As headlines tell us that Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest oil spill is now impossible to clean up and the provincial government promises to investigate the scope of  the C-NLOPB’s authority, my plea to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is simple: just build a solid line in your budget to provide real investment in the development of the sustainable energies of the future and the infrastructure needed for post-oil economies. 

THE SOUND OF POST-OIL
You can listen to Nick Mercer talk about the barriers to the development of wind energy in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the reasons it has strong potential. Nick Mercer is a PhD candidate in Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo.

The province’s last budget doubled down on oil. Whether we agree with it or not, we know why: it seems like easy money. What else would induce provincial leaders to keep the province tied to a form of energy that the rest of the world is transitioning away from? What will our workers do when everyone else is trained for alternative energy work? What will our economy of the future depend on? And will we be so behind the game that we have to buy the technologies and/or energy from someone else? 

Our leaders proved with Muskrat Falls that they can make a lot of bad decisions. We know that doubling down on a troubled energy source doesn’t work for the good of the province and its people. Economically, our leaders went against the grain. By ignoring so much scientific and economic advice that said not to move ahead with Muskrat Falls, our leaders have been rebels, of a sort. 

At the last budget announcement, when I asked about sustainable, low-impact energy the minister pointed to the province’s investment in hydro-electric energy—to Muskrat Falls. Large hydro-electric dams are not the sustainable energy of the future. All over the globe, hydro-electric dams are related to environmental, economic, and human-rights issues. We know that our leaders don’t want to count the human cost and that they don’t want to look at the reasons it was easier for them to build the province’s hydro-electric infrastructure in ways that disproportionately impact Indigenous lands and lifeways. 

Okay, so they’ve made their decisions already. But now that things aren’t working out the way they wanted, it’s time to listen to so many of the activists who have been pointing this province in a different direction. 

Our leaders are determined to double-down on today’s mistakes. But we can collectively lobby them to open up a different future. Some of us already are, but they need the rest of us to join them.

Can our leaders start to plan for a post-mega-dam, post-oil future? Just a bit? Be if we don’t we’ll be scrambling to catch up and struggling to pay our debts and make ends meet. 

Newfoundland and Labradorian politicians and leaders: you’re investing in more oil-based energy; you’ve said Muskrat Falls or bust (and there’s sure to be a bust); but what’s your plan for after (bust or not). Good leaders plan. 

Take an Indigenous perspectives. When making decisions, leaders of many Indigenous nations have traditionally looked back seven generations and ahead seven generations. Good leaders will ask themselves: will this be good for our children’s children’s children? 

I’d like to say to our leaders: leave us all a little something to build on when what you’ve been building  all falls down. 

Read more from the Post-Oil NL project. The third instalment in Bridget Canning’s flash fiction series about a relationship with Newfoundland and Labrador’s relationship that just isn’t working is here. You can find other fiction and nonfiction stories related to the Post-Oil NL project here.

All this started with a set of discussion papers organized by Memorial University sociology professor Barb Neis in 2016, called Asking the Big Questions: Reflections on a Sustainable Post Oil-dependent Newfoundland and Labrador. We’ve built a bunch of stories around the issues we read about in the papers: audio stories, flash fiction, opinion, and essays. (We’ll keep dropping new content every two weeks.)

If you like something you’ve read, let us know. If you’d like to write for us about an oil-related topic, send an email with your idea. If you agree or disagree, let us know.

I’d like to thank Barb Neis and the authors of the sixteen discussion papers for starting this discussion and for talking to us about their visions (or nightmares) for the future.

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Katie Vautour / Just out of Sight / Description: This image represents the blurred understanding and missed opportunities for wind energy in NL

ABOUT OUR AUDIO STORYTELLER: Rebecca Nolan has always loved stories. Raised on a strict diet of fairytales and greek myths as a child, she decided to pursue a degree in folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Through her degree, Rebecca fell in love with interviewing people from all walks of life. Now she spends most of her time making radio and trying to bring people’s stories to life. 

Michelle Porter is a writer and academic. Her first novel will be published by Penguin Canada in spring of 2023. Her next creative nonfiction book, Scratching River, blends Métis history with contemporary family stories and will be published by Wilfrid University Press in 2022. Another book of creative nonfiction, Approaching Fire (2020), was shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Awards 2021. Her first book of poetry, Inquiries, was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry, Canada 2019 and was a finalist for the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award 2021. She is a citizen of the Métis Nation and member of the Manitoba Metis Federation.