Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Not Clean, Not Green: Proposed CMP Corridor/NECEC An Environmental Disaster From Beginning To End

White privilege means living in a bubble that prevents us from knowing how our actions and our lifestyle harm people who don't look like us. Class privilege means living in a bubble that prevents us from knowing how our wealth was built on trampling the prosperity of others we either can't see or don't care about.

Rita & Tommy Monias and Amy Norman on their speaking tour. Photo source: Resist Megadams Facebook page

When the North American Megadam Resistance Alliance third annual Megadams = Megadamage Speaking Tour came to UMaine at Farmington November 25, I went because I wanted to learn more about the origins of the proposed CMP project New England "Clean" Energy Corridor (NECEC). Origins in the sense of, where does this electricity start out, and what is the cost to the environment of generating electric power in this fashion?

I learned that and much more, certainly more than I had anticipated.

The environmental devastation described by indigenous speakers from Labrador to Quebec to Manitoba was incredible, almost beyond belief.

Grandes Chutes today, after Hydro-Quebec’s Romaine River project that includes four megadams. 
Source: Megadams Resistance website

“Hydropower development has altered 50,000 square miles of land that my people used for millennia to hunt, fish and trap and gather.  We can longer practice our traditional ways like our ancestors before us,” Carlton Richards of Pimicikamak territory, an Indigenous youth activist said

“This is cultural genocide.” 

Because I live in Maine where hydro power dams dot the Kennebec River, I thought I understood the effects of flooding, erosion, and management (sometimes catastrophically bad) of the water flow. But any dam I've experienced is puny in comparison to the megadams that cover northern Canada. 

Imagine a dam that flooded a reservoir the size of Ireland.

Now imagine 80 of them.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias
Imagine watersheds drained to divert water through turbines that make wealthy people wealthier.

"2019. Flooding boreal forests for Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River"
Photo credit: North American Megadam Resistance Alliance - NAMRA

Imagine a flooded area with water bubbling with methane from the thousands of acres of trees drowned. How would it smell? Imagine it filled with methyl mercury released by the submerged forests. How would a food chain filled with concentrated mercury sustain life?

Imagine trying to practice traditional food harvesting of wildlife in a landscape that is literally no longer recognizable to the elders who received tens of thousands of years of accumulated wisdom about sustainable living in that place.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias

Imagine a frozen river that fluctuates up and down, creating air pockets between ice layers, and ridges of ice as tall as a person, invisible beneath the snow. Now imagine driving a snowmobile across it, hoping you guess correctly where the dangerous spots are.

Imagine driving a fishing boat through a river full of submerged islands and dead heads i.e. submerged trees trunks, hoping you don't hit one and die.

Photo credit: Tommy Monias

Noretta Miswaggon of Pimicikamak territory doesn't have to imagine any of the above, because it is reality for her family. They are at the receiving end of bad water management policies intended to generate huge profits, funded through bonds issued by Goldman Sachs and other profiteers. The "crown corporations" of Canada function like the odious private-public projects that neoliberals in the U.S. are so fond of: the cost and risks are borne by the public, while the profits flow to private investors. 

Rita and Tommy Monias, also of Pimicikamak territory, are elders who experienced traditional life along the waterways before the megadams ruined them. They spoke of their people paying for the electric power generated in every way possible, including exorbitant rates that subsidize cheap rates for U.S. customers. 

When Rita's granddaughter gets sores from swimming in murky, polluted water that has replaced a once pristine river she will never swim in or fish from, what compensation can there be? 

Amy Norman (speaking above) is a Labrador Land Protector who has been arrested many times for resisting megadams. She spoke of the food insecurity created by ruining traditional sustenance fishing and hunting grounds in remote areas where purchasing food is not within the reach of ordinary working people. She explained how methyl mercury moves from up the food chain to concentrate in the body fat of  fish and then seals -- and the Inuit who survive by hunting them. She observes of megadam generated hydropower,

"It's not clean, and it's not green."

Roberta Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper of Labrador, explained that it's not cheap either. She's calculated that the cost out of a turbine at the Muskrat Falls project is 62 cents per kilowat hour while the selling price to U.S. customers is 5 cents. She wants us to know the truth about the allegations that hydro power is cheap or clean.

"We came down here because the purchasers of the power have the power to stop it."

Now that we, the purchasers, know the truth of why CMP wants to cut through the Maine woods to deliver Hydro-Quebec megadam power to customers in Massachusetts, we can help stop this environmental racism.

Here are resources to take action:

Monday, November 11, 2019

#VeteransDay Or Armistice Day -- Glorify War Or Work For Peace?

"Glorify peace, not war: Armistice Day vs. Veterans Day" by Rory Fanning via
Repost with light editing of my post from 2018.

It is Armistice Day again, 11/11, the ceasefire that ended the imperial war that ushered in the death and destruction of the 20th century. 

The seeds of violence, industrialized killing, and wars for peace (or to end all wars, or to save the innocents of Belgium, or of your country here ____) were sown.

The activist Bernarda Shahn once told me that her mother said prior to the outbreak of what would be known as World War I, "This whole thing is about nothing more than Mosul Oil."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

My own grandfather went to the war fresh out of Skowhegan High School. He was a popular, good-looking boy who looked forward to getting right back to Maine to help his family run their ice business. He was injured on the last day before the Armistice, catching shrapnel in his leg and then being gassed as he lay wounded on the field.

It took his family over a year to locate him in a hospital in New York; eventually he returned home, went to college, and married a registered nurse. He served in the Maine House and Senate while running the Skowhegan Ice Company. His leg was saved by fusing the knee so that all his life he was unable to bend it. His lungs and heart were permanently affected too, and he died of heart failure when his only child, my father, was 19.

"Don't believe them when they say the next war is a good war," my father reported his father told him. "There is no such thing."

My own father believed the gung-ho propaganda hyping the "Good War" of his youth -- World War II, which grew directly from the bloody roots of WWI. He believed the recruiters, who told him Korea was a good war, too -- the front line in stopping the march of China and Communism.

Because his father begged him to go to college and not enlist, he didn't make it to Seoul until after his father had died and combat had been ended by a ceasefire that perpetuates the war to this day. My father went to Korea as an occupier and was profoundly affected by the poverty and suffering observable in the wake of a war that had killed more than 4.5 million people.

My dad taught me that wars are a way for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer.

Every year I take the flag off his grave, and that of his father, and that of my brother -- a man who never went to war at all. The cemetery workers who take orders from the VFW don't know who was actually a veteran. I guess they figure that any man between the ages of 18 and death was some kind of a soldier.

Every year now, I share this video of veteran father Will Hopkins addressing his children's teachers about what he would like them teaching (here's a direct link for those of you reading this blog post as an email: ).

Most of the veterans I know don't want to be thanked for their service. Like Will Hopkins, they don't want to be used to glorify war on behalf of U.S. corporations who profit. They wish we would give peace a chance.