Power Down

Mur­ray takes a trip to a far-off is­land and sees some fa­mil­iar is­sues.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - Words Mur­ray Grim­wood *www.pe­ter­prince.com/tag/doc­u­men­tary/

Is­land life

Our el­dest son has dropped an­chor where his part­ner grew up, on a small is­land off a big is­land off Van­cou­ver, Canada. It’s more than 12,000km from our Dunedin block to this is­land, but we found many so­cial dis­cus­sions were the same. Pick up a copy of the local, free, ru­ral news­pa­per, Coun­try Life, and you see fa­mil­iar head­lines: • De­mand for land drives farm­land prices higher • Ris­ing wine sales boosts de­mand for red grapes • Flood­ing wal­lops south­ern in­te­rior • Min­i­mum wage hike squeezes farm mar­gins

Cana­dian Pres­i­dent Justin Trudeau is push­ing for tar sand oil, and (oxy­moron­i­cally) tout­ing car­bon with­drawal. Al­berta is all for it, like our West Coast­ers ad­vo­cat­ing coal.

Tar sand oil is a messy mix of sand, clay, wa­ter, and bi­tu­men (a semi-solid crude oil). It’s mined from forests in Al­berta, 1200km to the north-east.

But here in Bri­tish Columbia they know ev­ery tanker-load of that oil will have to pass through their pris­tine wilder­ness – for no local gain – and that has their dan­der up.

They will lose the fight to stop it, short term. The lob­by­ing pres­sure on Trudeau, to keep the oil jug­ger­naut go­ing for just a lit­tle longer, will pre­vail.

But Al­berta’s tar sands have an EROEI (En­ergy Re­turn on En­ergy In­vested) of less than 5:1, maybe as low as 3:1. Con­ven­tional oil is drop­ping through 18:1 (it was once 100:1). This means at some point, the sup­ply of tar sand oil will not be af­ford­able.

As I’ve said to peo­ple who protest about ex­tract­ing oil off NZ’S coasts or min­ing South­land lig­nite, there’s no point in fight­ing those pro­pos­als. The sys­tem that makes them eco­nomic

can’t be main­tained.

This is some­thing we aren’t dis­cussing. Yet. Nor are they in Canada.

“In or­der to be able to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment, we do need to be able to have a strong and grow­ing econ­omy,” says Justin Trudeau. “That’s why our plan to fight cli­mate change fea­tures both a na­tional price on pol­lu­tion, things like the world class ocean’s pro­tec­tion plan, but also get­ting our oil re­sources to new mar­kets through re­spon­si­ble pipe­lines.”

It’s good that those pipe­lines are re­spon­si­ble. It’s much bet­ter than pip­ing it through ir­re­spon­si­ble ones.

I could live on this is­land. Conifers sigh in the breeze. There’s a won­der­ful dawn cho­rus. The peo­ple are po­lite, friendly, help­ful. There are farmer’s mar­kets, book­shops, quirky road­side at­trac­tions. When a lo­cally-pro­duced film about sav­ing the cranes of Bhutan* was shown at the town library, it was stand­ing-room only.

The su­per­mar­ket has posters urg­ing shop­pers to buy local, eat local. Each poster fea­tures one of the farm­ers or their fam­ily. The su­per­mar­ket-bought bis­cuits I had with my cof­fee came in a pa­per bag. Huge swathes of the pro­duce and prod­ucts proudly claim or­ganic sta­tus.

It’s not per­fect. They drive big Amer­i­can cars down the street. You hardly ever see an out­side clothes-line. Their lightswitches are up­side down.

But I like these folks, the way they live, the way they care. Num­ber one son has docked in a good place.

This is a small is­land, off a big is­land, off Van­cou­ver’s coast

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