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Are we winning?

Steve Campbell

I know our County has problems. I know that County councillors read my columns and say, “Holy s**t! He’s right!” That’s not remotely true, but don’t shatter my dream. With this column, I’m going to discuss a human condition – a problem that exists way beyond our County. Maybe all the way to Madoc, or Ajax, or Napanee, or other unknown places I’ve never driven through, because they’re not on the 401.

I want to talk about our future, which is related to our present, where we determine our future. See how my Amazon degrees have paid off in science, technology, psychology, and a one-hour quickie video on performing brain surgery in my kitchen, which I can also use on other parts of the body if you’re interested. Bring your own scalpel.

Climate change. Are we in?
We know climate change is a problem. The idiot who tagged it ‘global warming’ did us a disfavour, when we read his warnings in our homes, and it was -30C outside. Can’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “It’s -30 all week! Global warming is a myth. Where’s the warming?”

In typical ad agency approach, the scientists decided to relabel it as ‘Climate Change’. This is like telling your wife that perfume smell on your shirt is because you fell into a lilac tree on your way home. Everybody knows.

But climate change is seriously climate change. Now the guy who said, “Global warming is a myth,” has to admit that climate change is a very real thing. Now he says (and this is true), “Isn’t this a weird winter? I mean it was mild in December, and we had rain, no snow. Then on Christmas we got a hellish blizzard with heavy snow and wind. It took me days to dig out, and then it got mild again and it rained.”

That fool just described climate change. Unpredictable weather, uncommon for the season. Even the dullest of minds can see: There’s somethin’ odd goin’ on. How many of us are awake to this? I think all of us, except for the guy in my previous anecdote. He will just go, “Huh. This is weird,” and carry on. And this is not a “natural cycle of nature,” unless it’s the one that killed off the dinosaurs.

And that’s the problem
I don’t mean to say that idiots are the problem. That would violate my Amazon degree in psychotherapy, because laughing and jeering at an idiot client is frowned upon in the medical field. We usually do that over beers in a bar later.

Now I’ve had a good laugh at the expense of climate change deniers. Some of them are smart. Most of them are passionate in their beliefs. I can only assume that many of them are blind and deaf, and oblivious to massive wildfires, drought followed by severe flooding, unending heat waves with resultant electricity failures. U.S. and Canada. Of course, we haven’t seen the devastation that is hitting countries around the world, because we are actually in the safest place in the world right now.

We are inland. Good for us. No tsunamis here. Few tornadoes since Hurricane Hazel in 1952, but still: Tornadoes? Unheard of until, “That’s weird.” Our roads suck, but Council is going to fix them if it kills us. But that is not our biggest problem. The roads can go back to the original log and gravel roads the settlers built. We’ve got a way bigger problem looming.

Council tries, but it sucks
And it always has. As long as I’ve been alive. It’s not their fault. They have loads of people asking them to make [name your favourite thing here] their top priority. Maybe you have a kid or two or three. Imagine having a couple of thousand kids to take care of. Your pizza bill alone would make you bankrupt.

I’ve watched many Councils for a very long time. They make tough decisions, and they have a lot of people asking them for many things. It reminds me of why I hate Christmas. When I was married, Christmas was a blessed time of year. No, I’m kidding. Christmas was a volatile military maneuver to see whose parents got lunch, and which one got dinner. And what day? Which spouse gets Christmas Day, and which gets Boxing Day? Every mother on both sides of the decision is fighting for the win. In the end, you get a full turkey meal at noon, and rush to the other mother for another full turkey supper. Christmas was the most stressful day of my life. Still is.

I hope you get that analogy. But Council is drawn the same way. Who do we please? How do we please? They make that choice, but sometimes they don’t see what we really need. We have opportunity to create solar projects in the County. I understand their refusal of a large battery storage op went south. Not enough sure-fired information in hand, err on the side of caution. But still, there’s a lot of flat-topped buildings in Picton which could serve many solar panels. Nobody is looking at that. No-one is supporting that in Council’s budgets.

What about us?
Everyone I know recycles. A friend of mine even throws those plastic tags from bread wrappers into the bin. In my little place, I generate one grocery bag of genuine garbage a month. I eat everything in my fridge that isn’t green or smells of decomposed meat from a crime site. But will this save the world?

What we do is a panacea toward the global problem. Just a little bit toward fixing the problem of the enormous waste we send to landfills. Is that enough? It makes us happy; like we’re doing our part. And we are.

Some of us are buying electric vehicles. Good. We are building charging stations to support them. Also good. They are currently out of my price range, but ‘soon come’ as the technology develops and the prices drop.

