Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our World in Turmoil - Letter to Millbrook Times from Eva Hans


The world around us seems to be in a turmoil. Most of Ontario residents are fighting tens of wind farms sponsored by the provincial government. There are many small and large environmental issues – threats to water, air, land, wildlife and human well being…

The newest one is a mega limestone quarry proposed for the Melancthon Township in north-western Ontario, a beautiful, picturesque land which attracts thousands of tourists a year; tourism provides jobs.  The application for the quarry has been filed by the local Highland Companies on behalf of a hedge fund based in Boston, Massachusetts. If approved, almost 2500 acres of rich and rare farmland will be destroyed, with the potential of expansion to 15,000 acres – larger than the territory of the city of Toronto.

The operation would involve blasting 200 feet (this is the depth of the quarry) below water table at the headwaters of the Grand and Nottawasaga rivers; it will also cut into 2 watersheds and 3 subwatersheds. The environmental damage will be irreparable. Since the operation will occur below the water table, a “dewatering” (pumping out) of 600 MILLIONS LITERS OF WATER PER DAY will be necessary to maintain dry working conditions (while the general population is being told to conserve water!). There will be a huge impact on the aquifer and the hydrological cycle.  In the other words – total disaster for the residents of the area as well as for over a million people who depend on their drinking water from that source.

In addition, there will be heavy equipment, noise and dust from blasting holes in the earth, truck traffic with highly toxic diesel fumes – every single day of the year.

And of course, typically, there has been no studies done of the potential impact on surrounding land, livestock and local people.

Where the extracted limestone will be going? Who is going to clean up the mess? Who will pay for that? Very often the taxpayers in Canada.

When the local residents voiced their concern, the reply from the Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey was as follows:

“It is too bad that this has split your community apart. It is your job to get your community together, get them to think long term about rehabilitation, because this is not going back to agriculture, but maybe you can get a nice golf course.”

There are always those who think in terms “job creation” and are for any kind of  “development” without considering how will it affect their lives and the well being of their neighbours, close and far away. It very much applies to the wind turbines situation as well. But most of the times there is no jobs locally…And on the national scale, the best manufacturing jobs are being sent overseas where the government (you have guessed it – Chinese) subsidizes  products made for export. The subsidy is 27%...

As about the grand loss of farmland everywhere – “farmers feed cities” – where will our food come from? China?

It seems that our provincial government is trying to jeopardize the future of Ontario and people living here. Mega-quarries, wind farms sprouting all over the place…what next? It makes some people rich and very many poor. The profits do not stay in this country.

Since wind turbines manufacturers are in trouble in the other parts of the world, they want  to sell their products somewhere, and this somewhere is Ontario, at the moment. It hits the right spot – our premier wants to be “green” before retiring. Unfortunately, wind turbines are very far for being even remotely “green”.

Digging huge holes in the ground will not make Ontarians wealthy, we will inherit exactly what it is – holes.  

End of 1960th – beginning of 1970th the smallest Canadian province Prince Edward Island, was almost sold to the foreigners, most of them from across the border. Then the documentary film “Selling Out” was made by an immigrant film director; it was about an old farmer who has to sell his land and farm which belonged to the family for generations. There is an auction attended mostly by people from down south; family treasures, photographs on display and hot dog munching crowd. The old farmer sits at the distance. When all is finished, before going away, he picks up a handful of soil and puts it in his pocket…

Shortly after release of the movie, the Federal Government finally stepped in and stopped the land selling out.

Do we need some movie to document what is happening now? Maybe. Otherwise, we will be putting handfuls of soil in our pockets, just for the memory of this beautiful and once unspoiled land.

Eva Hans
Cavan Ward