When choosing between food and water, choose water

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The Potato Board wants a moratorium lifted on deep-water wells on P.E.I. Having expanded industrial farming into all directions of the business compass, they want to go down.

Jonathan Swift, a satirist, would call this proposal, sarcastically, modest.

Now, it is common knowledge that if one is stranded on a desert island and has to choose between food and water, a morbid game of Survivor, he should always pick the latter. Forget the potatoes. 

Lobbyists for the requests frame their proposal in terms of greater yields and corporate profit. Nothing wrong with that, except that the frame should expand to include potential downsides.

Aside from more pesticides, herbicides and nitrates coming our way, there is the fact that aquifers can go dry.

Scientists predict that the High Plains Deep Well Aquifer, a veritable underground ocean that supplies water for agriculture and domestic use for millions of people in seven States in the central U.S., will be pumped dry in five decades. Fifty years passes quickly; ask anyone who is 50. What will they do then? Eat cake?

It now falls to Premier Ghiz to get advice from environmental experts before granting such permits.

But, it's a bad time to listen to advocates for clean soil, water and air. Industry, and the National Conservative Party, label people who argue for a clean environment as dangerous radicals; they may even get their own files in a CSIS databank under the heading, terrorist.

The word environmentalist is industry’s F-word.

Also, people’s faith in this provincial government to protect the rights of Islanders is agnostic at best. How many chemical-induced fish kills have ravaged P.E.I. rivers in the last 10 years? Twenty? And who paid?

What has been done to reduce the weird Chernobyl-like cancer rates in West Prince, and in P.E.I. in general, the highest in Canada?

How did Plan A morph into Plan B, which straightened a charming curve along a Bonshaw highway and beheaded a forest so that goods (irony intended) from China and Bangladesh could pull up to a Charlottetown warehouse three minutes sooner?  

So the deep well issue is a serious concern. It is even a more serious concern for future Islanders. Most of us will be pluperfect past tense, if and when deep wells break bad and start to gurgle like a straw at the bottom of a Coke bottle towards the end of this century.

The real issue is not to roll the dice by plundering water, which will increase the size of industrial farms and the dumping of more carcinogenic chemicals into the environment.

Future Islanders also have a truly modest proposal: that the air and water they consume not land them in the oncology unit at the QEH; and that they may enjoy drinking water that doesn't have to come out of a plastic bottle with a fake image of a mountain stream. 


J. Blair Arsenault

Summerside, P.E.I.


Organizations: High Plains Deep Well Aquifer, National Conservative Party, QEH

Geographic location: P.E.I., U.S., West Prince Canada Bonshaw Charlottetown Summerside

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