Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 17, 2017.
It’s a smoky morning in Kamloops and about to get smokier still, judging by the large plume riding down the North Thompson. I took the dog out for a walk but we’re both slowing down our usual pace on days like today. It’s more work to take each breath in. I think of people struggling with respiratory disease on a good day (my youngest included). It is only mid-July and summer is still unfolding as we speak. More wildfires to come.
Will next year be the same? Worse? Better? How about the one after? That we cannot foresee the future, let alone create a better one, is a sobering thought. At the same time, one could argue, we do have a say in what is to come. With some margin for error (and growing every year,) but still.
So, the smoke. Particulate matter is hell on earth for all of us. More coming as fossil fuel consumption increases and the resulting greenhouse gases causes temperatures to increase.
More dust and particulate matter coming if the extraction sector continues its forays into the underground riches. Case in point here in Kamloops: the Ajax mine.
City council is about to cast their decision today. A relevant step. I have stated where I stand on a few occasions: a firm no. There is not enough money in this world to buy health or a mouthful of fresh air. I know what it’s like not being able to breathe from watching my son fight to breathe on more than one occasion.
I cannot picture adding the dust and increased amounts of exhaust gas from mine traffic to the city air on a day like today. Jobs are needed, that is true everywhere. But the trade-offs are to be considered carefully. Now more than ever.
If a hundred years ago, or even more recent in our history, we had enough clean environment to spare (I stubbornly believe there never is ‘enough’ clean air, water, and soil to spare), we are now seeing the results of that way of thinking in many places around the world, our own country-wide backyard included.
Industrial developments that put a community’s health and well-being at risk ought to make people rethink priorities. Mines without solid safety standards in place end up costing a community more than all the jobs combined. Examples abound, more so in a province like ours where the lax mining standards have been costly, socially, and otherwise. Hence the need for objectivity and a clear vision of the future, no pun intended.
It’s been said repeatedly by our governments, provincial and federal, that decisions on mines, liquid natural gas operations and pipeline construction are done with science in mind. ‘Facts-based decisions’ is the refrain that keeps on coming to remind us of the soundness of the decision-making process.
In case of the Ajax mine, science reports came back rather unequivocal. Not in favour, that is. In other cases, such as Mount Polley Mine, science seems to be employed as a weapon of betrayal (presently, treated wastewater is dumped in the lake, as per our former government’s decision following a ‘science-based’ process. The initial spill cleanup has not happened yet.)
The human population is growing, hence the need for more. Emphasis on ‘need’. We are making use of wants though, more often than we should, and we do that in ways that prove detrimental to our own well-being: our environment is polluted in the process of extracting resources, manufacturing goods, transporting them, and in the process of disposing of them. Garbage is at an all-time high on land and in the oceans, and, much like the human population, on a growing trend.
We’re bulging at the seams, yet more is produced, and more developments are underway. Life is not a one-way street, where you leave stuff behind as you go. It is a circle, and in true circle fashion, everything is engaged on a trajectory that keeps returning to the starting point. We’re part of it too.
We know, factually speaking, that our environment is aching; it has been for some time. Helping a community thrive while considering possible deleterious health effects of a local economic project is where the balance stands. The time for trade-offs should be behind us, because no matter how you stack it, money can never buy health, no matter how much of it you pile up.