The Stories TransCanada is afraid you’ll see – Energy East

Bob Smoker

Recently my work creating Along the Pipeline was singled out by TransCanada and their (former) PR firm Edelman as a threat to their Energy East project. The statement in question comes from a Reasearch Synthesis that was leaked to Greenpeace and can be found on page 11. It reads:

Image: Edelman Leak

I don’t know if I should be shocked or honoured that I seem to have the ability to ‘create an emotional response that can override logic and reasoning.’

Along the Pipeline has always been about the stories and opinions shared by people that I met on my journey. Along the way I encountered people that agreed with the project, disagreed with the project, and those that are still making up their minds.

Mike Gerbrandt

These documents clearly show that TransCanada was considering using deceitful tactics to attack environmental advocates, and also one of their key worries is the spread of real stories from real people. They would prefer to write the script for stories from a fabricated grassroots movement – with comments disabled – while attacking and silencing the voices and opinions of regular people along their pipeline route. It is clear that TransCanada is interested in pushing one-sided spin, and is not comfortable with an honest, open debate about impacts on communities and the climate.

Targeting artists that share real stories is the sign of a company that knows it’s losing its social license. If they can’t be trusted to engage in fair, democratic debate, can they be trusted to build a pipeline 4500km across Canada, over hundreds of waterways, enabling an explosion of tar sands growth? Or do we want a different future?

If you believe in the value of real stories then take a moment to watch and share this one from Nora Gould in Alberta.

If you believe that real voices should be heard and can help me continue this project, please donate below.

Along the Pipeline | Energy East Pipeline Photography

Energy East - Hardisty Tank Terminal

The Hardisty Tank Terminal, beginning of the proposed Energy East pipeline.

My latest photography project, Along the Pipeline, is underway. I am currently in Regina and I have been on the road for the last couple of weeks. My journey has taken me from Hardisty in Alberta and will continue to the East Coast of Canada. I have been photographing the individuals and the route of the proposed Energy East pipeline to find out what it means to Canadians and First Nations. It has been a great experience. I have met ranchers, farmers, oil workers, and foreign workers.

Energy East Photography

Photo session at the Gould Ranch in Alberta.

 

The project focuses on a series of large format portraits created on a 4×5 film camera. Each image will eventually be combined with a quote or little anecdote from that individual explaining their position on the pipeline and the future of Canada.

I hope that the photographs will create a journal and record of some of the people along the route and how they will be affected. You can follow all of the updates and the journey at my sister website, AlongthePipeline.com. From here I will keep moving east.

 Energy East Photography

Pat Wheeler, Hardisty, Alberta

Bright Future for Wind Energy in Nepal

“I have seen a bright future for wind energy in Nepal, because a lot of wind energy potential has been predicted,” says Aruna Awale, manager of the wind energy department at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.

From the window of her office, she can see one of the few operating wind turbines in Nepal. It is a small Maglev vertical access turbine. It turns rapidly in the wind that blows through the Kathmandu valley. It is a sign of more to come if Ms. Awale has anything to do with it.

Ms. Awale works on data and implementation projects, co-ordinates meetings and conferences, and meets with national and international stakeholders. She credits her work for giving her more confidence and a huge amount of experience. She especially enjoys the opportunity to travel internationally for different seminars, the highlight of which is often a visit to a wind farm.

Nepal faces several problems to implement large-scale wind energy, but interestingly, one of those isn’t finance with many development banks, institutions, or companies ready to step forward.  Instead Ms Awale mentions the complex geography and the insufficient infrastructure as the main challenge. The small roads, or entire lack thereof, are often not suited for carrying large equipment to high windy points. The spectacular but difficult geography makes studies and installations more difficult. In order to fully grow in this energy sector, this challenge will have to be surmounted.

Perhaps suggest Ms. Awale, one way to do that is to start smaller. Citing a recent implemented pilot project by the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Awale remains confident that wind energy will have a great impact on small communities in Nepal. In the Dhaubadi BDC of Nawalparasi District, 46 households are now connected to electricity by a small wind turbine. This hastransformed the village and made it the envy of neighbouring villages: now everyone wants a wind turbine.

“With small scale wind energy, thousands of villages can benefit from wind power where no energy is available, not even for lights.” says Ms. Awale.

Ms. Awale has been working at the AEPC for almost a decade and hopes to see some of the available 3000MW potential in Nepal developed, recognizing that it will change the life of many of her fellow Nepalis . For many a Nepali, the answer to electricity problems and the attached poverty issues may simply be blowing in the wind.

