Through 48 years of development and policy work – eleven of them as Canadian ambassador to several Africa countries, and the last eleven as adjunct professor at Carleton and Queen’s – I have been convinced that the world faces an environmental crisis. The last thing I could imagine myself doing was, and is, to speak out against Green Energy.
Instead, I was at the forefront of those sent abroad by Canada to encourage democracy, human rights, the rule of law, transparency in business and government – and protection of the environment.
Now I am at home, teaching what I have learned to graduate students, and living on Amherst Island near Kingston. Yet even here, the issues of governance, sound policy and the environment are at the forefront – and are often overlooked or misjudged in pursuit of political and financial goals.
Yes, Amherst Island faces a calamity of governance and environmental policy. Ontario government approval has been given for the Island to become a 26-turbine wind farm. On an island no longer than 20 km and 7 km wide, this massive installation is to be pressed through despite the strong opposition of expert naturalists, environmentalists and the majority of the island’s 450 residents – very few of whom (no one knows the number because the question has never been asked) – want to see this jewel of migratory birds, natural beauty and historic heritage destroyed by what is apparently a moneymaking scheme designed by generating companies to attract and exist on government subsidies. In our hitherto-close Island community, only the few who have succumbed to opaque, secretly-negotiated offers will benefit: in return for the proverbial mess of pottage, (we are told, less than $10,000 a year) they would destroy their own heritage and that of their neighbours by accepting wind turbines on their land.
Decisions have been made which could be understood in many of the African countries in which I have worked, but in the Canadian context, seem dramatically out of place and counter-productive. A money-making scheme has been dressed up as pursuit of a noble environmental goal; a fiercely committed but far from wealthy group of Islanders and friends are pitted against substantial corporations with incomparable legal and financial resources and the promise of tax-payer subsidies. The result of this uneven battle could indeed be the destruction of the very environment that green energy is designed to preserve.
All this would appear to leave the Island community and the Island at the mercy of a provincial process which in itself is unbalanced, if not faulty. Many studies and indeed judicial findings have suggested that Ontario has a surfeit of electricity; that taxpayers’ subsidies for green energy to produce yet more electricity are misguided; and that destruction of the environment through construction of new docks and roads, a cement plant next to the public school, heavy traffic loads which our lanes cannot bear, knocking down 150-year old dry stone walls and other heritage – all are being pursued over the strenuous objection of residents and despite evidence of clear and lasting harm to the very environment green energy is supposed to protect.
Thus, though green energy is essential, and environmental concerns must be pre-eminent, the pursuit of provincial political objectives through robbing Canadians and Ontario of a valuable natural assets requires forceful public comment – not only from those immediately affected, but from those who are making the decisions and allowing it to happen.
I am compelled to speak out. I hope you will join me.
John Schram Amb (ret) John R Schram BA MA JD LLD Senior Fellow, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Senior Fellow, Queen’s Centre for International and Defence Policy
About John Schram:
In his 36 years with the Department of Foreign Affairs, John Schram served in Nigeria and London, then worked actively in the South African struggle against apartheid and the transition to democracy. He was Director for Eastern and Southern Africa during the first South African elections and Canada’s participation in the Somalia UNITAF operation. From 1994 through 1998, he was high commissioner to Ghana and Sierra Leone and ambassador to Togo and Liberia; He was Canada’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and the Organization of African Unity from 1998 to 2002; and ambassador to Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana from 2002 to 2005. He holds a law degree from the University of Toronto, and an MA in African Studies and honorary LLD from the University of Ghana. He now focuses on conflict resolution, peace building and development as Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, and the Queen’s Centre for International Relations at Queen’s University in Kingston.