By John Hopkins (guest opinion)
I read Alan Holman’s June 21st, 2014, letter to the Guardian "Is the Island too tiny to embrace change?” with interest.
After digesting these comments, I don’t understand why some Islanders still cannot fathom that the P.E.I. has gone past its environmental breaking point in producing “biggie” fries for the Irvings. The place is a disaster for anyone with eyes: the rivers filled with silt, bees almost all but gone, hundreds of thousands of trout and salmon dead, incredibly high cancer rates likely linked to tons of pesticides being released into the air, putrid nitrates in people’s wells, entire shell fish operations wiped out, sickly green bays and estuaries, and yet … this is the necessary cost of doing business?
And are we as Holman suggests - in his criticism of Islanders as shallow beings incapable of understanding “progress” - to follow his advice and take all of this to the next level of catastrophe by supporting the Irving’s insatiable greed and their fist pounding for more deep water wells? How many billions do they need anyway?
What we really need is a new model to define progress that does not include making Islanders hostage to the Irving model of doing business. Their whipping threats against Islanders to obey them or else, in addition to the 38 mega wells that already exist - if granted - will aggravate this sickly problem to the extreme.
And we are to beg Cavendish Farms not to leave, while bankrupting our fast disappearing family farms? Even relatively small-scale traditional potato farmers like the Bests of Tryon are being booted out under the Irving model robustly supported by the P.E.I. Potato Board.
The exodus of the Irvings and their vertically integrated business model, and the backward local mindset supporting them, is actually the most welcome and immediate and long-term news to begin to address these problems with real and implementable solutions.
On the contrary, Islanders are not naive, hicks, backward, or wanting in their desire to protect the only fragile source of water we have - the same groundwater the Irvings and their servants are after. Their mega-wells will suck the land dry when we need it the most - for our homes. Holman's recent article is revealing of everything which is truly regressive in this Province in seeing that Islanders, now and in time their grandchildren, can ever sensibly take back our environment — let alone
vast ranges of once healthy Island land currently under the Irving’s control or ownership.
The absentee landlords have truly returned to P.E.I. as we celebrate 150 years and Confederation which permitted Islanders to reclaim and farm it for themselves in the first place. Truly forward thinking, at this point in our history, would see Islanders making progress to reverse this obvious damage around us, while pursing and developing other economic models, such as happening in California which has fully gone after the exploding global health food market and billions up for grabs.
What goes across the minds of Islanders when they see these products with whole sections devoted to them for sale at Superstore and Sobeys - an Irving company? The only thing backwards in P.E.I. are those who cannot develop or envision anything new other than the existing and very tired, old, and incredibly toxic economic mono-culture model which is frankly “done."
John Hopkins is a media producer/writer living in Breadalbane. Hopkins was hired by CTV’s W5 to investigate and research the situation for the documentary episode “The Perfect Potato.”