I have closely followed a conflict in British Columbia (BC) between Lax Kw’alaams First Nation community members and the Provincial government. The current Liberal government, under Christy Clark’s leadership, is fighting to establish a Liquid Natural Gas (LGN) facility on Lelu Island. This island, located on the BC coast, is traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams. This area is environmentally sensitive, and a key habitat for wild salmon. Many members of the Lax Kw’alaams community are very vocal against the LNG plant. The Province supports Petronas in their efforts to build the facility. Recently Clark informed media sources that, “The Lax Kw’alaams voted massively in favour of supporting LNG, with some conditions.” Clark’s claim may not be “massively” true, however. To learn more, check out http://bzfd.it/29292du.
Media sources report this conflict differently. According to APTN, BC Chiefs say LGN approval is like declaring war on First Nations. The BC government website shows the benefits of natural gas – creating jobs, boosting the economy, and providing a ‘safe’ source of energy. Check it out here: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/lnginbc/.
Which side do we believe? How do we make the best decisions? Where do we turn when industry, government, and communities each have a different story to tell?! Finding the truth is daunting. Many of us simply throw up our hands in surrender. We decide scientists and government officials have the expertise needed to make the right decisions. Sad to say, these experts often prove to be corrupt, dishonest, and engaged in conflicts of interest.
So, what DO we DO?!
Fortunately, science and education has provided us with tools necessary to determine ‘truth’. Some of these tools include:
- Decide if the media source is credible or not (some sources, like CNN, CBC, or the New York Times seem credible than sources like Fox News).
- Check to see if a news story is covered by several sources. If many sources carry the same story, it is more likely it is true…
- Many people avoid stories that read like a conspiracy theory.
- Determine the source of the story – if it comes from the far right or far left wing, it is less likely to be true… right?
- Finally, people might chose scientific reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, and government documents over sources such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter or blog posts.
Let’s stop right there…
Turns out these tools won’t always work either…
According to a blog post on the New York Times, “Truth has never been an essential ingredient of viral content on the Internet. But in the stepped-up competition for readers, digital news sites are increasingly blurring the line between fact and fiction, and saying that it is all part of doing business in the rough-and-tumble world of online journalism.”
I guess we can’t always believe what we read – even if it IS reported by the most reputable source we can find.
If we can’t trust our news sources, then what can we possibly trust?!!
Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. In the case of the LNG plant on Lelu island, perhaps the question is NOT whether or not natural gas is good for Canada, but whether or not a natural gas facility is in the best interests of the Lax Kw’alaams.
Let’s bring this closer to home. If you own a home, and hate the colour pink, are you going to paint your house pink? What if the government tells you that you must paint your house pink, because new research shows pink is a great colour, will you immediately run out and buy pink paint? Probably not.
Government reports and news articles are not really the best places to discover truth. In matters of social justice, we need to listen more carefully to the people who stand to lose the most.
Communities, such as First Nations, are very knowledgeable about the places they live in. It makes sense, then, that ‘truth’ can be obtained by listening to what these communities have to say. Truth is not in the reporting, but in what marginalized groups have to tell us personally.
Once we chose to listen, we may find something to truly believe in! Until next time, this is Spatial Integrity – making the invisible, visible.