Objects appear clearer in the rear view.

employment, library, LNG, mining, rabideye, spezzacatena


Seem it’s about time to document the past year, at least for myself, before it all blends into a fuzzy pink cloud.

A year of provincial and federal governments’ rubber stamping of very probably damaging projects like LNG and dirty coal transport over water, the Site C dam drowning some of the best agricultural land in Northern BC, and continuing to throw all our money, hopes and energy into the bottomless pit of oil sands, and its transportation across land and water that we consider ‘ours’ (and of course exporting this to our southern neighbour). The propaganda we pay for as taxpayers is thick on all these. Meanwhile no mind is paid to alternatives, least of all a reduction in the excesses we feel are part of being human in the richest countries at their apex.

It’s all very logical, after all. Why promote ideas that don’t pay off multinationals and give people with all levels of education and skills the feeling that, yes, they too can earn $200,000+ a year just like those in the lower echelons of the financial sectors, by working in remote camps 14-in, 7-out; fly in-fly out, extract the living daylights while the going is good. And this is the hope; never mind what it is doing to our air, land and water. But as 2014 ended, the price of oil having declined sufficiently to bring into question the ‘full speed ahead’ ethos, those always-already temporary jobs are being threatened, or at least postponed as the high cost of extraction presses down on the whole project.

Oh, and there is a federal election coming up on October; my guess is that this too will reflect how we shouldn’t wait for elections to do something, and expect nothing but contempt.

Locally, the big story this year was (drum roll) the library (of all things). I suppose that it’s a good thing that it appears that we’re all aflutter over books and learning, but it was really about was money and location, with a really positive undertow of ‘what is the function of a library in 2014?’. We are very lucky to have had a lot of really smart, talented, generous and dynamic volunteers who compiled the information on library usage while maintaining  a positive outlook during a time when it could have turned nasty, with many counsellors essentially over-ruling years of research, disregarded the thousands of taxpayer dollars spent in investigating and developing plans for one, then three, then more locations (most notably the most preferred Willingdon South location). Of course, we owe a lot to those who actually make our library work: our librarians, the Library board and the Friends of the Library.

Ultimately, a big old compromise to keep an excellently located empty lot, empty, accompanied by an amorphous 11th hour deal with local mall owners to transform an ex-furniture store behind a gas station into a public library. I know many of us (me included) went into this with clenched teeth and pinched nose, because the community needs a functional library more than a beautiful space that would have reinvigorated the actual heart of the city, providing an anchor for locally-owned small businesses in favour of enhancing a private strip mall. It is that urgent. 75% of the population voted YES to a referendum question on permitting the City to borrow up to $3.5 million, and the gods were apparently appeased. I guess that’s the nature of compromise and democracy: an urgent need made clear to the public, and a choice that makes it very difficult for any one party to vehemently oppose its advancement. I am hoping that the lack of real clarity on how the old Brick location will be updated to create a functional and beautiful, well-lit space, will not bite us in the ass.

Oh, and congratulations especially to our new and progressive non-slatey-at-all City Council members who, with Russell Brewer, may encourage the re-elected to start to think about what a post-mill town could look like (the Catalyst Paper mill workforce just shrank by 45 jobs). May the talk lead directly to the walk. I think it will.


Some thoughts on resistance and manifesting alternatives

Community, democracy, employment, inequality, LNG, mining, new economy, oil, powell river, transportation

Resistance is fertile.

Mordor, Made in Canada.

Mordor, Made in Canada.

You know, the letters to editors, press releases, opinion pieces and ads (overt and covert) FOR resource extraction, liquid natural gas (LNG), mining, coal transport, pipelines, Mordor Inc. (tar sands) etc. outnumber anything offering alternatives to these by a huge margin.

This is a very dangerous moment, especially when the unabashed and unapologetic surge to choke the planet is being spun as a really “positive thing” for First Nations and generally for youth employment. It’s analogous to the argument that since the Third World has not had access to the pollution-causing cars we’ve had in the over-developed world, that they should not be worrying about their carbon footprints (just yet). Like there even exists a ‘they’ and ‘us’; amazing myopia when we are all coming to recognize that we’re all in this together, really, and we always were. Philippines or Fukushima, anyone? The spin these days is that youth and First Nations folks have not had the opportunity to make a decent living  off of good-paying jobs yet, and saying “no” to these ultra-polluting industries that contribute to even huger amounts of pollution via their end product use, is essentially stunting their collective ability to grow and marginalizing youth and especially First Nations youth, further. Equating conservation with racism is a line they are slyly pushing out there.

Young and not-so-young (even retired!) people are rushing into northern areas in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan in their generation’s gold rush. And it is not just for the money, but also for peripheral aspects related to employment: we all need to feel useful and productive toward a certain end. And we all have those bills to pay as part of our bid to remain within a society, even if it is warped. We’re social creatures. Then there’s habit and a feeling of ‘what else am I going to do’. We’ll be seeing much more of this when the youth now trained in ultra-specific technical skills may find it hard to even imagine doing something else.

[ Groaning ] Oh! I ain’t fer it.
I’m agin it! [ All Chanting ]

Being against something – often with no time/energy/ideas for arguments that are PRO-something, especially in regard to providing people with an occupation – is pretty obviously a non-starter in a culture that overwhelmingly equates money and the employment which produces it (albeit less so) with self-worth and dignity.

It’s just so easy for so-called capitalists: “just make as much money as quickly as possible, at any cost to anyone or anything”. This system is always-already rewarded and honored, to the extent that is itself ‘environmental’; everything that happens, happens within its rules. No amount of death, misery and destruction seems to tarnish this Teflon system. No big news here, postmodernist thought has long held to this and it’s devolved into truism, and  joyfully accepted as a necessary critical evil, and one that can be monetized, too!

Where does this leave the alternatives? Exactly where we have been and find ourselves today. What we’re doing is SO not working. We need to move beyond resistance (which shows that yes, there is something wrong)to creating a new system that puts the old invisible one to shame. People do want to protect and conserve together, but almost everything in our culture says “pillage what you can now, and hoard it away”. Ironically, even the  Doomers and Libertarians get caught in this cycle that allows for infiltration of the divide-and-conquer ethos onto the Left-leaning.

It’s a crazy web we’ve woven through both our actions and inaction, but also through a value system we’ve swallowed and allowed the Corporate Others to construct for us, using unfair and historically unparalleled advantages of access to media, funds and governments via lobbyists and campaign funding. Signals that a paradigm shift is happening right now (Occupy, Idle No More and the resistance to fracking, pipelines, coal transportation, mining, deforestation, tar sands, LNG transportation, damaging hydro-electric projects, etc.) may provide ideas that could form the stepping stones to a new world , but without a very clearly envisioned, articulated, and most importantly manifested examples of how a society can work within its environment (and not against it), we are emulating King Kong, swiping at the symbols of our own environmental and social destruction, with nowhere to eventually go, but down. I see worker owned and operated cooperatives of all kinds as one living example of how things can work out differently.

In the next few cross-posts with Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative, I will be looking at some co-op models to give me (and maybe you) a better understanding.


Desperation is a stinky cologne (and this is a scent-free zone)

Community, employment, new economy, powell river

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.