The Dam, the Pipeline & the Damn Fish

BC votes in one week. Who will be the winner: The Dam, the Pipeline or the Salmon?


Candidates for Provincial Premier: Clark, Weaver and Horgan

British Columbia is electing a new government in one week… or so the polls seem to suggest. Meanwhile, I had an energetic round of tennis in North Vancouver with my nephews and my kids. Among the ones that could vote two were voting for the status quo because they the wanted good jobs. The new voter kept silent.

Update: 10 August 2017 — BC Government Vows Legal Challenge to Pipeline


“What about being able to afford to live in a house with your family while you are enjoying that good job?” I asked them.

“If you want that, you have to go live somewhere else.” Came the shot back over the net.

That is true in NYC. It may be true in the neighborhood around Washington Square in San Francisco and other hot spots in Southern California. But, should it be the case here, and throughout British Columbia? The Liberals, and the Social Credit before them, for the past 30 years have got this wrong.

What else may we rue if we vote in a week for more of the same vision?

The Pipeline

As the oil industry sunsets; the electric cars (EVs) achieve over 200 miles per battery charge and the day approaches when an EV will be offered at sticker prices below gasoline cars; as China and the US are converting coal plants to natural gas at record pace; and solar panels are sprouting up on rooftops like the lilies in the fields; our governments—provincial and federal—want to put a pipeline terminus 6 ¼ miles east of Vancouver (10 km) smack in the middle of the Burrard Inlet.

I can run there in less than one hour. Does that make any sense? What happens the day the inevitable spill takes place?

The leaders in this election have been moot about the future. Are we really going to ship all that oil to China, or is this an opportunity already past? Shouldn’t we be investing our treasure and our brain trust elsewhere? In developing renewable energy, for example?

China, unlike Canada, occupies a location on the globe similar to Mexico. At these southern latitudes the ability to harness solar energy far outstrips our ability to generate hydro. And no one is going to be using oil once solar panels are up. Never mind shipping it across the international date line in gigantic energy-wasting ships that soil our beaches when their hulls are breached.

The Dam

“We need reliable power, we need affordable power and we need it to be clean power,” Clark said at a concrete company in Fort St. John.

The problem with power generated at Site C Dam is that it is earmarked for Alberta, not British Columbia. Alberta’s is an economy running hog wild on dirty oil from the tar sands. A commodity that may soon be worth about as much as the dirt which impregnates it. Once solar, hydro and wind energy are harnessed simply, locally and far more cost-effectively than oil the demand for oil will disappear into thin, clean air. The renewable energies can be so much less destructive to our environment, our economy and our social way of life that it is a wonder our governments are not pursuing R&D more rigorously.

It shocks me that my nephews did not hear about it in university over the past four years. It is a different story with their cousins at elementary school.

The independent review option offered by the opposition has the advantage of taking a second look. Yes, profit bent corporations can’t sit around waiting for profits. But our governments should really be run in a different way. We must cultivate a different ethos between the public and the private sectors, or else what we get is fascism.

How to develop hydro energy in an environmentally responsible way is an important, some would say crucial, question for British Columbia, for Canada, and for my children and my nephews.

The Salmon

British Columbians also need to discover the way to harness hydro electricity without harming the fish. In fact we need to develop an energy technology that is not only species-neutral in the water, but actually helps restore the Salmon to their natural habitat.

If that all sounds too Pink-o, or too far-flung left, take a moment to reflect. Consider how such a project will produce quality jobs and regional wealth in a manner that neither shipping oil to China, nor transmitting electricity to Alberta can deliver. We should not be consumed with worries about how to extract the last buck from our resources, damn the torpedoes. We should be looking instead to find timeless ways of energizing our community and securing our future.

Western culture arrived here in ‘British Columbia’ in a tornado of bluster and wealth extraction. Rape the land and reap the profits. Mining, fishing and logging were what we we’re all about—at any cost. We extracted the natural resources while forgetting to protect the natural treasure. Turning turbines with our rivers and using them as industrial shipping highways destroyed the Salmon. Cutting down the forests for prime timber and burning everything else minimized the return from trees thousands of years old. Strip mining coal without regard for the effects of burning it has taken our planet to the brink of a global disaster.

Yet we can build with wood as a renewable resource and research the possible byproducts of all the other parts of the trees we fall. Sustainable mining practices can be developed further as we turn to mine Lithium to store renewable energy right at the places where it will be used. Returning the fisheries to their pre-modern levels is just a no-brainer. Responsibly harvesting the Salmon and reaping the benefits of one of the most bountiful food sources in the planet should be a legacy shared by every British Columbian. All these areas of innovation offer the potential for life-long employment and corporate profit. The synergy of combing the two together is something that has been barely explored. Maybe our governments should lead in this critical area of social empowerment.

My prediction for this election cycle is that we may be seeing the beginning of a wider awareness: A rising consciousness in the population for the values of water, sun and salmon.

2 thoughts on “The Dam, the Pipeline & the Damn Fish”

  1. Yes, well, I agree. To do that we need to change governments. What has come to the fore for me heading into this provincial election is how much of the Vancouverism we see built today was a result of actions taken in the Legislative Assembly (Victoria) and not the local municipal halls. I see this trend continuing. And that is worrisome. The flip side of Public Input is public demonstrations and protest, and the Legislature is tucked too far away to make that possible for most people.

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