Kim Slater was standing on her hands when the idea just came to her — there should be an awareness-run along the length of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines.
She popped up from her handstand with sudden clarity and singular purpose.
"Often when I teach (yoga) I talk about the innate wisdom of your heart, and when you do an inversion it's like that wisdom percolates to your mind," said Slater. "All of a sudden you get a little glimpse of your heart energy."
Her heart was telling her mind that something needed to be done to raise awareness, and kick-start the much-needed grassroots conversation about Canada's energy future before the tar sands and pipeline infrastructure is developed.
What is Canada's vision for a renewable clean energy future?
On July 8, Slater, 32, is setting out on a 1,170 kilometre journey — the length of the proposed pipelines — to ask British Columbians that very question, amongst others.
Slater, who has been living in Whistler for four-and-a-half years, is taking her idea, and quite literally, running with it.
She begins in Jasper, Alberta and over the course of about 45 days she plans to run across the province to Kitimat.
That means running about 28 marathons. She's never run a marathon before. Her first is planned for next month — the Tofino to Ucluelet Edge 2 Edge Marathon — in the lead up to her summer mission.
While the physical test poses a challenge in and of itself it's not really the driving force behind Band Together BC.
"It evolved into this idea of running the length of the pipeline, connecting with communities and getting other people's thoughts," said Slater. "I'm really interested in dialogue as a tool to bring about change. So really looking at this as a chance to connect with people and not so much try and bring them to my way of thinking as much as being involved in a creative process around imagining alternatives, which of course would be clean energy and how could we get there."
She plans to document the journey on paper, through her blog and on film.
When asked what success will look like, Slater paused to think.
"If I'm still walking I think that will be a big measure of success," she joked. "Really, I'm hoping to just reach as many people as possible and I haven't put a metric on that, what a critical mass looks like. I'll be happy if I connect with people in each one of the communities that I run through."
The Northern Gateway project is a proposal to build twin pipelines across northern B.C. — the eastbound pipeline carrying natural gas condensate, the westbound pipeline exporting crude oil to the coast where it will be eventually transported to Asian markets by oil tankers.
It has not been without its controversies.
In early April, Whistler council unanimously opposed the project, taking a stand for tourism values and its concerns over a potential devastating oil spill off the coast of B.C. It also raised its voice in solidarity with other northern communities — Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers, and the regional district of Skeena-Queen Charlotte — that have also spoken out in opposition.
Slater, who did her masters in international relations at the University of Toronto, said the engagement process in this project is lacking.
"I'm seeing that the normal channels of having your voice heard are being stripped away by the government so it's even more important that we come together and share perspectives; even if they differ, those perspectives still need to be heard and we need to take back the power to make decisions around something that's as important as energy."
But Slater needs help before the journey begins — about $15,000 worth of help.
That's just to get her started: to convert her Delica to use waste vegetable oil and add extras like a solar paneled fridge and roof racks for gear. She plans to have a driver along the route and will be camping out of the Delica.
She's raised almost $5,700 to date.
"Everyone's been beyond supportive in my life," said Slater. "It's been really truly overwhelming and inspiring."
Even more have come to the table with prizes for the raffle at the upcoming fundraiser at Creekbread on Tuesday, May 29 from 5 to 9 p.m.
A second fundraiser will take place on Tuesday, June 18 at Burnt Stew Café in Function Junction. The idea behind this four-course raw food dinner (most likely Thai inspired) is to come up with ideas and questions that will shape Slater's dialogue along her route. Tickets are $45, with $5 going to Band Together. There are 40 seatings available.
To learn more or to donate to Slater's cause go to www.bandtogetherbc.com.
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