Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Musings on Hope & Hopelessness


Hope. It’s a lovely word and very much needed in the midst of doom and gloom forecasts.

I recently finished reading Chris Turner’s The Geography of Hope, an around the world snapshot of current sustainable development. After reading such depressing tomes as Kunkstler’s The Long Emergency, I happily embraced this book where the word ‘hope’ is the largest font in the title.

Turner paints a promising future based on current projects and movements. He takes us to places like Samsos, Denmark where effective persuasion from one or two enthusiastic locals transformed a fossil fuel dependent island into a prosperous and sustainable one all within a decade. He also examines solar and wind technologies that are constantly improving, and ultra efficient homes whose building blocks are discarded tires and jars.

Everything that we need is available. We just need political will to assist these movements and make sustainable technologies accessible. This includes the Herculean task of educating bureaucrats to embrace the movement and stop putting up road blocks. If there’s optimism for that, that’s optimism indeed.

Despite political stalling, so many entrepreneurs and environmentalists are inching us closer to sustainable living. Click here to check out a model sustainable town brought to you by Greenpeace UK. Thanks to my friend Pete Grier who sent me the link.

And finally, it doesn’t get more hopeful than when Albertans and Texans start hugging a tree (or a very big wind turbine)….

Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind

Albertans looking a little Green (that is until election day….)


So with all this great technology beckoning, what’s the government of Ontario doing? Investing billions of dollars into an energy source that has proven to be costly, centralized, inefficient, hazardous, potentially very dangerous, dependent on a non-renewable resource and damaging to the environment.

I’m referring to nuclear energy, of course. Nuclear has another dark shadow. Under the Canadian Mining Act, a mining company can march into private property and do whatever it wants to do to extract minerals, including uranium, without asking permission from the property owner. You may own the land, but they have a stake on the minerals that lie beneath. With the current demand for uranium, property owners in parts of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have to put up with mining companies digging up their land and exposing dangerous minerals.

Donna Dillman, activist and grandmother from the Ottawa Valley, was so concerned about the negative health and environmental effects of uranium mining proposed in her region that she went on a hunger strike that lasted 68 days. She ended the strike when major environmental organizations asked her to stop and promised to take up her fight.

Donna isn’t the only one protesting. Robert Lovelace, member of the Algonquin Nation, was convicted when he staged a protest at a potential uranium mining site. He faces six months of jail time and a fine of $25,000 for staging a peaceful protest to protect the water and land in his community.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law live in the Ottawa Valley on the Mississippi River. It is beautiful farming country. It upsets me greatly to learn that uranium mining is proposed for this area.

In its current issue, Walrus Magazine spotlights the uranium facility in Port Hope, Ontario. It seems that for decades Cameco, the owner of the facility, has done a lousy job in assuring the health and safety of Port Hope residents. It doesn’t help when Health Canada discounts complaints and studies about uranium levels in the town.

A lot is being swept under the carpet. Accountability is questionable, property rights and civil rights are swept aside and there remain many unanswered questions. Not a good place to start when it comes to something as important as a dominating energy program that will last for decades.

So what do you want? Investment in a centralized approach and energy source that is potentially dangerous, inefficient, costly, damaging to the environment & health, and dependent on a nonrenewable resource? Or do you prefer a sustainable approach that is easy on the environment and human health, respects civil liberties and enables property owners the ability to produce a good portion of their own energy and make their homes and buildings efficient?

The latter is happening elsewhere in the world. Why not Ontario?

In the News

OECD issues warning on climate change

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