I know the proponents of pipelines and the leaders of pipeline companies are intelligent, thoughtful people, and I know this on first-hand evidence. And then, I read something like this–a report comes out criticizing their plans, and the company’s official response? “It’s penned by ‘a group of professional activists'”; which doesn’t just imply but screams, “So we’re not going to listen to it!” So here’s the thing, boys: I’m effectively a pipeline proponent, in the sense that I absolutely get the business case–not just yours, but the nation’s–in getting these things built. But when you dismiss every opposition view point, you thoroughly raise my ire. I find it offensive and disrespectful. More: stupid and counter-productive, and I start to wonder if you really are as smart as I thought you were the last time we talked.
Because… how hard is it to say, “We understand that this is a massive, complicated project that raises a lot of concerns for people, and we will continue to do our best to address them.” How hard is it to say, “We really understand and appreciate the passion this project raises in people who care about the Canadian environment and Canadian jobs and our country’s economy, and how challenging it is to sift through all the evidence. We welcome all contributions to the dialogue.” How hard is it to say, “We’re listening. Tell us more.”
It doesn’t matter if the criticism comes from professional activists, partisan critics, frightened affected individuals, or thoroughly objective (is there such a thing?) observers. It doesn’t even matter whether it’s science- and evidence-based or emotive and ill-informed. What matters is how you respond. Every criticism is an opportunity to state your case–respectfully. To actually effect REAL engagement.
You’re supposed to be smart. For your pipelines’ sake, act like it.
This “not a portfolio piece, just an undiluted rant” interlude brought to you courtesy of my current research project. And now, back to work…