Redefining Progress and the Plan Nord

La Romaine Hydro Project – Photo Credit Hydro Quebec

All over the world natural resources are being depleted on the road towards progress. More, better, faster; these are the terms our society lives by, and this has to change. Progress is made to better our lives, the world we live in and that which we will leave to our children, we hope.

Evidence shows that like the plan to ‘develop’ the northern Quebec region as outlined in the Plan Nord, much of the progress we make is counter productive to our needs. We seek economic profit over health, general well-being, and contrary to what is boasted by the Plan Nord, sustainability.

Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress, speaks about this problem in Surviving Progress:

“I think it’s very important to make a distinction between good progress and bad progress. Things progress in the sense that they change, but when they reach a certain scale, they turn out to be dead ends. We are now reaching at a point at which technological progress threatens the very existence of humanity.”

We need to think about what progress means today, and what it should mean. In the Aboriginal community of  la Romaine for example, an eleven year hydroelectric project is underway to be completed in 2020 as part of the Plan Nord. The energy from that dam will be exported to the United States at a cheaper cost than what it will take to produce it. On top of the fact that Québecers will not profit economically from this project, and indeed may have to pay for it, they are the ones who will suffer the environmental consequences.

Loss of animal habitat and clean water, noise, increased erosion, and temperature changes are just a  handful of the negative impacts to come. The Côte-Nord has already recently experienced significant flooding caused by erosion leaving some families homeless. The temperature increases prevented rivers and lakes from freezing over, thereby not allowing villagers use of the ice roads leaving communities unable to hold traditional social events and making them more isolated than ever.

With consequences like these it leaves one to wonder why anyone would every call the Plan Nord anything but economically unfeasible, socially and culturally harmful, and environmentally devastating.


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Categories: Politics, Quebec Environment



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