Hurricanes, earthquakes and home renos

I have found this one of the hardest weeks of my life to concentrate on the day to day.

I don’t know about you, but I have found this one of the hardest weeks of my life to concentrate on the day to day, and it wasn’t just the air compressor in the living room kicking in from time to time (a little home renovation).

First off, there was the earthquake.

Sitting at a friend’s house, with a group of us around the dining room table talking and eating, it was a surreal experience.

The ground was moving for long enough we registered it, commented on it, and everyone looked towards the mirror in the living room, watching it sway from side to side. It felt like it went on for ages.

As my first real earthquake experience, it was phenomenal. Even more so because sharing it with a roomful of people, there was no doubt what it was, and some of us were quickly on our mobile devices looking up information on the quake and where it was felt and centred.

Then there was hurricane Sandy, which has resulted in collections of photographs of the damage I seem partially addicted to. I am not sure whether it is because I can not register the extent of the flooding and devastation without visuals or just because in general humans are drawn to horror. I do know photographers taking the photos are gong to be looking for the dramatic shots, so the photos may not be a realistic depiction of the general impact, but they are compelling nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see what the long-term implications are for a country struggling with a huge debt load, massive unemployment and about to head to polls for a presidential election.

One thing is for certain, whoever gets the job as the president this time around will have his work cut out for him. This was true before the impacts of a storm on their financial capital, but will be more so now.

So my mind has been all over the map, reeling with the events of the past week.

While the truth is, with today’s technology, the world is smaller, making it possible to hear tweets from people in effected communities about the earthquake seconds after it happened, it is still a big planet, which makes it easy to become disconnected from what is happening in other places.

Fort St. James is at the end of a highway in north central B.C., far from the reaches of Sandy, far from the ongoing bombings and genocides of other parts of the world.

Yet, still, the fact the world media virtually stopped in their tracks and focussed on not much else than the storm shows how quickly the world can be brought into our living rooms and shows us how easily we can be connected if the will is there.

The earthquake also helped prove how even though we are so far from most things, we are all still sharing the same ground in the end. What happens off the coast of Haida Gwaii matters, and what happens in Fort St. James can matter.

This point was also brought home by the Fort St. James Sustainability Group, which reportedly made an impact at the Joint Review Panel (JRP) hearings in Prince George when they questioned Enbridge representatives last week.

It was a significant event which became a little overshadowed by natural disasters. Perhaps we should be looking even more closely at the hearings, given recent events.

Kandace Kerr and Brenda Gouglas, according to a fellow group member, were so impressive in their questioning, they received compliments from lawyers at the hearings for their well-researched questions.

The work the group has been doing has been receiving national-level attention, and this is fair, given the presence of a pipeline across the Stuart and Necoslie Rivers has implications for the entire province, and therefore the country, because the Stuart River runs into the Fraser.

So like the ground we share, so too the water we share, and water is the essence of life on Earth, after all.

So while natural disasters may have distracted us from the hearings in Prince George, perhaps it is time we made the very real connection between those hearings and some of the other things happening around the world.

While the hearings are supposed to be limited in scope to the pipeline directly, what about the broader implications of this and other pipelines have for our energy future, on global oil consumption, global energy needs and choices.

It is hard to argue with the importance of the tar sands to our national economy, it is absolutely significant. Is this the direction we want to be taking as a nation? Do we even have other options?

How much global climatic disruption are we willing to accept? How much will we be able to live with?

If we are willing to accept the environmental impact of the tar sands in Alberta, should we then be exporting the lowest grade product possible to China and then importing a finished product once they make it into something usable? Is this what we want to do as a country? And how do we share the benefits of this industry? While B.C. would be saddled with a pipeline through some of its most important watersheds and vital fisheries, is it entitled to more of the profits than it would receive through property taxation? The much-touted numbers by Enbridge are over a 30-year period, if within those 30 years, there was a leak, how much of the cost would B.C. be left with? If the provincial salmon fishery was devastated, this would be a major long-term cost to the province.

But what about our own moral conscience? Sure, China can get oil from somewhere else, and they likely will. But saying it is their choice is like saying you may as well sell an addict drugs because they will buy them somewhere else anyhow.

Why does our government not choose a direction like the German government, with investment in alternative energy to decrease the population’s reliance on petroleum?

The situations are very different, but at the very least, should our country not be having these conversations, debating  our collective priorities?

So all these questions and events are swirling around in my head as the compressor kicks in and out.

Hopefully your week was more productive than mine.