Our first stop was Queen’s University. We focused on the tar sands with a teach-in by Clayton Thomas-Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network. He talked about the devastating impacts tar sands extraction is having on First Nations communities. With contamination of the Athabasca River, he said, high rates of cancer are hitting Fort Chipewyan and other communities.
He stressed that exploiting the tar sands leads to violations of fundamental human rights. Producing dirty tar sands oil contaminates water supplies and dumps millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
After the tar sands talk, we headed over to the waterfront to catch a ferry to Wolfe Island. We cycled along the coast, the sky illuminated by the stars and the planet Jupiter. The moon was rising, casting a warm glow on the water of the St. Lawrence River.
The following day, we pedalled down some country roads to have a look at the wind turbines on the island. There are 86 wind turbines, in one of Ontario’s largest wind farms.
The blades whirl slowly, high above farmers’ fields. They generate power for people on the mainland, and generate millions of dollars in economic benefits for farmers and the township. Now the islanders are debating what to do with the extra income.
With finite supplies of oil and uranium, we are faced with a clear choice. We can continue sinking billions of dollars into the fossil economy, or move to green sources of energy such as wind and solar power.
After visiting Wolfe Island, I felt more optimistic about our future. The people of Wolfe Island have shown us that it is possible to transform our economy, making the transition to renewable energy.
Mike Buckthought is the national coordinator of Pedal for the Planet, a cross-country climate relay. This update first appeared in Sierra Club’s Climate Crisis blog, September 14, 2009. For more updates from Pedal for the Planet, visit www.kyotoplus.ca/pedal.
Peace and Environment News, Volume 24, Number 6, November–December 2009, page 2.