we all stood there, suspended in what felt like an eternal moment - the heat waves rising above the calmed Arabian Sea, and the ship danced in the horizon as I stood dumbfounded by its sheer mass. One man comments: "I always forget just how large those vessels are."

A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.

Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me "Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?"

I asked "What's that Jitesh?"

He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: "We are destroying future generations for now, and forever."

And in this kind of slow motion life moment, I felt this kind of tingling feeling on the top of my head– and with sweat dripping down from the inside of my hard hat onto my face, the sun beaming into my eyes – I squint over at 6 men slowing nodding their heads in silent agreement.

It was such a profound statement, and in that moment, there was silence.

On the way back, I had a lengthy discussion with Jitesh about the 'whys' of it all – about life, the human condition, and the challenges we face in the 21st Century. Although I will not cover that conversation due to procedural constraints, I will say that I learned some extremely valuable lessons that day.

I learned that it is not because every man and woman who participate in industry are all evil, bad people – being in India, on this refinery, there was this certain kind of 'rush' I felt. I felt a kind of new power within myself - being in a productive, hard working, problem solving environment - Where there is grit, and dirt, and sweat, and mud and building and pumping and drilling and hammering and huge turbines at massive pressures doing crazy stuff. There is this feeling you get when you're working with other professionals in a high stake environment – and on some very obscure and messed up level, I can understand how those who work in industry can get excited about growth and yet subsequently, can turn their eyes off towards any adverse impacts they are creating as a result.

Like I said, on a very obscure and messed up level.

And I just have to be fully honest and mention this, the feeling is addictive – you can literally feel it in your veins. And this coming from just one month of experience, with a totally different ideological perspective.

The major thing I witnessed in my time on the refinery that I feel constitutes as evidence was my observations of the relationship dynamics between corporate headquarters and the managers on the refinery. What I witnessed time and time again, was the technical experts knowing the damage, risk and adverse effects of the project, versus what corporate would portray to the general public after reading their materials. There was a clear and present dual world operating simultaneously – completely undeniable if you are on site. So what I saw, first hand, was this dynamic between 'what is really happening' and what the corporate headquarters will have people believe is happening. And as we have seen in our planet, this situation is not an isolated event.
Based on my experience, what I learned was that the global system of infinite growth attracts men and woman of a certain... level of understanding, a certain type of person who will be attracted to the ideals of the current economic measurement that coordinates the global psychology of things, and a type of person who externalizes themselves and detaches from connection, and so whole heartedly believes in their reality, their perception of things, that they project their fears out onto everyone else - and their ego becomes the driver, blindly leading them down a path of self-destruction. And they are people of high intellectual prowess, but unfortunately have yet to develop the deep wisdom that we all possess within us as human beings. And we call these people CEO, and Prime Minister.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is simply just one of thousands of projects across the globe that are bi-products of a severely flawed global system. Even if this pipeline does not go through, there will be another proposal of the same magnitude appear somewhere else – and this will go on and on, until we either address the fundamental root of the issue – or face the slow decline of our civilization.

We are psychologically stuck - we are good at what we know, but are too scared to try anything else. If we could directly transfer the mobilization power of oil into a new energy economy, into a new economic measurement, into a new level of coordination and cooperation - where the true cost of development is clearly laid out - we may have a chance.

Because you simply cannot infinitely grow, within a finite system of resources – period.

So I do not sit here today, in anger, or in blame, or in judgment. And on behalf of my generation, I forgive these men and women for their lack of awareness, heart and understanding. They too were born into an established system, conditioned into a certain way of thinking, and as far as they know, they did and are doing their best. But now, it is time to let go of the 20th Century, and enter into a new global direction towards a path of healing and new design.

In closing

It's time now for a full scale, mass mobilized transition process off the fossil fuel economy. We need to use all of our resources we have left wisely to create a whole new system of operation that is global in scale. This process needs to have the mobilization power comparable to the proportions of the Manhattan project, and then some. It's time for us to journey into a new dream, a new way, with new design and new fundamental principles. It's time for us to end a millennia of pain, suffering, shame and unconsciousness. It's time to create resilient, sustainable and flourishing communities, that have the adaptive capacity to respond to any challenges they may face in their external environment – and be able to effectively respond specifically to the coming age of peak oil, climate change and rampant global economic instability.

It's time for us to dismantle the institutions that are beginning to imprison us. It’s time for us to un-learn, to remove the power structures, and to decentralize the grid so that individual communities can produce their own food, energy and own internal means of production for hundreds to thousands of years to come.

And ultimately, it's time for us to become the true masters we are meant to become – true, planetary mastery - in balance with the emotional, cultural, spiritual and psychological well- being of every inhabitant. It's time for us to embrace the new consciousness that is emerging at this time, where by busting open the hearts and minds of our people, we will propel ourselves forward into a new golden age of humanity that is imminently upon us.

We are those people.

So, if on one hand, you had an unpredictable path, that leads into a new dream, a new way of life for all of mankind.

and on the other hand, you had a predictable path that leads to the slow, inevitable decline of a civilization.

Which path would you choose? Thank you.


  1. Please dont represent our entire generation, because we dont agree with you. You obviously dont understand the economic impact that is required for this pipeline, also how Canadian labour and safety regulations will be completely different then that of India. I'd also like to thank you for all the cliches all wrapped up nicely, well done.

