The deep geological repository (DGR) debate, like the water debate, needs to be something that starts from the ground up.
Those were the closing words by keynote speaker Maude Barlow to the 472 people at the Great Lakes Need Great Friends meeting hosted by Save Our Saugeen Shores (SOS) at The Plex in Port Elgin Thursday night.
Barlow, the national chairperson for the Council of Canadians and former United Nations senior advisor on water made a stop in Saugeen Shores Thursday night, as part of a seven-city tour speaking in defense of the Great Lakes.
SOS has been clear in its stance for the health of the Great Lakes basin since the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s DGR Site Selection Process began in the community two years ago. And so, last night, the group invited Barlow and a panel of five speakers to highlight issues surrounding the Great Lakes such as low water levels, the threat of nuclear waste disposal and increasing pollution.
The standing room only crowd heard from Mary Muter of Sierra Club Canada, Saugeen First Nation’s Chief Randall Kahgee, Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley and Municipality of Brockton councillor Chris Peabody.
“We are literally over-extracting our rivers to death and we are now mining our ground water using technology that didn’t exist before the 1950s that certainly has been widely improved in terms of how much water it can extract,” Barlow explained. “One global study tells us we are doubling the ground water takings every 20 years around the world.”
This results in the pulling up of ancient water that is being used faster than it can be replenished. Barlow said there are studies done by water intensive companies, such as bottled water companies, which have said by 2030, the demand for water in our world will outstrip supply by 40 per cent.
Barlow, and members of the panel touched on Great Lakes intrusions such as fracking, tar sands, pipelines and crude oil transfers across the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence.
“Now of course, we have the threat of nuclear waste… and this comes straight to the shores of our Great Lakes,” she said, crediting SOS for their efforts in making a stand against the DGR. “I don’t know how to say this other than… this is an act of insanity, this would be a crime against future generations, this is a crime against nature.”
Barlow said the DGR debate is not a left-right issue, but rather an issue of common sense, of survival. “We know what’s in this nuclear waste… and to even conceive burying it within one kilometre of these lakes is absolutely the most terrible idea I can think of,” she said.
Kahgee explained that his people’s language, culture, ceremonies and their very identity all relate to the water.
“So when I see the struggles that we are enduring with our water right now… I cannot help but think that it is a piece of us that is dying with it because of that relationship,” he said. “It’s that profound.
As for the nuclear waste that is already situated at Bruce Power site, Barlow said it is just going to have to stay there.
“You talk to scientists who say we don’t have the technology yet, and we may never, but the safest thing you can do… is to leave it where it is,” she concluded. “We are going to have to rethink our energy policy, all of us collectively.
“Nobody is putting the blame on the nuclear industry or the fossil fuel industry. We all became addicted to these energy sources, but we know that they are hurting us and particularly water.”