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Hummingbirds—yes we can!

John Snyder is President of the CoalWatch Comox Valley Society

Compliance Coal’s withdrawal of their latest Application for the proposed Raven Coal Mine Project from the BC Environmental Assessment Office’s evaluation screening process is a significant setback for Compliance, and a victory for those who have opposed this ill-advised project for more than 5 years.

The Raven Coal Mine Project planned to build and operate an underground coal mine only 5 kilometres from Fanny Bay and Baynes Sound on the east side of Vancouver Island and ship the processed coal by truck to a proposed coal port in Port Alberni on the west side of Vancouver Island.

Significant concerns regarding the Raven Coal Mine proposal include potential negative impacts on the important shellfish industry in Baynes Sound; negative impacts on local aquifers and watersheds; increase in truck traffic along Highway 4; air quality issues in Port Alberni; and the proposed dredging of the Port Alberni harbour, just to name just a few.

These wide ranging impacts could potentially affect large areas of Vancouver Island from the Comox Valley to Port Alberni and even include Ucluelet and Tofino as well.

Groundswell of concern and opposition
After the news of the Raven Coal Mine proposal became public in late 2009, a groundswell of public concern and opposition quickly began to form. CoalWatch Comox Valley Society, a small grass roots community group, also organized to advocate for robust public involvement in the environmental review process.

CoalWatch along with other organizations including the Council of Canadians, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, Clayoquot Action and others encouraged concerned citizens to submit comments as part of the environmental review process, and to date a near record 5,000 comments have been submitted. Nearly 95% of these comments indicated concern or opposition to the Raven Coal Mine Project.

There’s no doubt that public concern and the individual public comments that were submitted have given the project a higher profile, and encouraged local governments and others to also voice their concerns about the project as well.

Hummingbirds and Raven Coal
In the book Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, a hummingbird named Dukdukdiya makes a valiant effort to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home. Trip after trip, her beak is filled each time with just a drop of water. Her efforts showed her woodland companions that doing something—anything—is better than doing nothing at all.

Although environmental responsibility often seems like an overwhelming task, the action of Dukdukdiya shows how easy it is to start and how great the effect could be if everyone just did what they could do.

The actions of Dukdukdiya closely parallel the actions of the many individuals who have taken action on the Raven Coal Mine issue. From writing letters to the editor, going to rallies, wearing buttons, placing lawn signs, signing petitions, attending public meetings, submitting written comments, or supporting fundraising efforts, it’s the cumulative effect of all these efforts, no matter how large or small, that has made a difference.

Lessons learned
For me the lesson learned over the past five years in the campaign against the Raven Coal Mine Project is the importance of each individual’s actions in protecting Mother Earth.

The recent withdrawal of the Raven Coal Mine Project application is most likely not the last chapter in this saga. If Compliance decides in the future to move ahead with their project, the embers of concern and opposition to the project will be quickly re-kindled.

We will remember the actions of Dukdukdiya, the hummingbird, and realize once again that the cumulative effect of individual actions, whether on the front lines or in the background, can and will make a difference.



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