Posted by: rosemary | September 21, 2009

WHEN IS A PARK NOT REALLY A PARK?

Runner Giroflée Arsenault, followed by Geneviève Huchette on bicycle, crossing la Vérendrye Park

Runner Giroflée Arsenault, followed by Geneviève Huchette on bicycle, crossing la Vérendrye Park

(Sept. 21st) As the “Run for our Rivers” marathon entered its second
week, we found ourselves in La Vérendrye Park, following the calls of
migrating geese as we headed south. It was without question an
uplifting experience to jog past dazzling lakes, dark rivers, and
soaring, wooded escarpments. But behind the curtain of natural beauty,
we could sense that something was not quite right.

Advancing at a runner’s, rather than a driver’s pace, you are more apt
to note the profusion of roadside signs announcing hunting, logging,
and, yes, hydroelectric reservoirs right in the thick of what is
formally called the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. Clearcuts, both
long-ago and recent are periodically visible from the highway.

On websites, and to casual tourists, La Vérendrye is known as a park,
and roadmaps do much to maintain the illusion by coloring La
Vérendrye, and similar areas across the province, a dark green.

Montrealers out for a weekend might end up asking “What are these
environmentalists complaining about? Quebec has lots of protected
areas.” But out of the eighteen or so categories of “protected” areas
to be found in the province, only a small number, representing a
fraction of the total land surface of “protected areas”, actually ban
industrial activities like clearcut logging and dam construction that
threaten the long-term health of ecosystems.

Maintaining a perception of “green” spaces does much to ensure
citizens’ complacency, and to avoid the sort of tough policy debate
that might force a reluctant government to change its priorities.

And in much the same way that opinion-makers have been repeating
tirelessly that clearcuts and other degraded areas are “green”,
officials with Hydro Quebec and the Charest government have gone on a
PR blitz to the United States, Ontario and throughout Quebec
proclaiming loudly to anyone who will hear them that hydroelectricty
constitutes “clean”, “green” energy.

It might be helpful if these bright lights would slow down to define
what they actually mean when they say that hydroelectricity is
“green”. Do they mean that it doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses? This
would be patently false, because hydroelectric reservoirs produce
large quantities of methane from the decay of submerged vegetation. Or
do they intend to say that reservoirs don’t impact biodiversity?
Again, they would be wrong, because dams alter the downstream flow of
oxygen and nutrients, resulting in an impoverished aquatic
environment, and damaging the entire food chain up to and including
the commericial fisheries of the St. Lawrence and other large water
bodies.

Mr. Charest may succeed in pulling the wool over Quebecers’ eyes for a
while. But in the end rhetoric is no substitute for hard science, and
if our government persists in its current course of damming the
Romaine, and potentially the Little Mecatina and other rivers,  our
province will eventually face a hard awakening which will come in the
form of degraded ecosystems, a reduced quality of life, and lost job
opportunities in sustainable forestry, ecotourism, fisheries, and
other sectors.

That’s quite a message to bring out of the woods! But Alliance Romaine
is determined to pursue our run, and we believe that if a large number
of citizens stand and act together and speak with one voice, we can
achieve political momentum to block the Charest government’s
wrong-headed energy policy.

Together, we can promote our own vision, based on responsable
consumption, diversification of energy sources, and ecosystem-based
management.

Together, we can still avoid the worst.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: