To speak with Andrew Wright is to hear of a lengthy journey across two provinces and a minefield of opinions.
The England and Wales-raised photojournalist and former tech entrepreneur traversed 20,000 kilometres through Alberta and B.C. tracing the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline, a project that has been cancelled by the federal government.
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Wright’s journey helped him create “GroundTruth — Anatomy of a Pipeline,” an installation now on display at Science World in Vancouver.
It’s an interactive display that traces the route of the Northern Gateway project, which aimed to take oil sands product to the West Coast so that it could be shipped to international markets.
The project was a contentious one: proponents said it would create thousands of jobs, while opponents were concerned it would cause an oil spill in B.C.
“GroundTruth” sets photos of life along the route against a Northern Gateway map.
The project “invites the viewer to consider what is to be valued in a modern Canada that is built upon resource extraction and energy production in a world of diminishing biodiversity and climate change.”
“The real story was the human story of people’s lives connecting to the land,” Wright told Global News.
And for him, that’s not just fishermen and farmers, but people who work in Alberta’s energy sector.
For Wright, the journey confirmed for him something he learned in the U.K.: that progress should include everyone.
“I remember when Margaret Thatcher overnight killed the coal industry and communities collapsed,” he said.
“That’s where it comes back to a transition, not a hard stop, is critical to bring everybody along.”
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The installation comes amid ongoing protests against the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which was approved by the federal government in 2016.
The project has, at times, fed a debate that has divided camps into those arguing in favour of the jobs that the pipeline could help create versus those concerned about what it could do to the environment.
But that’s a false choice, Wright said.
He told Global News that new technology to reduce emissions needs to draw on the expertise of people who work in the energy industry.
Therefore, both sides need each other, in a way.
“Those technology pathways exist,” he said.
“Making them happen requires an industry.”
- Video report by Paul Johnson