Shouldn’t We Know Better? – Talking with Dennis Woodrow Burden

It has been a number of years since I had begun looking into the reality of the Muskrat Falls Hydro Electric project on Grand River in Labrador.  Since about the same time as it seemed our provincial government were getting serious about it.
I didn’t believe it would ever go through.  Not in this day and age, I thought; mega dams are old technology and we know the difference now.  Even the USA has be reversing these projects and have dismantled close to 500 in the last decade, they are just to dangerous to keep.  Plus there are so many other advanced opportunities.  I looked at countries such as Germany and Scotland with their use of solar, wind, and tidal.  Sure, the Bay of Fundy pushes more water on one tide than all the rivers on the planet combined!  There is enough energy hitting the earth in one second to supply us with all our energy need for a full year.  So no, they wouldn’t go ahead with it, it will never happen, I thought.
But no, the Newfoundland and Labrador government was pushing this through and there was no convincing them that there was any other way.

Dennis and his DogTeam
No worries though, thought I, a federal loan guarantee? Never! We would need to convince Nova Scotia that buying energy from us instead of buying from Quebec at a fraction of the cost is the way to go. Nova Scotia will never fall for it. Yet somehow, Harper’s “almost-guarantee” and Nova Scotia’s “maybe” is all that our government needs. A Danny William’s quote comes to mind, “We will go it alone!”
So, with all the talk of money and buyers and loans and promises those of us who are most worried about the project feel like we are banging our heads against the wall because no one seems to hear. Dam this river and the destruction will reach much further then the delta at Lake Melville. This project will sacrifice untouched wilderness, cripple communities, change currents, pollute the ocean, and that is just to start – and why? Not for one good reason, not one.
Let’s say it does go ahead, because most people swear to me that I can do nothing to stop it.  So let’s say they are right.  Once the damming at Muskrat Falls is complete, the seasonal changes get all switched around, the animals go out of balance, the locals stop eating the fish and the methane starts releasing into the atmosphere – the damage will not end there because the project is not a local project.  They need to ship this energy south, and that is not an easy task either.  Next, Nalcor will drive a transmission line down through one of the last pieces of untouched wilderness on the planet, and then across the straights with billions of tons of crushed rock to keep the icebergs away.  Haven’t we already heard enough about industry trying to deface this part of our province with talk of uranium mining in the straights area? It’s like people possessed by money have this terrible grudge against whatever is left on this Earth that’s pure.  As if they just want to kill it all.
Friends, the ocean is on her death bed, and the governmental of Newfoundland and Labrador are doing their best to assure us that they understand the full extent of these problems.  How much do you figure they spent on that ad, “The Power is in Our Hands!”?  If you watched that campaign without knowing what is happening behind the scenes, it would sound like an admirable environmental message from an inspiring government! Of course, the more you look, the more corrupt it becomes.
Sometimes it is still like a bad dream, I just cannot believe that we living on this very fragile rock (the only place we can find to support lives like us), yet we seem to be putting our greatest effort into clogging up her veins and just seeing how far we can go before we end up killing her.
We could have all our energy needs free from the sun, from the wind, from the movement of the sea.  No energy is without a price to the earth, but messing with water, the lifeblood of the planet, needs to stop.
The hemp plant could supply us with almost everything else we need!  Over half the oil sucked out of the Earth goes into making plastic, yet the hemp plant could replace all our plastic’s 50 000 industrial uses.  If the technology’s there, why are we not using it?  Well, I guess we know that answer.  Who of us will be the one to tell the oil companies to stop, or even slow drilling?
I once figured we live in this great country where you could cry “injustice” and the courts would give you justice! How naive.  Money speak so loudly and possesses the mind so deeply that our society conveniences itself that we are all better off when we are taking from the Earth every bit she can suffer.  Like seeds of evil, it runs deep and no one can hear.
I have tried reaching David Suzuki, Fifth Estate, Ecology Action Centre, among others and no one is strong enough to take this up.  The media too has been silenced.  So where do you go?  What do you do?  It is so frustrating!  There are days I feel like leaving it all behind, take my dog team as deep into the bush as I can go and hope that industry doesn’t reach me, at least in this lifetime.  But then it’s the kids to think about.  Maybe, like all animals, I have this built in instinct to further our species.  I don’t know what happens next.  Would Nalcor and this corrupt government, how much are they ready to sacrifice for this insane project?  There has to be a law somewhere; crimes against humanity … or something.  But I know I have to keep fighting for what is right and I can only hope that others will join me.
We are living on a very fragile planet.  Animals are going extinct at alarming rates as climate change threatens everything from the air we breath to the predictability of our weather that we take for granted.  The ocean is warming, the ice caps are melting, and science shows us that the ocean currents could actually stop … yet we carry on like a bunch of maggots, only seeing the retreating ice as an opportunity to drill for oil on the newly exposed northern lands.
I get this anxious and kind of desperate feeling, how can we go on like this?  How can we push these projects through.  How can we look at out kids and say we were there and did nothing?  How can we not scream out and tell everyone we see that is is wrong?  Humans, we are suppose to be the intelligent ones!
From: Dennis Woodrow Burden
Port Hope Simpson, Newfoundland and Labrador
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One thought on “Shouldn’t We Know Better? – Talking with Dennis Woodrow Burden

  1. The Thesis of this argument is very sound. Indeed why are we allowing this destruction labeled construction allowed to go on? Why? Because the man who instigated it left office, got behind a woman to see to it this would go. Bullying, how long have we been actively preaching how wrong it is to bully? Well the bully hiding behind the skirt is a coward. A coward with a weapon is a dangerous being. The weapon of course is intimidation. The new woman Premier is being bullied and intimidated to push this thing along. So push she has, shamedly so. The Project as Dennis mentions is without any real reason for existance. Quebec Hydro holds the cards to cheap electricity in the North Eastern sector of North America. It took them decades to build this monster, but build it they have. Newfoundland/Labrador is a poor second without a hope of ever competing in this market. The only thing protecting this Project is the legislation blocking competition and demanding tax payers fund it. Now we see the voice of Des Sullivan imploring the unions to stop it, before the unions themselves become victims of it. However, this hype is about money. This Project will most certainly crush the NL economy. To me the environment is key, money problems come and go they are man made with only fiscal reprecussions. The environment on the otherhand is not man made, but interfeared with by man, in this case a large and devestating interfearence. I would be happy to say I told you so, but not so in this case. Far to much environmental destruction will be wrecked on this part of the planet. Far too much.

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