Energy and Environment
Introduction to Spring 1984 issue of the Connexions Digest,
(Volume 9, Number 1)

Canada’s energy policy “has been decided on the basis of technical feasibility, efficiency and profit, and not on the basis of its social, political and environmental effects” (CX 2907). Corporations have told Canadians that the days of relatively cheap and abundant energy are over, and that a shortage of energy will bring economic disaster, to be averted only by the development of new and costly projects such as tar sands, Arctic oil and gas, huge hydroelectric dams, and nuclear power. Governments and public hydro utilities have supported these large-scale, capital intensive projects. The frightening results of this energy strategy have been analysed and documented by many of the groups listed in this edition of CONNEXIONS.

Nova Scotians are concerned that any benefits from offshore oil drilling could easily be wiped out by the negative social and environmental impacts such development would inevitably bring (CX 2924).

Those living in rural areas of B.C. and Ontario see their agricultural land threatened by hydroelectric dams and the construction of massive transmission lines (CX 2910, CX 2911, CX 2915).

The problems and risks associated with nuclear energy are monumental. The reliance on nuclear energy has brought health risks to the workers in the uranium industry, as well as those working in the power plants. The environment is constantly threatened by spills, leaks and the frightening legacy of nuclear wastes (CX 2907). The cost of these projects has consistently surpassed estimates. And there is “damning evidence that civilian nuclear technology has become the dominant means of acquiring nuclear weapons capability throughout the world,” as repossessed plutonium from nuclear power plants is one of the easiest ways of obtaining materials needed to construct nuclear weapons. (All of the purchasers of Canadian CANDU reactors – India, Pakistan, South Korea, Argentina, and Taiwan – have obtained or attempted to obtain reprocessing technology while the Canadian public was being reassured that the CANDU would not be used for military purposes (CX 2906).

There are alternatives to this “hard energy path.” Contributors to this issue have researched and documented that an energy strategy based on conservation and renewable energy resources is both technically feasible and economically sound. It is possible to build small-scale projects, locally controlled, which cause minimal environmental and health problems, cost less, create more jobs, and respect aboriginal rights.

Many Canadians have been actively pursuing a new energy direction for Canada. Their strategies are varied – organizing at the local level to fight particular projects; lobbying public officials, promoting public awareness through films, alternative media, and education centres; organizing conferences for networking and information-sharing purposes; taking specific cases to court; and doing in-depth research and analysis. Others are developing, testing and promoting alternative energy technologies – solar systems, windmills, methane gas plants, wind buffers, and bicycles.

Canada is at a critical point in its energy policy development. We do have the power to choose between the corporate and the soft energy paths. A wise choice will include consideration of the ecological, military, economic, human and ethical issues raised in this edition of CONNEXIONS.

Related Topics: Alternative Energy SourcesAnti-Nuclear MovementElectric PowerEnergy EconomicsEnergy/Environmental IssuesNuclear PowerNuclear ReactorsPower TransmissionRadioactive Waste ManagementRenewable EnergySolar EnergySustainable Energy SystemsUranium Mining