Enter Salesman (image: rabideye)
“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”
-William S. Burroughs
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert Heinlein
This week in Powell River featured a well-though-out and accessible talk by marine biologist, Mark Biagi on the proposed plan to bring trash incinerators to Powell River on Catalyst Paper Mill lands. Biagi went into the nitty gritty of how these so-called ‘state-of-the-art’ plants turn much of what is compost-able and recyclable “trash” into toxic waste that has been shown to cause cancers and birth defects. The 100 or so people in attendance listened quietly to the speaker in awe that the City would even entertain such ideas. (check out the No Incinerator for Powell River Facebook Group). But it was also shown through the question period that while the Regional District controls solid waste (and they- according to director Colin Palmer – had no inkling of a deal between the City and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. / Urbaser until the local news story (see the Powell River Peak article). The issue, as brought by City councillor Maggie Hathaway, is that while the Regional District has jurisdiction over what we do with our own solid waste, the City and Catalyst can grease the wheels (and maybe profit from) a business on mill lands that will incinerate trash from other communities. Great. So, in theory we can reach our Regional District’s goal of zero-waste and still have an incinerator in the middle of our city spewing the toxic filth of other people’s garbage into our faces. Section 21** (see below) was put in place in 1955 when the City consolidated . It basically (and outrageously) gives the Mill free rein on doing whatever they need to do to make the business viable. Burning other people’s trash might just be “sustainable” indeed — sustaining their coffers, or at least delaying bankruptcy. Councillors Maggie Hathaway along with Myrna Leishman stated that while Powell River City Council has tried to address the repeal of this bylaw before (it was rejected, but no one there remembered if a reason was given), she would look into this. According to Biagi, there is a lot of money to be gained by the multinational corporation that has a history of lawsuits and ‘settlements’ under its belt. Billions, in fact. They won’t give up so easily without a fight.
Which brings us to the title of this post [“Desperation is a stinky cologne (and this is a scent-free zone)] and how a pattern is forming that spells ‘open for (always outside) business’: corporations reach out to the City to sell them on a brand new idea that will bring back the heyday of unheard-of wealth for labourers at the mill (Powell River had the highest per capita income in Canada until the 1960’s). Yrainucep’s antics , the attempt by the City and this company to remove lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve ALR to build an airport and gated community, the Liquid Natural Gas transportation by water idea, the Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway plan to transport tar sands oil across our land, and now even a new wave of coal mining close to home.
Governments like to say that they are open to everyone, and after all ‘corporations are people too’, but this disregards the influence that these incredibly powerful multinationals have to affect policy, all toward short-term corporate gains where the next quarter-year is as far as they can see. We need to see further. When people ask ‘where are the good ideas?!’, meaning that all we have before us are these destructive ones, we need to remember that the people who bring us these obviously bad ideas to local, provincial and federal governments are very well paid to do so, and constantly. We have many great ideas here via our organizations including Transition Town, and even in our own blasted Sustainability Charter. But these won’t bring the $80,000/year wages, and they don’t have a lobby and start-up cash or access to huge loans like large corporations have; it seems overly obvious to say so, but the cards are stacked against local ingenuity and real sustainable practices. The great ideas are not publicized and many are not supported by locals because there is a mistrust in our own ability to pull these ideas off. We need micro-loans where local people invest in local projects of all kinds, especially local cooperative projects. We need to become locally resilient to the changes that are upon us already. It’s just not going to stop until we project the air of confidence it takes to keep these corporate vampires away.
Meanwhile, our governments are all throwing lots of money, time and other resources into industry-led projects that tend to either pollute, deplete our natural resources (and fast), or both. Usually, it’s both. This smacks of desperation and the sharks are circling, always. We see it in the news every day. Of course, it’s not just a Powell River issue. We have been trained to a very high standard of living that is so incredibly and truly unsustainable (in the real sense of the word) that our addictions (to gas, sugar, etc.), sense of ownership and entitlement blind us to the point where we can’t think ahead 2 years, let alone the Iroquois concept of seven generations. We continue to pillage and plunder our resources at the expense of our children (and even our own!) health and future welfare. As someone said at the incineration information session, we need high paying jobs. But what is less talked about is what kind of jobs are ‘high-paying’: jobs that involve raping the earth, polluting our species and others, killing and controlling other people, making and selling each other garbage food/clothes/cars/computers and … garbage itself (as well as the incineration thereof), cheating people out of their savings, gambling, extortion, lobbying governments and tweaking laws to make them fit into corporate profit plans.
It’s time to look at ourselves and decide what we can do without, and not only what we can do with the waste and destruction we leave behind by living and wanting to continue to live this way. If we want real change, we need to support each other on a micro level.
*The first part of title from this post is a quote from the film Starship Troopers (based on the Robert Heinlein novel)
caution: rough (but funny) language:
** 3.13 Millsite Industrial & Millsite Boundary (see page 48 in this document: https://powellriver.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentDisplay.aspx?Id=283)
Historic industrial development in Powell River is dominated by the Catalyst Paper mill, now modernized and one of the largest in the Province. This industrial complex was first established in 1912, when the first paper machines turned out newsprint (see Part 1.6). In 1955, when the City of Powell River was incorporated, the owners of the Townsite and mill needed to protect their interests from any new potentially “unfriendly” or calamitous land use regulations. Section 21 of the Powell River Incorporation Act recognized the mill’s important role and exempted the Mill from any and all regulatory bylaws restricting operations of pulp, paper or other mill-related uses within the “Millsite”. This unique exemption applies to all lands and waters shown within the red outline on Map 1. Catalyst Paper has designated those parcels not required for mill operations as nonstrategic or surplus including a tract of waterfront known as “the old golf course”. This land was a part of the Millsite industrial area but is now in a state of transition. The community, particularly the residents of the Townsite, have long used this area for walking and other recreational purposes. Catalyst Paper has requested to transfer Section 21 designation from the surplus lands to Block 55.The Millsite Industrial designation as shown on Map 1 applies to lands currently subject to Section 21 of the Powell River Incorporation Act. The Millsite Boundary outlines the 1956 effective area of the Millsite including park lands now owned by the City.
Millsite Industrial Objectives & Policy
(a) Given little direct City jurisdiction over the operation of the mill or Millsite, the objectives for the Millsite Industrial are limited to ensuring the ongoing viability and vitality of the mill operations as an essential element of the region’s economy.
(b) The City will work with Catalyst Paper and senior levels of government to facilitate the successful ongoing operation of the mill.
(c) The City supports the transfer of Section 21 provision to Block 55 subject to Catalyst Paper meeting all Provincial and Federal applicable regulations, particularly as relates to the environment.