The Northern Gateway 
Pipeline Thought Map

Photo Patty Wellborn
Photo credit: Patty Wellborn

The Northern Gateway Pipeline could be a social and economic game‑changer for British Columbia, and it’s already the subject of a lively debate. That’s why Andrew Barton, a fourth-year geography student with UBC’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, devised an interactive map for people to add their own photos and experiences along the proposed pipeline route. “I wanted to do something positive for the environment and the places that I love,” says Barton.

In 2012, a federal Joint Review Panel conducted public hearings in communities across BC and Alberta as part of the pipeline’s environmental review process. Barton, with the help of a $6,500 Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Award, reviewed the hearing transcripts and spent three weeks travelling the proposed pipeline route, taking copious notes and photos to build the foundation of his interactive map, now ready for public use.

Using GeoLive technology, developed by UBC Okanagan campus geography associate professor Jon Corbett and graduate student Nick Blackwell, Barton’s interactive Place and Pipelines map project includes photos, excerpts from the hearings, and various links. It also offers users the chance to add their own photos and thoughts, whether they are for or against the project.

“This allows the content of the map to grow, based on input from people other than me, which enables a broader and deeper narrative,” says Barton, whose focus of study at UBC is a combination of earth sciences, social sciences, and humanities. “It is my hope that this site will become a resource for everyone who is interested in the issues surrounding the Northern Gateway Project, and will create a record of the events that transpire over time.”

The Place and Pipelines map starts at Bruderheim, Alberta – where pumpjacks are as common as house sparrows – and stretches across BC to the port of Kitimat and on to Haida Gwaii. The idea, says Barton, is to get many different voices heard.

“The issue of the Northern Gateway pipeline will not go away and it has become a very polarizing topic,” he says. “It is a time of conflict in this area and people are debating which is more important – the economy or the environment?”

Along with the interactive map, Barton has also produced an e-book about his journey and a 12-minute documentary video. The interactive map, his book, and documentary can be found at


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