Are we addicted to oil?

As a society, have we developed such a dependence on petroleum and gas products, that we are creating the circumstances of our own demise? There are profitable domestic markets for the oil and gas the industry ships, that is clear. But what is the need? Is the need real, or is it manufactured? Is it merely assumed or even known?

I have never known of an instance where a protest has been stopped by a court injunction, where an industry has been asked to justify a request for an injunction based by proving a measured or measurable public need. Public need and, therefore public interest, is almost assumed. Protest is always portrayed, even in the media, as contrary to that interest. Protest is never portrayed publicly as in the public interest, often because all the figures of public protection are lined up against the protest.

The American War of Independence, which resulted in the creation of the USA in 1776, was brought about because of popular protest against the enactment of the highly unpopular Royal Proclamation of 1763 which prevented land exploitation in the West. Remember the Boston Tea Party, where American protesters dressed up as Indians as part of their protest? I always wondered why they did that. While it was clearly to deflect blame if they failed in their protest, it was also to suggest that the owners of the land – the Indians – didn’t like the RP either, and wanted to sell their land to the developers. Protest has a place and should not be easily stifled.

Be that as it may, until oil and gas market demands or needs diminish, oil and gas exploration and exploitation and shipments will continue, by rail, pipeline, truck and ship, threatening the environment and our communities.

Controlling mineral exploitation and reducing the demand and/or the supply would seem to be the key, but are they even possible? Are we addicted to such products so much that the thought of reducing their availability by reducing their removal from the earth can easily cause anxiety within us to rise, much like the fear and panic an addict feels when told his cocaine has gone missing or his supply will dry up?

We may not think so, but when we are warned that we will lose the ability to heat our homes, or drive our cars, or feed our children, will we be able to think clearly enough to say, ‘if so, find a solution that will not destroy the earth’? I wonder.


About Senator Murray Sinclair (retired)

Ojibway Anishinaabe Inini Mizhanagheezhik (n’dizhinikaaz) Namiigoonse (n’dodem) Lawyer, Mediator, Public Speaker Currently Canadian Senator for Manitoba Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba (2001-2016) Associate Chief Judge off the Manitoba Provincial Court) (1988-2001) Co-Commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba) (1988-91) Paediatric Cardiac Surgery Inquiry Judge (1997-2000) Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2009-2015) Thinker, poet, writer, philosopher, speaker.
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