Big Oil’s Economics of Extinction

From Edmonton, Alberta, to Burnaby, British Columbia, 890,000 barrels of oil per day are now flowing through the Trans Mountain Pipeline and off-loading onto tanker vessels docked on the edge of the Salish Sea.

Beguiled Canadian taxpayers forked out C$39bn to buy and rebuild the Trans Mountain Pipeline that winds its way through a school yard, waterways and endangered animals’ habitat.

The 2016 Paris Agreement was a smoke screen for unprincipled heads of state. The business of combusting carbon fuels was always the order of the day. From the Great Barrier ‘Graveyard’ and the Gulf of Carpentaria’s expired mangrove woodlands to the drought-ravaged Amazon rainforest and beyond, life is damned by accelerating manmade heat.

In the Pacific Northwest, fossil fuel tanker traffic is predicted to increase by a whopping seven-fold, to 408 trips through the Salish Sea – home of the critically endangered Southern Resident Orcas. And there’s 168% chance of a major oil spill from this obscene madness.

Alas, there are only 74 genetically and culturally distinct Southern Resident Orcas remaining in the Salish Sea.

Annual revenue from the Trans Mountain Pipeline of C$53bn is, according to Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, more profitable than guarding the defenceless Southern Resident Orcas, per his portfolio. The economics of extinction are terrifying!

Are you aware that the Southern Residents have J, K and L pods? The population eats more than 1400 Chinook salmon a day. They share their catch with each other, indicating their social cohesion. Overfishingglobal heating (from burning fossil fuels, wood pellets, palm oil) and Atlantic salmon pens have drastically reduced the number of Chinook. The Orcas are scrawny.

An Orca brain can astoundingly interpret 400 clicks per second. Orcas have triple the number of nerve fibres within their ears compared to all land mammals. It’s the largest diameter nerve in any creature of any kind. Orcas have more bandwidth because they process vast amounts of acoustic information at very high speeds.

In comparison, a human’s brain is like a dial-up modem at the inception of the internet in the early 1990s. It is quite possible that Orcas are able to turn a beam of sound into an image. They are outstanding acoustic specialists. Have the Orcas forgone smelling? Unknown.

Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline and the cacophony from the unending flotilla of oil tanker propellors will devastate the Southern Resident Orcas. If they cannot hear, they cannot hunt. Their muscles will break down; loss of heart, kidneys and liver function exposes them to infection and septicaemia — a god-awful death by starvation.

Meanwhile in 2023, fossil fuel, wood pellet and palm oil use and emissions hit a record level. Planetary life desperately struggled with deadly heat, storms and wildfires.

So much for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acting as a true leader to protect Mother Earth, its creature and his children. Rather, Trudeau has backed the fossil fuel industry thereby setting an agonising course towards an unlivable world. Mercy for the heartbeat of the planet, the animals.

© 2024 Reese Halter

Agitate. Disrupt. Defend.

Reese Halter is a bees/trees/seas defender.
Unearthly Wails is a special edition, a collection of poetry
illustrated by renowned Ojibwa artist Terry McCue.
Email: to order

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