Questions on growth & power in a weather-worn world

Last Wednesday morning – January 10th, 2018

View of the rising sun . . .

 

Morning sun over the lake, Jan 10, 2018 - bruce witzel photo

 

Come, you lost atoms to your centre draw near and be the eternal mirror you saw.

Rays that have wondered into darkness wide, back into your sun, subside.

 Sufi poet, Attar

 

 

Growth and Power 

 

Humanity has harnessed water power since earliest civilization. Dams have changed the natural flow of rivers to run mills, control flooding and provide irrigation and water.

 

Water power mill at Saint Catharines Ontario - bruce witzel photo

  Water mill near St. Catharines, Ontario – bruce witzel photo

 

In the Great Depression of the 1930’s large hydro electric projects were built to create power for homes and industry and hence, a multitude of jobs for the American people. The developed world’s lifestyle is largely based on using vast amounts of power.

Although hydro-electricity is considered a renewable energy source, it comes with an ecological cost – flooded valleys and loss of habitat, farmland and ways of life.

There’s pros and there’s cons to all forms of power. 

 

Rosevelt Dam in Arizona - bruce witzel photo

Roosevelt Dam – bruce witzel photo 

 

Site C on the Peace River

 

Here in British Columbia controversy has developed over construction of a 3rd large dam on the Peace River, known as Site C. It will be the most expensive public megaproject in Canadian history. When construction began in 2015 it was estimated to cost 8.7 billion dollars. 

On June 29, 2017 the freshly elected New Democratic Party formed the provincial government. This ended16 years of Liberal Party rule. Then in fall of 2017 the BC Utilities Commission were ordered to do a special review of the Site C dam. 

 

Aerial view of the inlet cofferdam, the south bank excavation, and Moberly River for Site C (September 2017) - photographer unknown

Site C dam, September 2017 – photographer unknown

 

On December 11, 2017 the BC Premier John Horgan announced that his government would reluctantly continue the project, but that it was now predicted to cost 10.7 billion dollars. In typical political fashion he blamed the previous government.

 

Screen Capture of Site-C Hydro-electric project on the Peace River, BC

 

Reactions were swift. Many business groups and trade organizations lauded the decision – other groups did not.

 

Kwatsistah - North West Coast Vancouver Island - francis guenette photo 

Kwatsisthah Totem on North West Vancouver Island – Bruce Witzel photo

 

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, immediately released a strong condemnation:

 

“We are truly shocked at the callous disregard for the rights and well-being of Indigenous peoples, despite the Premier’s acknowledgement of what is at stake… 

The Premier knew coming into office that flooding the Peace River Valley would be profoundly destructive for the Dunne-Za and Cree peoples whose histories and cultures are inseparable from that land…

He (Premier Horgan) has even acknowledged that construction of the Site C dam would violate Canada’s legal obligations under Treaty 8. The fact that he would allow the destruction of the Peace River Valley despite such serious concerns is a blatant betrayal of his government’s commitments to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

 

Children overlooking the Peace River - photographer unknown

    Children overlooking the Peace River Valley – photographer unknown

 

Another contentious issue surrounding the dam is the question, does the province actually need the power? An opinion editorial published by Dermond Travis, the executive director of Integrity BC, points this out:

“B.C. consumed 62,467 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2010. Last year, it had jumped to 62,951 gigawatt-hours, an increase of 0.8 per cent, In 1996… we consumed 64,664 gigawatt-hours of electricity. By 2016, B.C.’s population had grown to 4.75 million, there were 468,000 more households (than in 1996)… and we consumed 1,713 less gigawatt-hours…  In 15 of the last 20 years, we’ve used less electricity than we did in 1996.”

 

This has come about from energy conservation and better efficiency standards. The public electrical utility, BC Hydro, has an aggressive Power Smart program. Even so, they have repeatedly overestimated long term demand for power in British Columbia. 

