A common theme of this newsletter has been my concern we increasingly focus on the macro (where we have almost no influence) and miss the micro (where we have considerable influence). The media - traditional and social - that many of us consume is filled with content about the biggest stories around the world (and Donald Trump’s machinations) even though we have almost no say. It’s the difference between being in the stands - or even more so like being in the TV audience - than being on the ice playing the game. We need more players and less observers.
What do we learn from something like the senseless racially motivated shooting in Buffalo? How can we avoid getting to that level of racial animus in the first place. In other words we should be learning the right lessons. The lessons that we can apply on our little patch of ground.
New Brunswick is at the front end of an exciting wave of immigration that will strengthen our society and ensure our communities have the population and workforce to thrive over the next 20-30 years. But we haven’t had a significant number of immigrants settling here (i.e. ~1% or more of the population annually) since the mid 19th Century. There is no recent memory - no experience - with successfully integrating newcomer populations into communities. Yes, commiserate with those communities and places suffering around the world. Yes, donate to World Vision. Yes, say prayers for those communities. But also act in your backyard.
Same on the economic front. We have been too quick to outsource important industrial activity with environmental concerns to countries all to willing to take it on. In some alternate reality, New Brunswick could have been a natural gas powerhouse - to serve our needs but also to export to Europe. Who knows? We never even got the chance to see if the gas was extractable at commercial scale. Some of the most unsavory countries in the world are producing oil and gas and places like New Brunswick - which is not likely to invade Ukraine or suppress democracy or implement the most lax environmental regulations - are not.
In an alternate reality we could have been a fertilizer powerhouse instead of allowing that capacity to be concentrated into countries with despotic regimes. New Brunswick has ample supplies of lime and potash and a major oil refinery - which is required to produce the most common fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate, super phosphate and potassium sulfate. Yet, we export almost no lime, no potash and we have no capacity to produce hydrocarbon-based fertilizer.
I know many of you readers will have well thought out reasons why we are not a fertilizer powerhouse but have we really done all we could to pursue this opportunity? Did we create a tax and royalty environment favorable to the opportunity? Did we scour the world for companies to invest in these opportunities?
These are just examples. There are many more. After grieving with those directly impacted by the craziness in the world and do what we can from afar to help, let’s turn our attention the lessons we can learn in our own backyard.
Natural gas, and certainly nuclear power, are the stepping stones to a carbon-free future, and we could be leaders in both, but we hesitate, waiting for the perfect solution to suddenly appear. The manufacture of fertilizer is a major source of carbon pollution, certainly many times that of cars, and the number one key to its manufacture without polluting is a source of clean energy. Natural gas, or propane from the refinery would be an enormous improvement in the process, but nuclear combined with hydrogen would be the perfect. We are still decades from the perfect, and there are dark forces hindering the effort. The world needs natural gas to bridge the gap, and it is a safe bet that New Brunswick has a lot of it.
We have the ingredients, but we don't have the will to lower carbon emissions significantly in the short term. Electric cars are a huge investment in a concept that may contribute over tha long term, nuclear fusion will take even longer, and perhaps will never work economically. Solar and wind won't do any good at all past a point we are swiftly approaching without huge changes in the grids and clean stand-by power sources that could be generating that power in any case without dependence on the fickle wind or sun.
New Brunswick is certainly blessed with the ingredients, but presently we are afraid of the heat it takes to cook them. Your crusade to reach the reasonable is laudable, and I thank you for it. Unfortunately, you are trying to convert a society built on fantasy, not reason.