On a rainy Saturday in small, sleepy Ladner BC, some 200 people gathered to protest the expansion of the Delta Port. There were rousing speeches—by ecologists, activists, a representative from Tsawwassen First Nation, and a fisherman. There was a march through Ladner’s small “downtown,” including a loop through the Save-on-Foods parking lot.
We had a twenty-five foot salmon along for the ride (what’s not to like about that?).
But why were we here—why Ladner? Because the changes that have happened to this community, and the potential changes that may still happen if expansion plans go through, have been devastating (if not always obvious or recognized), and it’s time people took their community back.
The port on Roberts Bank has meant the loss of traditional fishing grounds, it has meant serious ecological harm to both sea life and migratory birds, and it has meant the loss of very limited and precious farmland. If expansion of the port continues, it will mean even more of the same. As is so often the case in the world today, local impacts (expansion of this specific port / loss of this specific wetland and this specific farmland) are tied directly into global pressures and flows (vast global trade profits for the few / climate change and other social and ecological consequences for the many).
Expanding the port at the expense of farmland is a decision to import food from exotic places rather than grow it locally ourselves. This makes no sense to the local economy, and no sense from an ecological perspective. It only makes sense to the corporations that can profit from such practices, and the politicians willing to make the high-stakes deals with them.
Expanding the port at the expense of the local environment is part and parcel of a mentality—that growth, at all and any cost, is the be-all and end-all of economic activity—that has our climate warming, seas rising, and species dying off at mass-extinction rates. Scientists are now warning of an approaching threshold for a ”state shift” in the global ecosystem. But governments and developers appear to be having a hard time listening to scientists these days.
Plans for a “Foreign Trade Zone” around the Delta Port add to the concern, throwing democracy on the fire where the local economy and environment are already being sacrificed. In such FTZs (as they are known), corporations enjoy the benefit of paying almost (and sometimes quite literally) no taxes, are held to no established environmental or labour regulations, and are largely unaccountable to local elected governments. Picture a pirate enclave, maybe the mythical Tortuga, and you’ve got the idea.
What can we do? We—ordinary citizens, suburban workers, families, fishermen, farmers—we who will suffer the degradation of our local natural environment, the loss of land and resources, and our exclusion from having a voice in vast decisions that directly effect our daily lives? We can stand up and fight back. We can do what citizens have always had to do in a democracy—to keep a democracy democratic, even in the lulls in the “election cycle”—we take to the streets. We make our voices heard by whatever means necessary. We spread the information about what is really at stake in these sorts of situations (always, always it is more than the promise of “jobs” and vague “economic growth” promised by politicians and developers). We put our shoulders to the wheel, and push back.
Even in Ladner. Even on a rainy Saturday.