For­get global, go lo­cal

One On­tario town’s re­new­able di­rec­tion

Annex Post - - CURRENTS -

Anishin­abe econ­o­mist and writer Wi­nona LaDuke iden­ti­fies two types of economies, grounded in dif­fer­ent ways of see­ing. Speak­ing in Van­cou­ver re­cently, she char­ac­ter­ized one as an “ex­treme ex­trac­tive econ­omy” fed by ex­ploita­tion of peo­ple and na­ture. The se­cond is a “re­gen­er­a­tive econ­omy” based on an un­der­stand­ing of the land and our re­la­tion­ship to it.

In her talk, LaDuke said, “The re­al­ity is that the next econ­omy re­quires re­lo­cal­iza­tion of food and en­ergy sys­tems, be­cause it’s more ef­fi­cient, it’s more re­spon­si­ble, it em­ploys your peo­ple and you eat bet­ter.”

Hu­man in­no­va­tion has made it pos­si­ble to ex­tract less-ac­ces­si­ble fos­sil fu­els, and that’s pro­vided jobs. But en­vi­ron­men­tally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally, this ex­treme be­hav­iour can’t con­tinue.

In Ox­ford County, On­tario (one and a half hours from Toronto), lo­cal farm­ers, com­mu­nity mem­bers, the Six Na­tions of the Grand River and Prowind Canada launched Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm in 2016. It pro­duces enough elec­tric­ity to power al­most 7,000 homes.

Mi­randa Fuller, head of the Ox­ford Com­mu­nity En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tive, says the pro­ject helps con­nect peo­ple with the power they use and gives them a stake in their en­ergy sys­tem. Its rev­enues are help­ing sta­bi­lize ru­ral farm in­comes, which helps pro­tect lo­cal food sys­tems and the com­mu­nity’s way of life. The pro­ject cre­ated about 200 jobs through de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion. Some rev­enue goes to a com­mu­nity vi­brancy fund and to stu­dent bur­saries aimed at giv­ing young peo­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ox­ford County be­came the se­cond lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Canada, af­ter Van­cou­ver, to adopt a com­mit­ment to 100 per cent re­new­able en­ergy by 2050. Gunn’s Hill makes up 15 per cent of Ox­ford County’s goal.

Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties are also in­no­vat­ing and lead­ing on re­new­ables. Chief Patrick Michell, of the Nlaka’pa­mux Na­tion in B.C., says meet­ing en­ergy needs in con­cert with na­ture res­onates with his na­tion’s val­ues. Nlaka’pa­mux is work­ing to­ward food and en­ergy self-suf­fi­ciency. The Kanaka Bar In­dian Band, one of 17 bands in the na­tion, has so­lar projects and has part­nered with In­nergex Re­new­able En­ergy and oth­ers on a run-of-river pro­ject to gen­er­ate power and in­come.

“What you do to the land, you do to your­self,” Michell says, quot­ing a tra­di­tional say­ing.

Let’s fo­cus on hope. On cli­mate so­lu­tions. On re­new­able en­ergy led by com­mu­ni­ties like Ox­ford County, Kanaka Bar and oth­ers ris­ing to the chal­lenge to cre­ate a re­gen­er­a­tive econ­omy for ev­ery­one.

Ox­ford County’s wind farm pro­duces enough elec­tric­ity for al­most 7,000 homes


David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Na­ture of Things and au­thor of more than 30 books on ecol­ogy (with files from Sherry Yano).

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