Here’s a really good article in National Geographic about the efforts to develop the shale gas industry in New Brunswick. It focuses on the partnership between the Southwest Energy and their leading edge environmental efforts in New Brunswick.
The Conservation Council has tweaked their concerns from contaminated water to the “industrialization of our rural landscape”. For me this was the main issue all along. The commentary made by some local people to journalists was they didn’t like the trucks going down the road. The problem that doesn’t sell nearly as well as Gasland and tap water blowing up.
Every time I mention shale gas I get pilloried here and even more so in the comments below my newspaper columns but I continue to believe that this industry could be a very important economic catalyst for this province and we owe it to our citizens and future generations to find a way to develop it responsibly and to the maximum benefit of New Brunswickers. It will cause some disruption – as does forestry, as does fishing, as does mining, as does wind farms, as does tourism.
In the end all economic development is a kind of trade off. I suppose New Brunswick could position itself as one vast forest with no industry at all. People would have to move out even faster than they have in recent years but it is one way to go.
I still think about that guy who told the CBC journalist that “I retired back here and I just want to be left alone”. In many ways that is the battleground that is shaping up in New Brunswick between an older population that just wants to be left alone and a dwindling younger population that wants to have economic opportunity here before they retire. The former is becoming a huge voting block.
The trouble with that theory is when I actually talk to New Brunswickers in their 60s and 70s and even 80s they mostly say “bring on the development”. My own mother (72) told me she would be happy to have gas drilling on her land if it kept her health care system in place. Even at 72, she is troubled by the state of the public finances (I may have primed her a bit….).
Last point before I end this. I get tarred as an anti-Conservation Council, anti-environmentalist guy but the truth is I see an important role for environmentalists in New Brunswick.