November 5, 2017: Muskrat Falls
I woke up this morning with a lot of questions rolling around in my head:
Why don’t we know more about the protests at Muskrat Falls?
Is it really that there isn’t much being reported in the West?
If so, why is that?
Or, is it that we aren’t really listening?
And again, if so, why is that?
People have been organizing against this energy infrastructure project for years now. Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls project is intended to expand the Churchill Falls built in the early 1970s. Muskrat Falls is a hydroelectric energy project in development that was touted early on as a way to rectify the historical bad-deal in Churchill Falls that piped billions to Quebec, leaving little for Labrador and Newfoundland. But, at what other costs?
If you go online to read Eastern Canadian newspapers, they are filled with stories from people across the political spectrum (it seems to me from the outside). A search of St. John’s Telegram http://www.thetelegram.com/search/?search=muskrat alone brings up articles about Indigenous protestors resisting the destruction of the environment, to those most focused on the bottom dollar. Scandal has erupted on all sides. Elders and Indigenous activists are being incarcerated for peaceful protest. These arrests are, to my mind, both unnecessary and unnecessarily harsh. And, for those concerned more with present economics than the future state of local environments and the global climate, there is plenty to read about related to the project’s soaring costs. Talk is that it may either bankrupt the province or leave Newfoundlanders footing the bill, with projected electricity costs twice the current rate, while Nova Scotia buys that same electricity at a fraction of the price. Is this history repeating itself again? Is this the expansion of Churchill Falls in more ways than one? Nalcor and the other provinces profiting off lands and resources found in Labrador and Newfoundland, the territories of the Mi’kmaq, the Beothuk ancestors, Inuit of Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, Innu of Nitassinan. It is an old story. It is a story easily brushed off, thinking it has been told before. But, has it? Or has not nearly enough been told?
I’m interested in the Nalcor Muskrat Falls energy project project for multiple reasons, including the fact that I’m looking to the future of energy and I’m hoping that can look a lot more decolonized than the present. But, as a project on the cusp of the present and the future, this doesn’t bode well.
I woke up thinking about Beatrice Hunter. I wonder how she is doing after being imprisoned this summer for protesting and then being put into the men’s prison in Labrador and later released.
I think about drummer Allyson Gear, who just over a month ago, stopped a bus of workers on the way to Muskrat Falls: peaceably protesting in late September, just a couple weeks before flooding was supposed to begin. Using music and drumming to disrupt the rhythms of capitalist production that has no time to stop and reflect on anything beyond daily, quarterly, yearly production cycles. Capitalism certainly doesn’t think as far forward as seven generations. Other systems of accounting are needed to think about gains and loses on that time-scale.
I think about the Labradorian George Cabot who attended Gear’s protest and is quoted in The Telegraph making a plea to “all Labradorians both Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal to come out and support on the protest line”. I agree with Cabot. These are shared concerns.
I think about all the work of protesting and safeguarding that is being downloaded on civil society, in small and rural communities, most often Indigenous. Why is it up to them to protect the environment that we all share? We all live with the fallout of these large industrial projects. The alleged comforts of urban life cannot entirely protect us from climate change. The air and water moves, through the land and through our bodies.
I think about Elder Jim Learning, who has been protesting Muskrat Falls since at least 2013. He’s staged a hunger strike. He’s been incarcerated. Last report I can find from this past spring he was still in jail, refusing the conditions of his release.
I wake up thinking about why I cannot quite figure out what is going on at Muskrat Falls. I know some things but I don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. I feel a little embarrassed. Is this on me, that I don’t know what is happening? Life is busy and there is a lot of information to sift through everyday. And then I remember feeling a little like this around Chief Theresa Spence’s protest on Parliament Hill five years ago. And only later, after much research, did I conclude that the media never actually reported in any clear way her demands. Rather than inform the public about the issues at stake, the media largely focused instead on her weight (a sexist dehumanizing strategy) and her potential corruption (one of many racist strategies attempting to criminalize her), undermining her powerful role as a political leader (Wilson 2017).
Has Nalcor succeeded in flooding the areas in question yet?
I wake up thinking, I better say I don’t know what is going go, so that we can figure out together, what is. Only then can we work in solidarity with our communities in Eastern Canada on the other side of Turtle Island from where I write this.