Beyond Seeing Red

(Editor's Note: Those transmission towers sure have got people talking! Here's another guest blog from an artist who is "seeing red" on this issue. What are your thoughts? We welcome all points of view: managing the watershed means all voices must be heard. This article poses many questions - lots of food for thought. For more information, please see: ). 

Beyond Seeing Red - Barbara Amos Art Projects

Do hydroelectric transmission towers bring out the worst in your area? Do you see red at the thought of them? There are alternatives. The next few paragraphs are going to outline ideas and forward-thinking questions that hopefully engage a process that moves us all beyond seeing red.

Cumulative linear development is one of the major concerns on our landscapes and watersheds. Transmission towers are a big part of those concerns. In a time when many places are exploring alternatives to the electrical grid, Alberta seems determined to go forward with technology from days gone by. 

The  transmission line routes add linear disturbances that negatively impact watersheds. The social fabric of communities  are distressed by the route selection process. The issue in front of the local community has been a yes/no and here/there strategy. The route selections pit communities against each other as new route seems worse than the last proposal.  It divides our communities.  

Whatever routes  are  selected,  these towers compromise property values, heritage landscapes and ecological integrity and the social favor  of the community. They are costly to build will add to your monthly utilities statement.  

Does this make you see red?  

Could we reject these divisive tactics and work together to consider new possibilities?  Let's ask what else would work; what else can we consider?  It's a worthy discussion. 

Image result for Alberta transmission line crowsnest pass

How much power is transported annually?  There must be averages.  How much power does each community require?  This should be information that can be accessed.  Is it to the benefit of our land and people to consider a local approach?   There are economic inefficiencies, as 11-14% of the electricity is lost in transmission.  Maybe we shouldn't be transmitting it out of our area.  There might be money saved in not having to move it along transmission towers. Perhaps we would not need transmission towers if the power stayed close to where it was made. 

Medicine Hat has just completed a solar thermal power generator in November 2014. Thermal energy from a parabolic trough collector field generates steam. The solar steam is combined with the steam produced in the heat recovery steam generator, and the combined steam flow is directed to one, or both, of the existing steam turbine generators.  This should be celebrated and set forward as a possibility for other municipalities. It has local considerations that are novel, since the traditional way of calculating profit does not help offset the damage to local communities, ecologies and economies. 

If we want to explore other models that place the land ie our watersheds and our communities  as the top priority, we need to consider new decision making models which are currently coming into effect.

Triple bottom line (abbreviated as TBL or 3BL) is an accounting framework with three parts: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. These three divisions are also called the three Ps: people, planet and profit, or the "three pillars of sustainability".   The City of Calgary has adopted this model of decision making, and other municipalities are also governing their decisions within this framework.

Perhaps some questions from the people in our province might open the doors to a provincial TBL framework.  How do we want to see the electrical grid in Southern Alberta  progress?  Are we building infrastructure that will last for 50 years yet it may be obsolete in 10 years?  

Image result for Alberta transmission line crowsnest pass

We already know that the windmills are not as effective as hoped.  There have been very few applications in front  town councils for the past 2-3 years.  Already the question is in the air…what will become of them?  Whose responsibility is it to take them down when they are out of commission?   Will we be asking the same questions of the transmission towers in 15 years? Can we begin to think of the full cycle instead of just the profit cycle?  This is called "cradle to cradle" planning and is a responsible way to go forward.  

We need time to enter serious conversations about how to change for the better. Let's propose and explore alternatives, share the research and fact finding. As a community of people, lets inform ourselves and make good decisions for a changing economy and a healthier watershed.

Submitted by Barbara Amos,  photo Red Alert, Seeing Red.