Tag Archives: VOCM

Carbon and Culture (for On the Go, VOCM)

A series of emails sent to Back Talk/ On the Go November 19, 2012


It scares me that Kathy Dunderdale it talking about the other parties in the house as if they are nagging siblings trying to get their way. Government is not meant to be run by a single party taking ideas from the others only as they see fit. Yet here we are. And then Dunderdale comes out and says they have been as fair as they can be! Personally, in talking with anyone from the PC party, I don’t feel I get anything back but the party line, nothing that I couldn’t read from a website or press release.

As things got hairy, the government created a giant flashy ad campaign to share all of the benefits of the Muskrat Falls project and then did a small poll to see if their tactic worked.

What is the government afraid of? If they are so sure of this project, meaningful open debate should be allowed. I guess they are worried that if it gets out that there will be environmental devastation, cultural crippling, that the carbon emissions will not be significantly better then those at Hollyrood and that there is real scientific risk of mercury bio-accumulation in the river and Lake Melville that will last decades; maybe more of their support will wane?

Yet it seems to me it would only be fair, that the same money tree that affords the government to inundate us with pro muskrat falls information should also fund a pamphlet about the concerns so that we can decide as a people where our values lie!

Denise Hennebury

Environmental Educator from Mount Pearl


Denise, Thanks for your email. We’ll read from it this afternoon on OTG. Can you please give me a bit more detail on two of your points? How could MF be “cultural crippling”, and how might “the carbon emissions… not be significantly better than those at Hollyrood”?

Thanks Ted Blades


Thanks for asking for the clarification; hopefully I can share what I mean here:


It is hard to numerate the environmental costs associated with the project, especially when you consider the long-term effects. However Holyrood is an established site, and that is how we have to compare it to the next project. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone the burning of fossil fuels, however I do believe that the math could support that there would be no net benefit of Muskrat Falls over Holyrood in the next 20 or maybe 30 year. And we could use that time to develop wave or tidal plants (consider Scotland’s huge wave energy industry).

At Muskrat Falls, when the land is prepared for flooding not all the organic material is removed. In fact even if the locals wanted to take some of that wood, they have been denied access in the past (not that such small scale removal would make much of a difference, so I digress). The valley is too steep in many places to remove the wood, and still not all the organic material will be removed where it can be cleared (roots, topsoil). The rotting vegetation will release carbon dioxide and methane (methane being the worse or the two for green house gasses). But that may be of little consequence considering the creation of such a large facility at such a remote location. The carbon release in clearing the land, moving supplies and moving people in and out of the site for 6 years needs to be considered as well.

What I am suggesting is that between rotting vegetation, harvesting trucks, concrete mixers, sewage removal, helicopter trips, security measures, construction personnel, and the list goes on, the carbon foot print will be astronomical in a process that began a year ago and will go until NO SOONER than 2018.

If we were to truly compare the numbers, it has been said by people smarter than I that in the short term we will be in no better of a situation, and in the long term we could have make less ecologically sound choices.

Culture ..

For full disclosure, I live in Mount Pearl. That is important because it is not just those downstream that will feel the loss of this river. Even here I am heart sick about this project! Such a significant piece of our Natural Heritage will be destroyed. Such a key aspect of the shape and integrity of our land will be dismissed for the relatively short-term gains of a generation. The Earth heals herself, she changes, fish populations will be poisoned and reduced, and the water will continue to find its way. However in a culture that embraces so strongly our link to the land, this sort of disrespect for our past and the loss of that connection for future generations will never be healed. Those children will never know the largest river in the province … they will know 3 giant reservoirs.

I also am in conversation with a lot of Labradoreans (none of whom I even knew 3 months ago). I hear their pain and loss and sense of betrayal ever day. Many Southern Inuit of the region still eat wild game and especially fish. With poisoning of the waterways with methyl mercury, there will be another ban on the consumption of these species from the waters. An advisory from Environment of Canada has listed Lake trout and Northern pike for limited use for food from Smallwood reservoir and a distance below … STILL!

Like our language, food is a major part of any people’s culture. Add to that the spiritual refuge the river provides to the local people, and the history it embraces! There are spirits at Muskrat Falls, and to hear the people talk about it give you chills. Those spirits cannot be content in a concrete wall.

Hope this answers you questions.




Thanks for both emails; it really clears it up for and I’ve incorporated some of these into your first email