It seems that the controversy over the Bennet project in Belledune will
not go away. I am certain that there are many politicians and a few Bennet
executives who are, by now, completely bewildered by the fact that the
opposition to the project actually seems to be gaining momentum. By now,
they may well have imagined, the concern would have dwindled to an
occasional squawk from a committed environmentalist while everyone else
would have shrugged their shoulders and gone on to other things. Why does
the protest continue over what, by many accounts, is, in all likelihood, a
rather minor threat to the local environment?
Someone, a person who was willing to see the Bennett project go ahead in
Belledune, mentioned to me the other day that he was becoming fed up with
environmentalists who, in his words, were ready to damn anything that came
along. "Why," he wondered, "can't they accept the word of the experts?"
I tried to answer him by asking another question: "Why, given the track
record of these 'experts' over the past half-century, should we accept
their word for anything?"
Therein lies a dilemma for any politician who promotes any kind of
industrial project, and for any engineer or scientist who is required to
provide technological assurance of its environmental safety. We have been
asked to trust their predecessors as they introduced us to the wonders of
DDT, Dioxin, PCBs, Thalidomide, and a host of other products that were
supposed to perform miracles of one sort or another. We have been asked to
trust them while industries contaminated the land, the air, and the water
on which we all depend. Only when they have been pressured relentlessly
have they ever admitted that, indeed, their interests were sources,
sometimes massive sources, of contaminants that threatened, and continue
to threaten, our very lives.
The little shepherd in the old children's story cried "Wolf" once too
often. It may well be that those who would promote heavy industry - or any
project which has, as a by-product, anything which may be perceived as a
contaminant - have cried,"Trust us", once too often as well.
Collectively, we have been deceived and betrayed by those who have been
supposed to safeguard us for too long for many of us to, once again, make
a leap of faith on their behalf. I know that my gut reaction is exactly
the opposite of the desired one when a Minister of the Environment, or any
other politician, or industrial promoter avers that everything has been
considered, all safeguards are in place, and no one has anything to worry
That is precisely when I do begin to worry.
This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column.
It is reproduced with Mike's permission.