Chronicles

Bennett Environment 2

        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 about.

        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.

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