This blog post is part 8 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Jaap van der Beek, Netherlands farmer who harvests wind amongst his tulips. 

Co-operative Wind Energy in Ireland Builds Strong Community Spirit

Like many others, Pat Blount’s life changed on a barstool. Striking up a conversation with the individual beside him, Pat was soon deep in discussion with a representative from wind turbine manufacture Vestas. Pat proceeded to pepper his new companion with question after question about the wind industry and when he left that bar, he set off on a path that would change himself and at least one community along the way.

A man of the outdoors and the mountains, Pat always cared about energy conservation and the natural world. His discussion on that bar stool was the push he needed to take the plunge. He dove headfirst into the wind industry and identified possible wind sites across Ireland. One of these was in Collon. After checking the grid access to the Collon wind site, he found the landowners and invited them to join his business venture. Pat agreed to take the financial risk, if they provided the land and they would be equal owners of the business.

Initially, the landowners P.J. and Gerry were skeptical about this opportunity and this strange man who wanted to build on their hill. It took some time for them to come around to the idea, but eventually it was too good  an opportunity for them to pass up.

In the UK and Ireland, windmills are reportedly often greeted with animosity from individuals and communities because of beliefs that they are noisy and spoil the view. However, the trio has encountered no resistance from the community on the project. Pat explains, “I very much put that down to the fact that the landowners are real owners of the wind farm with me. They have extended families, all living in the area. In cases where big corporate entities move into a rural area to develop a project, be it a wind farm or other projects, there is huge scepticism. Generally a large number of people object, but when they know the individuals involved on a personal level, they meet them at football or social events, people don’t like to object to neighbours that they know well.”

“I was overwhelmed by the level of goodwill and support that we got. I remember the first turbine when it was being lifted into place, I counted about 120 people just sitting in the field, it was almost like a picnic, a day out. We ended up with a very large community that is very supportive of wind energy. In fact over the last number of years, I have seen quite a few of the small, 1 – 3 KW household turbines in this area. You wouldn’t see as many in a cluster in other parts of the country.”

Now, Pat, P.J. and Gerry are enthusiastically working on the expansion of their project. But in the meantime, these fast friends take an afternoon break, sitting on the gate in the sun watching the wind turbines spin steadily, silently in the wind.

This blog post is part 6 of a series of wind energy stories. Next week meet Nick Suppiat, a man on the verge of completing Thailand’s largest wind farm. 

 

I Love Windpower Brings Wind Energy and Identity to Mali

“If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say identity,” says Piet Willem Chevalier, owner and operator of I Love Windpower.  “On my first trip to Mail, I saw this group of people that were really shy, that didn’t want to ask questions, they had no confidence. After we made that first turbine, we threw a party and it was quite amazing to see how this sense of identity grew.”

One day Piet literally drove off the road, transfixed by a set of wind turbines. He couldn’t have known at that time that this incident would change his life. In a few years he would be bringing wind power to Mali where the poorest communities often pay the highest rates for energy.

One thing led to another and Piet started working as an engineer for Siemens wind. After about a year Piet discovered the work of Welsh engineer, Hugh Piggott. Mr. Piggott is the inventor of an open source, affordable, small-scale wind turbine design. Piet invited Hugh to come and teach a workshop in the Netherlands. It took some convincing, but Mr. Piggott finally agreed.

That workshop taught Piet how to build these turbines, and in doing so it changed Piet’s life. Piet knew that he needed to take this new skill and technology to a place where it would be most beneficial and he could pass it on. One of his best friends was from Mali and he figured that Mali was as good as anywhere else to get started. He founded I Love Windpower. Designing a course that was easy to teach, transcended language barriers and used readily available materials, Piet flew to Mali. In two weeks, he and a team of 10 people, 5 who couldn’t read or write and 5 who couldn’t speak any French, built a better turbine then Piet himself had done.

The windmills while deliver energy to the homes also had unexpected impacts. Two men participating in the workshop were from different tribes that for the last 20 years haven’t spoke. During the workshop the two men became great friends and now the tribes are talking to each other again. The sense of identity and ownership derived from this windmill project has been remarkable.

“This is something that I never realized when starting this. Even if this project is going to fail completely and they never make a business out of it – which I still believe is possible and just takes some more time – every investment has accomplished so much from a social and identity perspective.

Recent events in Mali have threatened I Love Windpower’s projects. Not only because of the military coup and the rebel unrest, but because of an impending food crisis. Piet recently wondered whether his little amount of money would be better used feeding people. After much debate with his team, they decided to keep the project running. They decided that giving these people something to be proud of and which one day may become a financially-sustainable business was deemed equally important.