    1. Gee thanks Trev. I feel so much better that we got canadian labour an safety regulations to watch our backs. Because they are doing such a good job with the Tar Sands. Did you know you can see the Tar Sand mining operations from space? As for the pipeline, all pipes leak, that happens when you are transporting something that is corrosive.

      Growing the economy through destructive short-term gains and the expense of long-term sustainability is a fool's errand. That is what Lee was trying to point out. Apparently you missed the point.

  2. One of the most refreshing and insightful perspectives I have read from anyone, much less someone who is just 28 years old. Very inspiring.

    Lee, your words are eloquent, but more importantly, they come from the heart... they come from 'source'. You speak with the power of life, wisdom and truth behind you. You are speaking for all persons who yearn for a sane future. Please keep speaking.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being awake. Thank you for not being afraid, or if you are afraid, the courage to speak up anyway.

  3. @Trevor: is it merely cliche to observe that the oil economy in its quest for riches is in fact destroying the planet? All this to meet the imperatives of our growth-at-all costs economy, to meet rates-of-return demands of shareholders under Big Money's rent-extraction process. The quest for the power oil confers has caused countless wars, caused tremendous environmental damage and human suffering. Now that oil production is peaking globally, oil's curse will grow only more desperate to claim more victims.

    We must figure out a new way forward. A way not wholly dependent on a minority of this planet endlessly demanding more and more money and power while driving more and more of humanity into servitude and humiliation, all while placing the future of the planet in jeopardy (thanks to the potential of runaway global climate change).

    It is not merely cliche to observe that infinite growth within a finite system of resources is not possible. It is a mathematical fact with profound implications.

    Even though we have never met, our futures are inextricably intertwined as we are part of the same economic system sharing a common atmosphere and set of resources with the rest of the planet. We must strive for a new vision of our collective future and work hard to achieve it. Failure to do so will surely bring ruin well before the end of this century. I may or may not see it, but my children might and my grandchildren certainly will see a world of great misery if we fail to act in our time.

  4. Very moving presentation...

    It is so sad that there are some that don't get your message... Its not about regulation and policies, its about the significant risk to our marine ways and what this will do to our region when one of those super tankers has a catastrophic incident on BC's coastline! There is no amount of money or regulations that can stop this or will bring our resources and the marine species back!

    Those of you who are not from nor can appreciate the coast, you are not aware of the weather we get out here on the Northwest Coast and the narrow passage in which the Ultra Large Crude Carriers have to navigate. It is a very beautiful place in the summer and on very nice days, but she is a huge bitch in the winter when it is blowing 150km per hour on the outside Sound and 90 to 110 on the inside passage!!!


  5. Thank you for your courage to speak what you know, for your eloquence in expressing this, and for being a co-creator of a new vision and new paradigm that envisions life for all living beings, including humans, on our magnificent planet earth

  6. The true cost of oil is not what we pay at the pumps, and if it was adjusted for the cost to the environment, none of us would be driving passenger vehicles. The amount of degradation caused by the entire system of oil and gas production is horrendous. Cancer from the poisoned air and water surrounding production facilities has been documented but it being dismissed by the oil companies and anyone else that profits by the continuation of business as usual.

    Personally, I feel that denying the building of the pipeline should only be the beginning of this movement. The entire Alberta (and going into Sask) oil extraction operation should be ceased, unless they can continue without polluting or damaging the water supply. Of course, that would be considered too radical. But what is really radical is the environmental damage that is being done and the extent of which, as usual, will not really be discovered for years, and maybe only when a tailing pond dam breaks and tons of toxins wash into the Athabasca. The river is already experiencing lower water levels. The water intensive procedures used to extract the oil are insane. We are sacrificing the future water supply of an entire region of what was once our pristine North!! Haven't we heard that water will be the new oil/gold? Having that water supply in the future could be worth a lot more than the oil now. Because of the low population of the area, the majority of Canadians don't realize what is going on, and the ones that do, have too large of a paycheck to say anything bad about it.

    If the same amount of capital inputs that are used in oil production were spent on alternative energy sources, wouldn't it be more efficient. As in, couldn't we get the same bang for the buck, employing the same or more people, paying the same high rates, producing an equal amount of energy, without the pollution? I think so; there just isn't the will of the oil companies to do it. They want to pass peak oil so that they can go back to the shortage prices they will receive, so that every barrel makes even more insane profits without spending any more inputs and without paying for the degradation to the environment. And then when they are done, the profits leave the country and all the workers end up on welfare, and you won't even be able to drink the water or produce your own food.

    And another thing (if you are still with me).... everyone is concentrating on the damage a spill will cause in the ocean or strait, but the oil has to get on the ship first. What about the miles of actual pipeline that is going to cross all the fresh water streams across the entire breadth of the Province of BC??!! All of those fish bearing habitats and the habitats of every single living organism that makes up the entire ecosystem; The bears, deer, fish, forests, and humans that rely on the purity of the water and land. The risk is too great and almost inevitable. And no amount of money can ever make it right again once the damage is done.

    The madness of this system continues to profit a few, while the rest of us and the world/planet becomes poorer.

    Of course, I'm likely preaching to the choir, but I feel better having said my opinion. Thank you for reading it.