Power without limits: engineering our own destruction (film review)

Castor Inc. is a documentary by Jean-François Vallée and Thibaud Mony that exposes the dark side of Hydro-Québec’s ‘clean’ hydro-electric energy: Québec, once the land of rivers and lakes, has become a land of dams and reservoirs.  This documentary is a bit slow moving, taking its tone from its subject, the once-mighty rivers that have been reduced to a trickle, but it gradually reveals many sad facts: Hydro-Québec dams flood entire ecosystems, kill and injure fish in various ways, one violent example being grinding them in turbines, transform mighty rivers and waterfalls into soul-less pools, displace aquatic wildlife and generally mess with nature with no consideration of the long-term consequences. Hydro-Québec’s thirst for ever more waterways seems unending: in the past 15 years, the number of hydroelectric installations has skyrocketed from 106 to 174.

This film begs the question, what can we, should we, do about Hydro-Québec? We need power from some source; what are the alternatives? One response is, What is done is done. The existing Hydroelectric installations have forever changed the landscape. We cannot bring back Québec’s rivers, any more than we could release an animal born in a zoo-prison into the wild. However, there is something that we can do. We can save the few rivers that remain. And we can reduce our mindless, spiralling, overconsumption of energy, and live more lightly on the earth.

In the words of  Alanis Obomsawin, an Abenaki from the Odanak reserve near Montréal:

Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

Note: This film is available in French only for now.

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