“The nationalization of energy”
The documentary Chercher le courant [Seeking the Current] is a very interesting project. Both a labor of love to document the gorgeous natural expanse of the 500-kilometer Romaine River in Quebec as well as a look into the alternative energy methods that could replace its forthcoming destruction, we are educated on a visceral and intellectual level in man’s ability to remorselessly carve through our environment. With Hydro-Québec positioned as an enemy to Mother Nature itself, the film plays as a liberal cry for justice against big corporations and governments erases majestic landscapes from existence. But there is so much heart going into it that one cannot simply dismiss it as such. The Romaine is beautiful—no one can dispute this fact. The question posed to audiences is, what are we willing to do in order to retain such magnificence in a capitalist world unable to help itself?
Newfoundland’s Churchill Falls was similarly tamed back in 1971, turning its cataract once on par with Niagara into little more than a drip. The numbers given to explain the decrease in water pressure is insane to comprehend and yet here we have another river undergoing the same atrocity. By erecting a series of four dams along the Romaine, Hydro-Québec looks to increase energy production locally and across North America while for all intents and purposes turning the river into an artificial reservoir. Flooding will occur, ruining the ecosystem for bears and caribou; fish will become contaminated by mercury levels in the land soon to be drowned, causing reproduction issues and poisoning a food source; and the many rapids currently flowing over the rocky waterbed will cease to be. Add in the destruction of Grande Falls and you have to wonder how the cost outweighs the loss.
Well, this is exactly what directors Nicolas Boisclair and Alexis de Gheldere and narrator/actor/Rivers Foundation co-president Roy Dupuis have set out to do. Juxtaposed against Boisclair and de Gheldere’s five-week trip along the river are a series of visits with alternative energy professionals. Discovering the endgame costs of resources like wind, geo-thermal, biogas, solar thermal, and biomass, it’s quite obvious that Québec has the potential to not only power their province, but also the continent at large. Exposed to twenty percent more sunlight than leading green energy city Berlin, the environment also has some of the densest and strongest winter winds in the world. Windmill production alone could theoretically power Canada and the US three times over. It’s a staggering statistic when coupled with the miniscule amount of landmass necessary to get the job done in comparison to the damming project.
So, Seeking the Current crunches numbers to prove how the potential costs of alternatives come out better in the long run. The government could sanction Hydro-Québec and allocate its money into these methods to save the province millions, but just like America mars itself by a sense of impatience, they can only see the savings of today. The financial strain needed to rework infrastructure will admittedly be much higher than the hydro plan—so much so that most people probably would shut the pitch down before they even got to an explanation of the endgame fifteen or twenty years down the line. When you look at the savings from solar thermal heating as almost one thousand dollars a year, you jump for joy and ask where to sign. But when you discover how much it costs to erect a system and realize savings won’t be seen until almost two decades later, all joy is extinguished.
Saving energy will always be cheaper than creating it and we can become more efficient if we’re willing to wait. Instead, though, examples like the Romaine show our laziness and need for instant gratification. It isn’t enough to see establishments like La TOHU’s mix of green energies or the reality of net-zero houses capable of charging the family car—we’ve ignored it all before. Give these guys credit for trying to engage our hearts and minds by the unparalleled human ability to experience awe. Our strings are tugged while gazing at the water, mountains, and animals, knowing no one will ever be able to shoot the same footage again. With construction on the dams starting three years ago, only one percent of the river flow will remain. Therefore, the film isn’t about saving the Romaine; it’s about showing humility to never allow such a travesty to occur again.
courtesy of the film’s website: www.chercherlecourant.com