Some people have looked at the reduced industry and emissions during coronavirus quarantines as a form of encouragement for future environmental action. Others, however – such as Alberta’s energy minister Sonya Savage – have seen the pandemic in a completely opposite light.
Speaking May 20 on the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors podcast (which is apparently a thing), Savage claims that coronavirus presents an opportunity to continue construction on pipelines without climate activists getting in the way.
“Now is a great time to be building a pipeline because you can’t have protests of more than 15 people,” she says.
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has responded to the comments with a tongue-in-cheek Twitter post, writing: “Well, at least we are seeing some honesty for once... Unfortunately this (is) how large parts of the world are run.”
"Alberta minister says it’s a ‘great time’ to build a pipeline because COVID-19 restrictions limit protests against them." Well, at least we are seeing some honesty for once... Unfortunately this how large parts of the world are run. https://t.co/1zrYjm286t
In the podcast, Savage goes on to praise work on the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which has been targeted with protests by climate activists, alongside Indigenous groups.
“Let’s get it built,” Savage says, adding: “As we go on and we get out of more immediate phases of COVID, people across Canada are not going to have tolerance and patience for protests that get in the way of people working.”
“People need jobs and those types of ideological protests that get in the way are not going to be tolerated by ordinary Canadians.”
In October 2019, Thunberg led a protest of 4000 in Edmonton, where she was met with counter-protests. She has since been targeted with criticism from Albertan oil companies, including one that allegedly circulated imagery of her being sexually assaulted, to which the 17 year old responded: “They are starting to get more and more desperate…”
While protesters might not be able to physically gather in large groups during the coronavirus pandemic, many have continued to fight for the planet from home. Watch teenagers from the climate justice movement reflect on the climate crisis and actions they’ve been taking during lockdown in Dazed’s video for Earth Day. Thunberg herself has taken her weekly movement online.