Letters – Our readers write: Autumn 2012

I thought In The Hills was just a magazine about B&Bs and real estate, but when I took a closer look, I really liked it and saw how passionate many people are about the issues in the area, especially environmental ones.

September 13, 2012 | | Autumn 2012 | Back Issues | Departments | Letters, Our Readers Write

The Art of Protest

The American artist Edward Hopper once said, “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” The Artists Against the Mega Quarry have taken it upon themselves to say – both in words and in their art – what has to be said about the potential desecration of our precious land. As I travel around taking photos of this pastoral and vibrant landscape, I am heartened by the efforts of those fighting the hedge-fund Goliath and the damage unto forever that it is trying to bring to bear. We shall fight on – not only because the cause is just – but also because we owe it to future generations who will not have a chance to fend for themselves if we lose the war.

Bob Presner, Mulmur & Toronto

I wanted to personally thank all of you for the stellar job on such an important issue. The cover shot by MK Lynde is gorgeous and, in fact, taken from our property overlooking the Pine Valley from the almost-summit of Ontario. Unfortunately, Highland/Baupost has selected the actual point with the highest altitude in Headwaters, making us also “downstream.” We can only hope your article helps to galvanize more Ontarians to speak up for what we hold dear – before we lose it!

Sandi Wong, Artists Against the Mega Quarry, Mulmur

I’m sitting on my porch with a spectacular view before my eyes – the cover of your summer issue. The article captured our little painterly movement beautifully. Including some of the OCADU posters was brilliant. (I feel close to those kids because I spoke to their class about the mega quarry and got to know some of them.) Congrats to Ella Soper on an excellent article. Margaret Atwood retweeted it to her gazillion followers around the world! After reading both the “The Art of Protest” and “Battling the Bottle” by Jeff Rollings, I am convinced more than ever that we will win this fight. Bravo! Jeff ’s story was chilling and put in print what so many of us have feared all along. Once those headwaters are opened up, the water belongs to Highland.

Donna Tranquada, Artist Against the Mega Quarry, Mulmur

Battling the Bottle

I was at the Orangeville Show Jumping Tournament on Sunday and someone handed me a copy of your summer issue. I thought it was just a magazine about B&Bs and real estate, but when I took a closer look, I really liked it and saw how passionate many people are about the issues in the area, especially environmental ones. I particularly wanted to mention the excellent, in-depth article about the bottled water industry. I have been following issues about the water industry and the quarry for awhile and kept thinking there must be some larger agenda behind just selling bottled water, or growing potatoes. The link behind the water business and Baupost Group’s interest in the water from the quarry really brought this to light. My fear is that local and provincial governments will allow these multinationals to get a foothold to help develop and grow the economy. Meanwhile the industries get control of resources, so when the public becomes aware of it, and/or the environmental necessities dictate water control, it will be too late, and any attempts at government intervention will see them sued by the companies who will sell the water under our feet back to us at exorbitant rates, or see it sold and shipped off to distant regions. The article clearly outlined the way the public and groups like the Council of Canadians see things, and the spin the Nestlé people put on it. I’m glad to see there is such good informative and substantive information out there.

John Nelles (by email)

As a Queen’s university nursing student 50 years ago, I was advised by a visiting American professor that someday the American Midwest would run out of water and come after us with guns if necessary to empty Canadian sources and to divert our rivers. Of course, it is plain now that they don’t have to make war on us; they have all the political and trade advantages to force this on us.

Nancy Oreopoulos (by email)

Regarding potential privatization of water sources, I once attended a U.S. Army course in Fort Huachuca along with seven other students from France, Italy and Turkey. We were wined and dined throughout Arizona, toured several industrial plants and met the governor. We also toured the Phoenix water system, where water from the Hoover Dam is sold to irrigation farmers by the acre-foot, and were advised of a local initiative to pipe water from Canada, the North American Power and Water Association. A Phoenix television station recorded each of us answering questions. The question put to me was what I thought of the NAPAWA project. I replied it was true we had surplus water at present (1966), but what would happen if we needed more water for a larger population and turned off the tap? I anticipated a massive U.S. invasion, and so did the interviewer. Under NAFTA rules, once we start selling a commodity like oil or water to the United States, we can never reduce its total percentage of the product. Selling water is not a plan we should consider.

Charles Hooker, Orangeville

As an Erin resident, I was very interested in, and enlightened by, Jeff Rollings’ article about Nestlé Canada’s controversial pumping of water from a Hillsburgh well. I noticed Jeff didn’t get into the financial details. My household currently pays $2.84 per cubic metre (1,000 litres) for our town water, and several of my neighbours recently had to fight for the
right to keep their wells in lieu of hooking up with the system. I’d love to know how much Nestlé pays for its water, who benefits, and an estimate of profits Nestlé enjoys from this division of its corporation.

Roxanne Rollings (Jeff’s cousin), Erin

Jeff Rollings replies:
Roxanne is correct. Some more financial details should have been included with the story. Under the terms of its permit to take water, Nestlé pays the MOE $3.71 per million litres, and nothing to the local municipality. By way of comparison, Roxanne would pay the Town of Erin $2,840 for the same volume. However, even at that rate, a litre of water from her tap costs less than a third of a cent, compared to the $1 to $3 she would pay to buy it in a bottle. For its permitted pumping rate of 1.1 million litres per day, Nestlé pays the MOE about $4.10, making the cost of its raw resource less than the cost of one Starbucks coffee a day for the corporation’s CEO. According to its website, Nestlé Waters Canada had revenue of $335 million in 2007 and employed 440 people. Its Canadian water business is only a small part of a global operation, and water is only a small part of Nestlé’s overall portfolio, representing just 8.9 per cent of Nestlé Group sales in 2010. The vast scale of the company makes it difficult to establish what the profits from Canadian water sales are.

Passenger Pigeons: And then there were none

Re: “Farmers on the f light paths of the earlier huge flocks of passenger pigeons welcomed their disappearance. When forest clearances deprived the birds of mast, they turned to devouring whole fields of grain, while farmers could only watch helplessly.” The last recorded sighting of passenger pigeons in the U.S. was made by Theodore Roosevelt. He identified a small flock in the early 1900s. Such was the former president’s reputation as a naturalist and biologist, that his sighting was never questioned.

Gord McIntyre, Caledon East

A fabulous story. If you are interested in seeing what a passenger pigeon looks like, swing by the Dufferin County Museum & Archives, Hwy 89 and Airport Rd. On display in the log house within the museum is a case of taxidermic birds, including a passenger pigeon. The case of birds was made by accomplished taxidermist Jeremiah Phillips (1814–1892), who was born in England and lived in Whittington, Amaranth Township.

Alison Hird, Collections Manager, Dufferin County Museum and Archives

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