Watt’s Happening: The Road to Hope

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

By Don Pettit

The Peace Region has attracted a lot of attention lately. We’re talking big energy here: natural gas fracking, new coal mines and more mega-dams on the Peace River. It all comes with quite a load of controversy, and the world is taking notice.

I have personally worked with or been interviewed by four documentary film crews over the last four years. They have all been making films about this energy-rich region, and how the people and culture of the Peace are being affected by this rapid industrialization.

Recently I talked for an hour on-camera with director Damian Kuehn, who arrived here from Vancouver with his two delightful children and Gemini Award-winning cinematographer Louis De Ernsted. Together (and the kids are included in the script) they are making a documentary called “The Road to Hope” about energy and “how we can balance our needs as a society with our impact on the earth.”

“Our goal is to make a beautiful film that encourages people to learn more about where their energy comes from, and where it might come from 20 years from now,” explained Kuehn.

So the camera rolled and I talked. I explained how BC’s first wind project, Bear Mountain Wind Park, was started by a local grass roots group called Peace Energy Cooperative, and how this coop paved the way for the understanding and local acceptance of wind power, by directly involving hundreds of local citizens (members of the coop) in the project from the very beginning.

The coop model for wind development, I said, works because it engages the folks who live on the land from day one, gives them the information they need to understand the technology BEFORE it arrives on their doorstep, involves them in the planning stages, and gives them a piece of the action. Anything less turns neighbour against neighbour and leads to fear and resistance.

I told them of the Peace Region’s 10,000 megawatts of easily developable wind power, waiting to be built by a host of independent power producers at no cost to taxpayers. I wondered why the provincial government would hold back this immense wind potential and instead favour flooding a beautiful pristine river valley for less than 1000 megawatts, financed with a multi-billion dollar taxpayer debt.

I mentioned that China has now become the world leader in the move to ultra-clean renewable energies like solar and wind, and how their aggressive move into solar has caused the price of photovoltaic panels (that make electricity from sunlight) to plummet, making them affordable like never before. I wondered why BC doesn’t yet have a “feed-in tariff” for solar (a special rate to encourage people to put solar panels on their homes and businesses to feed green power into the grid) like Ontario has had for years, like Nova Scotia announced last year and like Saskatchewan has announced this year.

And finally we talked of sustainability, and what that really means. In my opinion, I said, sustainability is not the big deal many make it out to be and certainly not a “sacrifice.” Driving a car that gets good mileage, growing a bit of your own food, collecting rain water off your roof, shopping at farmers’ markets, getting some exercise with a push lawn mower, going for a walk instead of a drive, buying organic, considering solar for your home, recycling and composting – these are simple actions that improve quality of life, save money, increase security, health and independence, but also MOVE US TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY. Don’t bother with perfection, “net-zero” and all that other fancy stuff, just get yourself headed in the right direction. Sustainability, I said, is just applied common sense, and common sense can change the world.

I signed the model release, and this film crew, like the three before them, headed off to finish their project. My heart filled with gratitude. These dedicated artists were putting so much on the line to get their critical message out, trying so hard to understand these complex energy issues and present them in a way that others will understand. They are worried about their children, and are doing everything in their power to make a difference. Am I? Are you?

Don Pettit is a director of the board of Peace Energy Cooperative.

PHOTO CAPTION: (Toyota Prius)
Driving a fuel efficient / ultra-low emission vehicle like this Toyota Prius is anything but a hardship, and an important part of a more sustainable lifestyle.