It takes a village - Chelsea Fougere

Chelsea Fougere, Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia and Solidarity Halifax

Conquerall Mills, Nova Scotia

This interview is part of the Faces of Offshore Resistance project highlighting a number of community activists fighting to protect their homes, coastal communities, fisheries, tourism, and cultural history from the harms of offshore drilling. All photo credit goes to Robert Van Waarden.

Chelsea Fougere: The community motto of West Dublin is ‘it takes a village’. I feel like everyone’s always helping each other out and saying that. This beach looks like a bowl, and I feel held by that bowl.

Rober Vav Waarden: That kind of community is going to be the system that is resilient. What is it about this campaign and this place that drives you to put your time in?

CF: My ideal day is to be basically kayaking around these islands, or swimming at Sperry’s Beach. Part of my healing and processing my father’s recent death – I’ve been feeling really heavy and so I’ve been floating in the ocean. I just spend a lot of time in and on the water and it’s what makes me feel the most at home and most alive.

RVW: How do you feel when you think about offshore drilling?

CF: it makes me wonder who is making these decisions. For me it boils down to being a very clear indication of how government and regulators are just the public face for big business. When you think about, these decisions always boil down to jobs and in this case to have a spill would sacrifice the two main economic pillars of Nova Scotia – fisheries and tourism. And so even on their terms this project doesn’t make sense. The offshore industry, how they’re always pushing how it’s about job creation and revenue. This project would sacrifice thousands of jobs.

It’s so interesting to think the issue of BP’s offshore in terms of how the project in the case of a blowout would threaten the very existence of essentially every rural coastal community along Nova Scotia’s south shore so that some rich person somewhere can have a third yacht. You know?

In the case of BP’s offshore and how it threatens rural coastal communities is very clearly a class issue and I think that how climate change plays out too is a very clear class issue. The people making these decisions are the ultra rich and the consequences will be felt by workers and the poor.

I see that there is an understanding in this community that you can be opposed to offshore drilling development given how it threatens major economic pillars in Nova Scotia while still not being totally against fossil fuel development. There are so many people from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and different maritime communities working out west and even though this project here would threaten their home, they can’t see that. Onshore and offshore oil are not the same, and oil and air behave differently than oil and water.

RVW: What do you want people to know about offshore drilling?

CF: I want other Nova Scotia’s to know that we cannot be manipulated into sacrificing whole industries for a handful of jobs. I want Nova Scotians to know that we can’t fight climate change if we continue to extract and expand fossil fuel development. They’re mutually exclusive. I want Nova Scotians to know that our survival depends on taking action and changing the status quo.

How many ways can it be made clear that people in power are so completely detached from the ordinary experiences of the people they represent? It’s a very clear case of so many things that is wrong with our democracy and how we govern our communities.

RVW: How is this campaign going to win?

CF: My experience with organizing is that when people are willing to throw their weight behind an issue they can move mountains.

I see that there is an understanding in this community that you can be opposed to offshore drilling development given how it threatens major economic pillars in Nova Scotia while still not being totally against fossil fuel development. There are so many people from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and different maritime communities working out west and even though this project here would threaten their home, they can’t see that. Onshore and offshore oil are not the same, and oil and air behave differently than oil and water.

I think the thing that’s going to move people is going to be jobs. It’s easy to look at environmental issues as purely environmental issues. There’s this idea that environmental organizing is for rich white university students in urban centres, but in reality every human and living being is fundamentally chemically connected to their environment. In the case of fisheries and tourism, those economic sectors pretty much exclusively rely on having a thriving and healthy ecosystems. What I really hope to see if that this will be understood as a workers’ issue rather than an environmental issue. The environment is important not only because it is beautiful but because we fundamentally depend on it to survive.

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