Piet is now also working with Wind Empowerment, a group dedicated to small turbine development across Africa and the globe. He will be attending Rio+20 and setting up windmills around the conference. Some of his volunteers have taken the skills gained with Piet even further and in one case started the Tanzania branch of I Love Windpower.

As for the Mali project, it is too early to see where it will go, but one thing remains certain, small-scale windmills are helping build community and identity while providing much needed electricity to Mali.

This blog post is part 2 of a series of wind energy stories. Next week meet Amrit Singh Thapa, an engineer from Nepal who has a big wind energy vision.

Orthodox Community Embraces Renewable Energy in the Czech Republic

High on a windmill, hidden amongst the cherry orchards and the wheat fields of Eastern Czech Republic, is a painting of a raven with a piece of bread in its’ mouth. The prophet St. Elias the Tishbite was kept alive by ravens feeding him bread when he was hidden in the desert. This is the St. Elias windmill and it belongs to the Pravoslavná Akademie Vilémov, a non-profit Orthodox NGO specialized in renewable energy.

“Everything was given to us by God to survive,’ says Roman Juriga, director of the Akademie, “that includes the energy and the capacity to create energy, that is why we have named our turbine St. Elias.” 

Roman Juriga, is a devout member of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. He grew up in communist Czechoslovakia as an atheist as ordered by state decree. Outspoken and anti-communist, secretly he studied English, and secured entrance to an international English school where he received a better education. Joining the Orthodox Church he was encouraged by leaders to attend University to study theology. He objected: the government knew he was anti-communist and if they discovered him studying, he would be thrown out. The Church offered their protection. Luckily, just as the authorities got wind of his studying, the 1989 Velvet Revolution happened and communism in Czechoslovakia disintegrated.

After successfully completing his education, Mr Juriga established the Akademie, with the support of the church and Orthodox Monastery, in the little village of Vilemov. Through small scale solar, wind, and hydro power, the Akademie educates kids and adults about renewable energy and climate change. The reaction has been incredibly positive from all groups, especially the secondary school students. Many of them say that the information provided by the Akademie is in complete disagreement with the information provided to the schools by theTemelin Nuclear Plant.

Members of the Monastery and village are very proud of the installations. Additionally, several new solar thermal installations that were inspired by the Akademie have sprung up in the community, an anomaly for this area of the country. The Akademie offers free consultancy on renewable energy for other churches and church-related NGO’s. All this is made possible from the revenue from the 100kw St. Elias turbine.

Mr. Juriga has been instrumental in shining some light on the complicated world of clean energy bureaucracy in the Czech Republic. The approval process for small energy production is very difficult to navigate. Complicated submission procedures and reams of paper work protect the vested interests of fossil fuels, politicians and corporations. Mr. Juriga has become something of an expert in negotiating the submissions process and his successes have become examples and inspirations for others across the Czech Republic.

Wind energy in the Czech Republic is lagging compared to Western Europe. This is partially due to propaganda by invested fossil fuel interests. However, Mr. Juriga recognizes that it is a natural progression for a church to move in the direction of small-scale energy production and that it is essential to the development of a post carbon world. He also believes that as the Czechs look to Germany and see the rapid deployment of clean energy, the future will look different in the Czech Republic.

This blog post is part 1 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Piet Willem Chevalier, Dutch mechanical engineer, bringing small-scale wind energy to Mali.

On Assignment: Photography of Durban Climate Change Conference.

For the next two weeks I will be on the ground with Project Survival Media in Durban, South Africa at the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC. The COP is gathering for the 17 session of yet another attempt to try and prevent the impending climate crisis.

In an all too predictable way, acting on scientific fact to ensure our survival is being disrupted by money & politics. The rich nations of the world are trying to kill a follow up accord to the Kyoto Protocol and are insisting on voluntary emissions binding agreements. The idea that this will solve the crisis is laughable and the poorer nations aren’t falling for it. In fact, Durban might bring some interesting tactics, including an Occupy by the LDC’s. (The Guardian has more on this story.)

The lack of progress at the UN to solve the climate crisis has seriously disillusioned many people, including myself. But, when I see and work with the dedicated and inspiring groups and people all over the world working on this, I know we will solve this problem. For hope, I look no further then the youth at COP, their organisations and networks that collectively organize, share and create real change back home.

So, will the nations of the world wake up and put aside their differences and put us on a path to save the only planet we have, or will we be reduced to more bickering and delays? At Project Survival Media we will be reporting on the conference and bringing the under represented voices to the forefront. Keep an eye on Project Survival Media page for our reports, multimedia pieces and coverage of the Durban Climate Talks.

