Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: mining

The Time For Trade Offs Should Be Behind Us

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.

Some TV Sets Have More Stories Once Unplugged…

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, June 6, 2014

A few days ago some of our neighbours had a garage sale. A bit of a slow day, that Saturday, they did not get many customers. At the end of the day, they left a few things on the lawn with a ‘Free’ sign attached. Among them, a vacuum cleaner and a TV set.

Three days later, the TV set is still on the lawn, the ‘Free’ sign fading away as we speak. It’s in great shape but it lacks flatness (the irony…), so no one wants it. It has survived the last night’s thunderstorm and the scorching heat during the last few days.

And why would anyone want it anyway. Free is yesterday’s bargain. Worthless, or so it seems. Today an item has to be either antique-looking or brand spanking new to be taken into consideration.

Yet an uncomfortable thought surfaces as I write this. Where’s this TV set going to go now? Dump? Perhaps not yet, but a few more days of being subjected to the elements will render it broken and thus useless. And then what? Then it’s the dump.

Think of how many TV sets are there already and how many will join the ranks of broken paraphernalia soon. Unless they’re all being sent to some third world countries for the kind of recycling that we would not get close to – too many toxic chemicals and heavy metals to meddle with – but hope someone will.

New models of everything, from trucks to TV sets to children’s electronic gadgets come out every year. From one day to the next, the truck or car seems to make an odd sound and may not be worth fixing but replacing altogether, the TV screen could be a bit bigger, and the kid’s toy… well, the new games just won’t fit. So there.

Everything new is made with resources, mostly non-renewable ones.

Every few days a new mine project surfaces and location details are unsettling. Like this morning when I caught the tail end of a news piece about a new mine nearby, the Ruddock Creek Mine. To be opened, should the environmental and safety assessment deem it doable, near the headwaters of Adams River.

Yep, the one I learned about as soon as we moved to Kamloops; I learned that every four years it gets so full of spawning sockeye it turns red. Millions of them, I was told about the numbers many witnessed in 2010. So the 2014 will be another big one. What about 2018? Or 2022?

Our own Ajax conundrum takes us on a dance of back and forth that tugs at our minds mixing the needs and wants in such ways that we don’t know what’s what and whether we need it… Tailings here or there, the thing is, mines to be opened or reopened near communities need to be properly assessed. No shortcuts, no misleading information. Transparency.

It’s not paranoia or some mad environmental activism, but fear of what’s to become of this province in a few years should all the projects be freely approved. The Northern Gateway Pipeline assessment was described as ‘flawed analysis’ by 300 Canadian and US scientists in an open letter to PM Harper just days ago. The project should not be approved, they strongly urged.

Economic growth goals make sense as long as they don’t destroy the very grounds they rely on to happen. We need jobs, people need oil and copper and gold and zinc and they’ll need more because more is never enough these days. But when the goal is mainly exporting and the jobs not that numerous, is it truly worth it? For who?

Some of the above resources were used to make the TV set that sits on my neigbours’ lawn. What gives?

That we need things as we go through life is true, just like it is true that a country cannot rely solely on its own set of natural resources to mine and use. Some will come from somewhere else and some of ours will go somewhere else too.

Yet during the planning for mining, transporting and using of resources, the health of land and people cannot be dismissed or brushed over in flawed and incomplete assessments.

It comes to what we’re willing to live with. If you spill a bucket of oil in your garden, how long till you’re comfortable to let your pets or children walk around? How long till you trust that patch of land to grow your veggies in?

The TV set I pass by on my way to downtown is a sad reminder that we do live with the consequences of our actions. This one is just more visible that’s all.

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