Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the Name of Money...Thursday, August 13. 2009

I live in Saint John, New Brunswick Canada, a city of about 100,000 people. Although this area has weathered the current recession better than some areas in North America, it has historically not thrived economically as well as many other areas in the past number of decades. Many people in this area seem to have always put jobs ahead of the environment.

Recently it was announced that there would not be a second oil refinery built in Saint John at Eider Rock. This was supposed to be a joint project between Irving Oil and BP. There were some people that were really disappointed in this decision. I was not one of them. Saint John already has one of the largest oil refineries in North America only about 2 miles from the downtown area. It also has a newly developed LNG facility on the eastern boundaries of the city. Add to that two paper mills inside the city, two power generating facilities in the area, and a nuclear power plant less than 30 miles outside the city, I think we have enough heavy industry and pollution to deal with. Of course the people who were extremely disappointed at the recent news of the cancelled oil refinery were the ones that stood to make money of the project. From business contractors to even real estate agents and landlords who thought property values would jump, are upset the project did not go through. Many people in the Saint John area seem to have the attitude that if they can make some money then who cares about the environment. Actually this attitude is not limited to this area. This is the attitude that seems to be at the root cause of environmental issues around the globe.

Is there any wonder why some companies set up heavy industries in somewhat economically deprived areas? They do this for a few reasons. The first reason is that labor is cheaper. In an economically deprived area with high unemployment people will work for less, therefore the labor cost is cheaper for the companies. Secondly, people are so starved for employment and the economic spin-offs from this; people and even governments will often be more lenient regarding environmental issues. Therefore, large corporations that operate large paper mills, oil refineries and other manufacturing facilities get away with more in regards to being able to pollute our air, soil and water. People that are unemployed or work for minimum wage often overlook environmental and health concerns for hopes of earning a decent wage.

I wonder why Irving has set up many industries in the Saint John area. Yes, this area has a geographic advantage being close to the United States marketplace, but the Saint John area has been historically an economically deprived region in many cases. With that being said, the citizens here as well as the government often turn a blind eye to environmental issues with the threat of losing jobs. Also, many people here will work for less than other places in the country. With this attitude, this area will always be exploited and a few powerful businessmen will control the people and government.

I wish to point out that I am by no means against business and development. I am pro business, but I am against one or a few powerful companies dictating the terms of their policies to the citizens and governments. I am against companies that turn a blind eye to environmental issues in the name of money as well. Every company, whether high and mighty or small should follow the same rules and be treated the same by governments when it comes to environmental standards. Governments and industries should be developing clean green energy sources of power. Saint John sits on the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. Why aren't we developing tidal power in the area more? Recently, I had the chance to visit the Kent Hills Wind Farm a few hours outside of Saint John. Why can't we build a wind farm in the Saint John area to take advantage of the wind that often blows off the Bay of Fundy? I never hear too much talk of green energy in the Saint John area. It seems that a powerful oil company holds us hostage as citizens and governments. How much longer do we need to be brainwashed as citizens? We as individuals and governments should be following the green trail more than the money trail.

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