It is. If the calendar tells the truth, it is about 2.5% of the way through 2011, no less, and I’m just getting around to saying hello. (Hello, 2011!)
2010 was a great year for me and my family, and an interesting year for the environment in Ontario. My daughter and I moved to a lovely little town where I got a great job doing exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do, and if anyone ever tells you that your job is unrelated to your happiness and you can learn to be happy with any old job if you only have the right attitude, don’t believe them. Then, punch them in the nose. Yes, some people can, but some people can walk tightropes slung between hundred-story office towers, and we’re not all expected to follow in those footsteps, are we?
My daughter is going to a lovely school with a teacher she adores and has a bunch of wonderful friends who live on her street, which is pretty much seven-year-old nirvana. We have a two-minute walk to her school and I have a fifteen-minute walk to my office, and getting rid of the commute has made a huge difference, too. Plus, I walk to work through a park.
You’re jealous, and that’s ok. Did I mention the little grocery store that sells local, organic food, or the local, organic butcher, both a five-minute walk from my office? No? I’ll stop. 2010 was a really good year for us.
It was more of a mixed blessing for the environment in Ontario, at least from the perspective of this project manager in wind energy. Plus: We have a Green Energy Act and there are proposed wind projects all over the province! Minus: if Tim Hudak’s conservatives are elected this fall, they may stay “proposed” indefinitely if he fills a pre-election promise to can FIT and put a moratorium on wind.* Plus: The GEA’s regulations are getting better and the process is coming into focus. Minus: That didn’t happen until late fall 2010, which isn’t so great for planning field work and getting the process complete in time for the Commercial Operation Date deadlines. Plus: David Miller in Toronto put a $0.05 fee on plastic bags, which had a dramatic impact on their consumption. Minus: Rob Ford was elected, and he’s promising to scrap it. Plus: Ontario actually shut down four coal generators–the first jurisdiction in North America and one of the first in the world to be able to do so, partially as a result of new green energy construction.
Apparently Ontario’s coal shut-down is the largest climate-change mitigation project in North America. Eat your heart out, California.
More narrowly for wind energy, 2010 was a year of tremendous growth as the Ontario Power Authority approved 1530 contracts under the Feet-In Tariff program.** If they all go ahead, that would make 1530 MW of new wind generation, equivalent to >3 of Ontario’s coal generating stations. It thrills me to be involved in that.
More in line with the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” is 2011’s election and its potential to change, upset, or derail all of those wind projects. Here’s hoping Hudak is just pandering for votes with a promise he has no intention of delivering on–I’m not sure how he could, anyway–or even better, that he loses. The end of the world, Dear Readers, is no time to be aiming for the Lowest Common Denominator and promising negligible tax breaks in exchange for a future of ecological and economic ruin.
Not that that’s ever stopped anyone before. See: Easter Island.
Working in the environmental field does not often give one grounds for cheery optimism. Most often, one is trying to squeeze lemonade from rotting limes: “Hey, so Copenhagen didn’t work out. We still have a few years left to mitigate climate change to the point where only millions people will die this century from climate change. We can do it!” This year–though we are still very much in rotting-limes-t0-lemonade territory–I felt optimistic about environmental progress and my role in it for the first time in many, many years. We are actually building enough renewable energy to shut down coal. It can be done. And I can help do it.
And so can you, by knowing enough not to be duped by cynical politicians who will tell you that it can’t.
*Note: Those bulldozed municipalities were, in the main, quite happy for the province to take over that decision-making function when they passed the GEA because the municipalities wanted to approve the wind farms but politically it was too difficult. They may be making a lot of noise now about how unfair it is, mostly to appease their constituents, but I’m not sure they actually want the authority back.
** 58 of which are for wind, and 10 of which I am managing under REA. Good god.