Posted by: rosemary | September 29, 2009


Rick Peyser, a tireless runner from Vermont, entering the outskirts of Gatineau

Rick Peyser, a tireless runner from Vermont, entering the outskirts of Gatineau

Rivers for all Ages

One of the neat things about organizing a marathon is that you get to meet and interact with a kaleidoscope of gutsy, motivated and often inspirational runners at a time when they are being tested, and striving towards a far-off goal that it periodically seems impossible to reach. I’ve often asked myself what it takes to make an activist. What qualities or history would prompt a person to step out of the crowd to run 42 kilometers, say, to protect a river that the pessimists would have us believe is already lost?

As the “Run for our Rivers” marathon progressed through its third week, descending the Ottawa Valley and approaching the urban centres of Gatineau and Montreal, I found myself giving this question a lot more attention. Sometimes a biographical detail would jump out at me, but there seemed to be little underlying commonality beyond a propensity to follow quirky career paths, and perhaps a certain independent-mindedness.

Eventually, I concluded that the marathoners, in their diversity, basically represent all of us. There are natives and non-natives, men and women, young, old, city dwellers and country dwellers. No matter who you are, or where you hang out, you have something to gain from living in or near a province that still boasts free-flowing rivers.

Rick Peyser, a 59 year-old Vermonter, and up to now our oldest runner, put this well. “There are so few places like that left on the planet,” he told me, when I asked him why he had decided to exert himself for the Romaine. A seasoned traveller, and projects manager for a fair trade coffee firm, Rick is in a good position to make this observation.

Rick Peyser’s home state is, truth be told, a significant importer of Quebec hydro. But through the efforts of its citizens, a few years back Vermont adopted an energy efficiency programme which resulted in the state’s electricity consumption decreasing five per cent between 2000 and 2009. Now energy watchdog groups like Fondations Rivières are studying ways to import Vermont’s experience here to Quebec. Reducing Quebec’s domestic consumption of electricity by five per cent would allow us to free up as much power as is slated to be produced on the Romaine at a much lower cost than the eight billion dollars that Hydro Quebec is projecting for the Romaine project. By continuing to cultivate ties, and share info with Vermont activists like Rick, Alliance Romaine can go places!

Coming second to Rick in the category of age, but earning kudos in his own right is David Tacium, a 53 year-old language teacher and community radio host from Montreal, who scored our best time so far by finishing 42 kilometers in an incredible three hours and twenty-nine and a half minutes. David’s knack for clear-sighted analysis of problems, plus his raw determination kept him going. “This hurts, and we’re doing it because it’s worth it,” he told me. Last spring, when I showed David the online slideshow of a 2008 canoe expedition down the Romaine River, I could see his eyes lock on the screen, and I knew right away that his admiration for one of Quebec’s most beautiful rivers would carry him through the rigours of training and make him a valued ally.

Anita Roussiouk, ready to run!

Anita Roussiouk, ready to run!

On the final approach to Montreal, the Alliance Romaine message was carried by Anita Roussiouk, our youngest athlete at 16, who had the disadvantage of running in the rain, but stayed articulate and cheerful, covering the half-marathon (21.1 km) distance between St. Eustache and Laval in about two and a half hours.

Anita was the eighteenth marathoner to carry the message in an uninterrupted relay from Matagami, near the James Bay Highway where it was entrusted to us by Cree trapper Freddy Jolly. In all, Alliance Romaine is counting on about thirty-five runners to complete our cross-province trek, conveying the important lesson that hydroelectricty is not green, and that Quebec’s free-flowing rivers, while increasingly rare, can provide something of lasting benefit whether we are paddlers, commercial fishers, First Nations hunters, nature lovers, biologists, or just engaged citizens.

Stay tuned for more stories and adventures!
Chris, with the road crew for Alliance Romaine



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