 

 

The Road Less Travelled

 

The powers that be tell us that the Site C damn, and indeed all destructive energy mega-projects, are simply about supply and demand. I believe it’s something profoundly different.

In 1976 the physicist and energy policy analyst Amory Lovins coined the term soft energy path to describe a future where energy efficiency and appropriate renewable energy sources steadily replace a centralized system based on fossil and nuclear fuels.

 

Solar powered home near Carbondale Colorado (2) Oct. 2016 - bruce witzel photo

                        A solar powered home in Carbondale, Colorado – bruce witzel photo, Oct. 2016

 

Here is Amory Lovins take on the matter:

 

“The energy problem, according to conventional wisdom, is how to increase energy supplies to meet projected demands. The solution to this problem is familiar: ever more remote and fragile places are to be ransacked, at ever greater risk and cost…

We must… take care to preserve resilience and flexibility, and to design for larger safety margins… recognizing the existence of human fallibility, malice, and irrationality (including our own) and of the present trends that erode the earth’s carrying capacity.”

 

Looking west off Alberta Highway 22 (2)- the cowboy trail - Bruce Witzel photo

  Alberta Rockies near Longview – bruce witzel photo

 

“People are more important than goods; hence, technology, and economic activity are means, not ends, and their quantity is not a measure of welfare…

The energy problem should be not how to expand supplies to meet the postulated extrapolated needs of a dynamic economy, by rather how to accomplish social goals elegantly with a minimum of energy and effort, meanwhile taking care to preserve social fabric that not only tolerates but encourages diverse values and lifestyles.”

 

From the introduction of Soft Energy Paths: Toward a Durable Peace, 

by Amory Lovins –1977 

 

This Weather-worn World

 

The earth is at a turning point. Past U.S president Jimmy Carter said it early in his administration way back in 1976: 

“We must face the prospect of changing our basic way of living. This change will be made on our own initiative in a planned and rational way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature.”

PE (Professional Engineer) Magazine Dec. 1976, pg. 9 

 

  From Desmog Blog                                                                                                                                           

                                                                        photo compliments of DeSmog Blog

 

Now four decades have past and the world is witnessing this change – some good and some bad.

 

On the day before Site C’s continued construction was announced, I read a blogpost from lens and pens by sally entitled (in part) Nature Photography in the Age of Uncertainty, (by Sally W. Donatella click the purple for the link).

Along with 2 beautiful photos, she begins by saying:

One cannot think of climate change without its partner the weather. And the weathering of our hearts is just as affected by the myriad of weather-related altercations that are becoming more and more prevalent, regardless of one’s location.”

 

She describes a walk with her grandson at sunset by the East River in Lower Manhattan – how nature can provide us tranquility and inspiration.

“We paused, we watched, we embraced our good fortune,” she concludes. 

 

Afternoon view on the lake Jan. 10, 2018 - bruce witzel photo

  A view of the lake on Northern Vancouver Island – bruce witzel photo, Jan. 10, 2018

 

 

This brings me full circle.

What kind of growth and power will you and I witness for, in this weather-worn world?

 

  Cheers ~ Bruce

 

Statue of mother and child, un-recalled location - bruce witzel photo 

 

There is only one thing that matters ultimately and it is the personal and social value of supreme importance – which is that we grow in love…

Everything else is consequential.

~

John Main

 

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24 thoughts on “Questions on growth & power in a weather-worn world

    • I’m well Angela – it’s taking work. Thanks for appreciating the post. I always feel better when I’m able to use my photos (and other peoples, at times) to bring forth important issues and to reflect about these difficult times we live in. Hope you are well and thanks for the important awareness you raise on Black Lives Matter, and especially for questioning the status quo.

  1. I learn so much from you, Bruce. I don’t often hear of environmental struggles or controversies in British Columbia, and your perspectives are illuminating to me. I doubt you’re surprised that as an American, I’m distressed at the way the United States is dismantling agency protections and safeguards resulting in truly placing our environmental safety at risk, not to mention flagrantly disregarding science (in almost all areas) as well as denying climate change. Yet still, there are ordinary men and women joining with environmental activists and displaced scientists devoted to doing all that we can to preserve our natural resources in any way we may make a difference. Often I am simply heart-sick. But you always inspire me not to give up and to do what I can do…that’s all we’ve got, isn’t it!

    • Thanks Debra for your personal affirmation. So true that there are so many every day people who care to make a difference, your self included. It’s stunning to see the dismantling of so many public agencies, especially EPA, that have been created to do work for the common good. It is a gift of our age to be able to speak out about these issues in venues that are person to person, and to discuss things and share our opinions, experiences and knowledge with respect and caring. It does make me heart-sick too, when I witness blatant lies, misinformation and hate-mongering – and not just from some of our so-called leaders. I believe with all my heart we need each other, and that I have much to learn from others, friends and foe alike. Thanks again & good cheers – Bruce.

    • Profound question with no easy answers, David. Sometimes I wish there were less people who were so powerful, wasteful and abusive… However along with this wish I do know I can only today begin, with a change of heart, mind and body, in myself.

    • Thanks Cynthia. Photos were on a lovely break in the weather here on the lake, 10 days ago. It’s been mostly rain since then…. the quote at the end was from John Main, a British diplomat who became a monk in the 50’s, and then began the World Community for Christian Meditation about 4 decades ago ago. He died in the 80’s. I took the quote from one of the talks he gave, and it was later made into a book called the Heart of Creation. I read from this each morning.

  2. Beautiful post, Bruce, filled with reason and truth. Our political leaders and the corporations that keep them in power place the economy (and their profits) before the environment and the peoples that occupy the land. Our lives become a hindrance to economic progress and, thereby, inconsequential. There is no room for compassion and love.

    Love the photos. So much natural beauty still left to be preserved and enjoyed.

    • Their is so much more to this story Rosaliene. Today I heard on the news that the leader of the BC Green Party, Andrew Weaver, just announced that if the NDP government now chooses to promote the export of LNG from BC in an upcoming trade mission to Asia, that the Greens will bring the NDP down in a vote of non confidence. He says this would show they aren’t truly committed to climate changes issues. The Greens hold the balance of power in the BC Legislature. Interesting times we live in, to put it mildly.

  3. Bruce,
    Excellent post and photos. As you point out, projected growth of population and energy needs are not necessarily the same. I suspect the dams (and in Georgia the new nuclear power plants) are intended to support more industry, not more people. And, do we need or want all that industry?

    Does the US (or Canada) ever honor treaties with the Native Americans? After reading “A People’s History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn, I’ve begun to doubt it.

    • Thanks katharine. To use an a old cliche, it seems that the white man speaks with a forked tongue. I’ll have to read the Howard Zinn book one day.

      In regards to industry and Site C dam, on the record is much evidence of influence peddling in the awarding of the contracts, etc…. lots of money is to be made in mega-projects!

      Originally when the dam was started in 2015 the main argument the Liberal government made was that British Columbia was going to require all this extra electricity to Liquefy Natural Gas for export. Then in mid 2017 the giant LNG companies withdrew investment from further expansion in BC, saying the market was poor. it does make one wonder?

      • Bruce,
        There’s a lot of money to be made in government contracting work. Too bad the ecologists and Natives have to work so hard, just to be sold out by their own governments.

    • Maybe not all. How we use our power – judiciously or not, and in all senses – is that which I struggle with daily. The proverb, less is more, comes to mind. Or, live simply so that others may simply live. Thanks for this question Priscilla.

    • Truth be told, I was quite angry about the decision to continue with Site C, and then against my better judgement I instantly emailed the Premier Office. I wasn’t rude or anything, but quite short.

      Put it this way – never will I vote strategically again. I would add the requirement of ecology classes for economists, and maybe most important – children. Lets be well, Silvia.

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