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National Geographic explorer Wade Davis on Enbridge, First Nations and mining

Speaking out on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and mining near his home, the author of Sacred Headwaters spoke with VO on nature, industry and First Nations.

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For Davis, the question of balancing industrial development and ecological protection is heavily linked to community benefit. Many large-scale mining projects, he argued, destroy the environment and still leave behind little but pollution for First Nations.

He cited the example of a gold and silver mine operated by a subsidiary of Barrick Gold in northern B.C., which sold thousands of tonnes of precious metals abroad but invested little in the local Tahltan First Nation community.
“After $25 billion of wealth was taken from Tahltan territory, that community which has suffered an epidemic of teen suicides,” Davis lamented. “It still has no hockey rink, still has no swimming pool, still has no funds for kids to go to college, no bank for low-interest loans for small enterprise, no place for elders to gather.
“Although some Tahltan got jobs as day labourers, and some contracts went to a (local) trucking company, the actual infrastructure for the local community didn't change one bit in ten years.”
With Into the Silence short-listed for a Taylor prize, to be announced March 5, has Davis moved away from his tradition subject matter? The book documents British explorers' fatal attempts to climb the world's highest mountain, in the context of post-war culture. Driven by a desire to redeem the weakening British Empire's fading scientific and exploration dreams, and unafraid of death after the bloody WWI killing fields, Mallory and his team represented a story both gripping and political.
“Most importantly, I'm a story-teller,” Davis said, when asked why Into the Silence is such a departure from his prior work. “I live by Marshall McLuhan's adage, 'If it works, it's obsolete.'”
Davis recently spoke out against the Enbridge pipeline in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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