Southern media, northern resources

One of the tensions in northern, resource-based regions relates to the fact they generally have had very little control over their own destiny. This has been because the companies (and even governments) in charge of resource extraction and export have often been foreign hermes h belt from the region itself, as have been the customers. In more recent years, another “foreign” actor – the media – has also played a prominent role.

The big city media has had a field day with places like Prince George, or so it feels. From being named the crime capital (Maclean’s) to regular stories about the Highway of Tears hermes belt size chart men
in the national and even international media, it can feel as if the metropolitan-based media has it out for places like this. Complex stories related to energy development, First Nations self-determination, and forest management are usually boiled down to over-simplified depictions of yes versus no; pro versus con. Even worse, the mainstream media often portrays resource regions as stagnant or in decline, with their industries either destined for extinction or environmentally harmful – or both.

Two venerable media outlets – CKNW and the Vancouver Sun – both visited Prince George this past week and talked exclusively about the promise of northern BC. CKNW’s Bill Good radio show traveled here to broadcast in conjunction with the annual convention of BC foresters and Good talked about the forest industry, its evolution, and its growing need for qualified employees. The topic commanded almost three hours of airtime, with a number of local guests, including UNBC professor Kathy Lewis and me.

UNBC prof Kathy Lewis and I on Bill Good’s radio show

Prince George-based wood pellet manufacturer, Pacific Bioenergy, was represented on the show by Brad Bennett who was asked about the emergence of the wood pellet industry relative to coal, which is used in steel manufacturing and energy production. While the pellet industry is on the rise in this region, and has even doubled its production over the last half-dozen years, it will never replace coal. This region produces about 1.5 million tonnes of pellets per year, a drop in the bucket compared to the 6 billion tonnes of coal that are consumed annually around the world. The production of pellets here will, however, likely rise as governments around the world aim to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Interestingly, coal shipments from BC are also up. In fact, PricewaterhouseCoopers has reported that coal shipments from BC in 2011 were up 10% over 2010, with coal now representing 22% of the total value of exports from BC – much more than forest products and oil and gas combined.

So what does this all mean? For Vancouver Sun associate editor Fazil Mihlar, it proves that resource development, extraction, and export are critical to the BC economy and should hermes h belts continue to be pursued. Mihlar was in Prince George to promote the Sun’s “BC 2035” series, which profiles the various sectors that make up the BC economy. The last one featured education and training and included a full-page story about UNBC.

I toured Mihlar around UNBC and the Bioenergy Plant and he was impressed with the University’s appearance, programming, and potential as a model for rural/off-grid communities. He was surprised to hear that BC has more off-grid communities than anywhere else in Canada; that while being surrounded with biomass (trees) and other energy sources, they still require diesel to be trucked (or flown) in.

During a lunch speech to about 80 people, Mihlar gave a no-holds-barred account of what he calls an emerging BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) philosophy in BC. The “banana crowd,” he suggested, are quick to critique and oppose BC’s resource extraction industries, but slow to provide solid alternatives for economic development. Pipelines, mines, dams, and mills are critical to BC citizens’ quality of life, he argued, and shouldn’t be opposed at every turn.

So what are we supposed to do? Oppose everything, or let it all happen without limits or regulation? One thing is certain: northern BC is on the media radar like it has never been before. As those media increasingly tell stories about the region, I would like them to convey our knowledge and capacity for leadership in balancing resource extraction with sustainability for all citizens and communities. We deserve to be involved in a meaningful way and see our communities prosper; and not just in the short term.


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About Rob van Adrichem

Rob van Adrichem is a UNBC grad and the University’s Vice-President for External Relations. He was born and raised in Prince George and has been an employee of UNBC since 1992. He was appointed by former Premier Gordon Campbell to a provincial council on climate action and has been a champion of UNBC’s efforts to be a model for sustainability. He is married with two young children.