As I write this in early May, we’ve been watching a bird build a nest in a tree outside our kitchen window – a reminder that even in nature creatures alter their environment for survival.
Birds, of course, don’t have the ability to re-engineer nature that we humans do. We have changed the world so much that the future of humanity is endangered by man-made climate change.
Human ingenuity is now being put to work to find ways to continue our comfortable lifestyle, built on using cheap fossil fuels, in a post-carbon world. Yet even our solutions will be opposed by people who invoke nature in their arguments against unwanted changes around them.
For instance, much of the solution to energizing the world without the use of carbon dioxide-producing fuels involves greater utilization of electricity. It’s been proposed that the vast amounts of electricity produced in Labrador at the Churchill Falls hydro generating station could help western Canada reduce its dependence on oil, gas and coal. That would mean, however, building huge power lines across Quebec, Northern Ontario and the Prairies. Just mention that huge acreages of northern woodlands will be cleared for power lines and watch environmentalists who are worried about climate change oppose extending the electrical grid westward.
Already I read that some landowners along the route of a proposed electrical power line between Chatham and Lakeshore are protesting the line. I’ve been through that kind of fight before. I remember the bitter opposition in the 1970s when two new power lines from Bruce Power at Tiverton were proposed running southward near Lake Huron and further inland to hook up with the provincial electrical grid at Seaforth.
Similar angry debates arose across Ontario years later when wind turbines were being erected as the government of the time encouraged creation of “green” electricity.
Today we have the great debate over the Deep Geological Repository proposed near Teeswater to bury 50 years’ worth of radioactive waste from nuclear power stations that have given us jobs and cheap, non-carbon electricity for 50 years.
If the Teeswater site is rejected, as is likely because of the veto power of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, the alternative site is in Northern Ontario. You can bet that as soon as the idea of trucking nuclear waste through towns to the north is raised, opposition will explode.
Part of a low-carbon future will depend on electrical cars. Who can complain about that? Well, an article in the current issue of The Walrus magazine describes the environmental costs in northern Quebec of mining the lithium used in batteries that would power those cars.
Urban media has actually bemoaned the work-from-home trend that’s become prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic with workers trading their 700-square-foot downtown condos for suburban or even rural homes. There’s a theory, you see, that big city density, with people living close together in soaring towers, is better for the environment than rural living. Yet those 50-storey skyscrapers are built in large part from concrete, responsible for about five per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and steel that contributes 10 per cent.
Cities also require huge amounts of gravel for roads, etc. Some urban friends of mine are currently opposing development of a new gravel pit which will scar a very scenic part of Huron County.
There’s no getting around it, we all live unnaturally because of human beings’ natural inclination to alter nature to make life easier. Few of us would want to go back to living more naturally in caves, log cabins or longhouses.◊