Changing horizon

The old Harvestore silo almost looked to be on fire. A red tinge stretched from its blue base to its white roof and smoke seemed to rise from it.

It was not a fire, but rather an optical illusion caused by a magnificent sunrise hitting its eastern face, and frost dissipating from a cool night before. The horizon was a mix of crimson, blue and white as the day descended on old Eramosa just north of Speedside. Sparse trees provided a subtle base to a sky without limit.

Within earshot of the farm where the majestic silo pierced the morning sky, three separate dairy parlours were in full swing, milking Holsteins, Jerseys and goats. It’s a neighbourhood appreciated, as most barns on our way to work lay dormant, their days long since passed, replaced with absentee tenants happy to roll in spring and fall for cash cropping.

We couldn’t help but think for a moment about the changes we have seen over our lifetime as we took in the sights. Granted these memories pale in comparison to older folks, who graduated from the horse and physical manpower to the convenience had by flipping a switch or engaging a machine.

Electricity and technology has surely made Ontario what it is today.

It is somewhat ironic then, knowing our reliance on and gratitude owed to electrical power, that so little effort has been made since the early 1900s when a Conservative government insisted that power be made affordable and available to all. A short century later, we find it puzzling that such a simple mission statement – cheap power for all – has been perverted to the extent it has. We keep looking for evidence of long-term strategic investment and planning, to no avail.

Of course, our views on infrastructure and the long term are hardly vote getters. Arguably they are vote deniers, since the public in general has little interest in the long term; it’s pretty much about today.

Where we see obvious distinctions between private enterprise and public investment, corporate success and community plunder, contemporary political thinking is such that success is measured in pounds of pork rather than long-term vision. Sound bytes and dogmatic vote getting promises have replaced pragmatic problem solving and long-term benefit.

Perhaps that is the most frustrating part of watching the wind turbine issue unfold.

Several factors have brought us to this juncture:

– promises to close coal-fired reactors without an action plan;

– the inability of successive governments to manage the electrical portfolio;

– the greed of Ontario Hydro executives and managers for decades;

– a disinterested, carefree consumer only caring that the lights turn on when needed; and

– a public that unwittingly demanded “green energy” without any thought of the consequences.

Thanks to the Premier Dalton McGuinty eliminating any purpose for local councils involving themselves in the debates over turbine field propagation in the countryside, hopes of a real conversation on the issue of wind turbines has been all but dashed.

Instead, Ontario will plunge ahead and the bucolic countryside typically taken for granted by its citizens will be scarred for generations by an industrial blight in our midst.