I’m optimistic about our future but, though technology moves at a lightning pace, it doesn’t move fast enough. Good ideas are in progress. Bad news is: These great ideas are scheduled to come to life in 2050. I’ll be dead then, and won’t have a chance to say, “I told you so.” I might have that engraved on my tombstone.

Meanwhile, tell Council what our real priorities are for our future. Huge tax increases for roads which will need millions more in 10 years? Or use that money to build solar infrastructure for our future. Big Business and Big Government are not leading the way on this either because, frankly, they can’t mess with Big Oil, which has caused more wars than religion. Curse you Henry Ford!

Change starts here, in a community that can control its future. Do it before I die, so I can change the epitaph on my tombstone.

– Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Billy Cache says:

    Intelligent people that you call “deniers” are idiots, fools, and are blind and deaf, all because they disagree with your mind set about computer modelling predictions?
    How kind of you, if not just condescending, to admit that some of these “deniers” are smart people. You touch on your admiration of heading to the widespread acceptance of electric vehicles and charging stations. How are the stations powered? Certainly not by solar, and btw how much is the square mile of solar panels at Crofton helping power the community?

  2. Henri Garand says:

    To be clear, I think developers make a nice profit from any BESS, but the advantages are less clear for the public. The real purpose of these systems is to store and resell trivial amounts (a few hours’ worth) of expensive renewable energy. They are effectively double dipping, and for the public they are like paying tax piled on tax. Where’s the cost-benefit? Council didn’t just make a safe decision; it made a proper decision not only for county residents but for all Ontario taxpayers and electrical ratepayers.

    It was definitely a “safe “decision in terms of risk management. The location of the Sophiasburgh BESS near a large solar project may have been cost-effective for the developer, but its proximity to the Elmwood electrical substation would jeopardize power supply for much of the county if a fire broke out. In addition, county firefighters might need special equipment and training (all at public expense) to put out a lithium battery fire. Sometimes government approval processes actually produce good results.

  3. David Thomas says:

    @Henri Garand You highlight (perhaps unwittingly) a glaring problem with the process: answers to your questions are beyond the scope of most municipalities. In these circumstances, the safe way to respond is to simply vote no. In fact, it is a safe bet that opponents to these developments are better resourced from a time commitment and knowledge standpoint than the average rural town councillor.

  4. Henri Garand says:

    There are important questions to ask about any BESS anywhere in the world. Is it really needed? How much energy will a system store, and how long will it provide backup? How often will the supply be used to back up another energy source, typically solar or wind? Is it critical to the stability of the grid? How cost effective is this backup solution?

    Without answers to these questions how can one decide whether a proposed BESS is money well spent as well as a wise use of scarce agricultural land? Since financial and other resources are always finite, it’s impossible to develop every new technology despite the temptation to grasp whatever the politics of the day approve. The federal and Ontario governments’ recent multi-million dollar folly of funding the Oneida BESS (on land belonging to the Six Nations of the Grand River) should not make county residents suspend our own critical judgment.

  5. David Thomas says:

    @Angus Ross, safety was one issue raised. The other was the use of agricultural land. Safer battery storage would still have been opposed, since it too would consume Ag land. And if Ag land wasn’t the issue concern (valid or otherwise) that the batteries are emitting harmful electro-magnetic radiation would pop up as the next issue.

    It’s environmental whack-a-mole, and it’s a tried and true NIMBY strategy.

  6. Angus Ross says:

    David Thomas, the opposition was not against battery energy storage systems but against the technology being proposed for the three locations. If the proposals had been for non-flammable, non-explosive, non-toxic BESS then there would almost certainly have been little, if any, opposition. Those types of systems do exist, as pointed out by several speakers at the Council meetings.

  7. David Thomas says:

    A vocal county minority wants to tackle climate change – until it requires personal sacrifice. Battery storage opposition was so predictable. Some were in favour, as long as it wasn’t in the county! How generous! Prime Ag land seems to be the new rallying cry, yet the amount of land affected is inconsequential.

    Saying no to everything isn’t the solution. We all need to do our bit.

  8. Jenny says:

    Capitalist societies will never lose, even when considering climate change. Our social and political policies were not developed to succumb to worldly needs, but rather benefit from them. The capitalist societies have levels of control: those with power, those who think they have power and those who are too busy trying to survive they don’t have time for much else. It’s an illusion. The capitalists and those with power are already ditching this earth for another place, planet, galaxy… The idea of climate change is an illusion and too often it is tossed around by politicians because they know we expect more about the subject. My views only. Thank you.

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