If you are interested in some of my past work with climate activists, click here.

Climate Oxide project acknowledged in Dutch Newspaper

The project I am working on with Dutch/Nepali artist Shiva Rimal, Climate Oxide, was recently mentioned in Weesper Nieuws (a local dutch newspaper). This project is a focus on climate change and identity in Nepal, Canada and the Netherlands. Marieke van Veen wrote a beautiful story on Climate Oxide & Shiva Rimal in a page long interview. This interview is in Dutch, for those interested, click on the image below or click here to go to the pdf file to read the full story.

climate oxide in weesper nieuws

Guest Post – Moving Planet in Nepal

This guest post is cross-posted from 350.org and written by Anna Keenan detailing our recent experience in Nepal.

I spend most of my time working as a climate campaigner for Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, however for the 2011 global day of climate action – Moving our Planet beyond fossil fuels – I have somehow ended up in Kathmandu, Nepal, with climate-activist photographer Robert van Waarden. I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to write about what “Moving Planet” has been like in this magical (and slightly crazy) city of contrasts!

Today, there was not just one, but three major events in the Kathmandu area.

Moving Planet action in Nepal

First – we were up at 5am to make it on the bus to Dulikhel with Small Earth Nepal, a wonderful organization who are working on many aspects of sustainability – from awareness-raising, to scientific methodological training, to promoting biogas in rural villages. Today, 100 people hiked from Dhulikhel to Namo-buddha Monastery – where over 350 young monks are living and learning Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. The monks led our group in a meditation on a Zero-Carbon Future.

Aside from philosophical leadership, these monks are also into practical action. One of the many interesting initiatives at the monastery is the on-site production of heating briquettes from the monastery’s paper waste and agricultural waste. These carbon-neutral briquettes are burnt in place of firewood (which is in short supply) to keep the monastery buildings warm in winter – and because the briquettes burn without smoke, they also improve air quality.

The second event Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, along with Kathmandu Cycle City 2020, organised a cycle rally with over 120 keen young cyclists participated! In Kathmandu, every intersection is a chaotic, noisy blur of pedestrians, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, taxis, trucks, as well as chickens, dogs and cows, all competing for space. The diesel fumes choke the city and many residents suffer from allergies or skin reactions. Cycling is not only good for the global climate – it could be a great solution to the local air-quality problem, and with no fuel costs, it is affordable – a big concern for most residents! However, the traffic chaos makes cycling a dangerous choice for anyone trying to ‘do the right thing’. Today’s cycle rally promotes the goal of Kathmandu being cycle-friendly within the decade – these young people are campaigning for cycle lanes so that more people can choose to cycle, in safety.

The third event was a fully solar-powered screening of short eco-films from around Nepal, run by Story Cycle. The solar panels charged the batteries during the day, and when the sun set on Patan’s Durbar Square, that renewable energy powered (despite rainy conditions!) a screening of 15 short films, made by young people, about local eco-issues in Nepal and South Asia.

These three events are just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say instead ‘just the edge of a great Himalyan glacier’?) of the Nepali sustainability initiatives that we have had the pleasure of learning about over the last few weeks. With so many different types of climate action happening in one place, and so many inspiring, intelligent young people on the case, a sustainable future for Nepal is looking more likely every moment.

Amsterdam Royal Gallery – Photography Exhibition

On April 9th, at 16:00, join me and friends at the Amsterdam Royal Gallery for the opening of my photography exhibit. This will be the first public exhibition of my images and will be a series of images exploring our relationship with the landscape and how we are impacted by climate change. Also in the gallery will be sculptures from Marisja van Weegberg.  

You can confirm your attendance and become a fan via the Facebook Event.

INVITATION

You are cordially invited to the festive opening of our
ROYAL GALLERY EXHIBITION of April 2011:

ROBERT VAN WAARDEN – PHOTOGRAPHY (http://vanwaardenphoto.com/)

Monument Valley and stop sign

A series of images exploring our relationship with the landscape and how we are impacted by climate change.

MARISJA VAN WEEGBERG – SCULPTURES (http://www.marisjavanweegberg.nl/)



Both exhibitions run from April 2nd –  May 1st  (Note: NO opening on the 2nd)

The Opening/Vernissage of Robert van Waarden will take place on Saturday 9th April, 16.00 hrs. at the

Royal Gallery – Koningsstraat 37 – 1011 ET Amsterdam – City Center.

With best regards: Emma Jean Brown & Janne Buurman

www.amsterdamroyalgallery.com – 06-20105650 – [email protected]