SFU professor occupies treetops to protest pipeline expansion
VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver physician is camping out in New Westminster this week, perched high in the treetops along the Brunette River to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Although the courts have approved the project, Dr. Tim Takaro says he is risking arrest in an effort to draw attention to what he says are health and climate risks posed by the multibillion-dollar project.
He occupied several cottonwoods on Aug. 4 and intends to stay. He says a forested area near Hume Park is scheduled to be cleared sometime before Sept. 15 to make way for the pipeline.
He picked the location because he says it's outside the Trans Mountain fence line, adding, "I'm here to fight the right fight in the right time at the right place."
"I'm here because I want a future for my children and their children,” he told CTV News on Tuesday. "I didn't anticipate being in a tree to block a climate-killing pipeline."
Takaro was joined Wednesday by roughly 50 protesters on the ground, including activists from Extinction Rebellion. Most wore masks and donned signs calling for the area not to be clear-cut.
"We’re doing the best we can to protect the nature we have left from fossil fuel expansion," said Brandon Gosnell, a protester who attended a rally at nearby Hume Park.
Another protester, Maayan Kreitzman, said she was supporting Takaro and all people who have put their body on the line to halt the pipeline expansion.
"We need to be moving our economy away from these resources that are unsustainable and into a future that our kids can actually rely on to be safe and to be prosperous," she said, calling the pipeline "ecocidal."
Takaro, 64, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, says he didn't expect to find himself living in a tree at a time many of his peers the same age are eyeing retirement. He said he was compelled to act.
"What does a sustainable future look like? Does that include a new pipeline that helps the tar sands to expand? I don’t think so," he said.
He pointed to the pandemic response as an example of what is possible when enough political and public will amasses in support of change.
"We completely changed our modes of travel, our way of accessing health care, our ability to work. We have also an opportunity to change our energy infrastructure once and for all," he said.
"Billions and billions of dollars can flow from the treasury for things that we really care about. We need to do the same thing with the climate emergency."