Real shocker from VTDigger: The large-scale hydropower dams in northern Quebec, which provide much of Vermont’s supply of “renewable” electricity, have taken a human toll on First Nations communities in the far north. And will take an even greater toll as more dams are built.
Because of course they have and of course they will. Each dam floods huge tracts of land. The Innu and Inuit people depend heavily on using their land for hunting and gathering. Their lives are being constricted by the buildout of hydro power, which is in high demand from New England states eager to meet renewable energy targets. Which, in turn, means that more dams are in the works.
By exporting our environmental pain to faraway people. Or, as Inuit elder Alex Saunders put it, “Think about what you’re buying here. You’re buying the misery from the local people of northern Canada.”
You put it that, way, HQ’s “renewable” energy seems a little less renewable.
This isn’t a simple issue. HQ is a major resource for non-carbon-emitting power, and will continue to be. But the lives of indigenous people shouldn’t be swept aside — especially when Vermonters are so queasy about the esthetics of solar and wind installations in their home state, and seem to want to preserve Vermont’s [ahem, false] purity at the expense of others.
I mean, just look at that picture and tell me that large-scale wind turbines are unacceptably destructive. You can’t, if you’re being at all honest about it.
One of the best books I’ve ever read is The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, a Canadian writer of Cherokee descent. It’s a brief, witty and painful account of how white folks have treated Native Americans as an inconvenience throughout their joint history.
And the First Nations people of northern Quebec and Labrador, whose lives were largely encumbered for centuries because their lands were essentially valueless in white people’s terms, have now become inconvenient.
This year, Vermont officially deep-sixed the Columbus Day holiday, renaming it Indigenous Peoples Day. A noble move, pretty much entirely on paper — like Black History Month. If we fail to consider HQ’s effect on native peoples, or if we prioritize our own state’s alleged purity over their lives and interests, then our Columbus Day wokeness is, in a fundamental sense, a lie.
Because when push comes to shove, we still view Native Americans as an inconvenience.