Let’s Define Renweable, Non-polluting Energy

It must be confusing for students learning new vocabulary words to see the terms “renewable” and “non-polluting” defined in such strange ways by so-called experts who are supposed to know better. If we want to keep each other well, we need to be clear on both terms.

 Renewable: Something that is inexhaustible, that is replaceable. Hydro power is only renewable IF the water cycle is not interrupted. Let’s be clear about the water cycle. There is a finite amount of water on earth and it keeps moving around in different forms. Here’s the ideal scenario.

 The sun heats up the water in rivers, lakes and oceans. As it heats up, surface water turns into vapor or steam we can easily see rising. Humans sweat and plants transpire water also into the air (less obvious). As the water vapor rises to the cold atmosphere, it condenses (changes back to liquids) and forms clouds. The clouds then move in whatever direction winds carry them. When there is so much condensed water in the air (clouds colliding) so the air can’t hold it, condensed water falls back on earth as rain, snow, sleet or hail. It then collects in rivers, lakes and oceans, and the ground (in aquifers and springs.) And the cycle continues.

 Dams interrupt the rivers’ part in the water cycle. Rivers are meant to flow freely at a natural rate and even temperature. When they do, they bring debris floating in it downstream as building materials for whatever lives in the river in the food chain. Free flowing rivers also flush out irrigation pesticides, salts, and silt to keep the river clean and healthy.

 When dams are constructed, the first thing they change is the river’s rate of flow. Water moves over the dam with so much force, it scours out riverbanks, makes it difficult for river life to survive. Water behind the dam sits and heats up to a higher temperature than it normally would.  Trees and other debris get stuck behind the dam and the reservoir gradually begins to fill with silt that cannot be flushed downstream. Over many years, the reservoir evaporates more of its water than precipitation replaces and the river begins to dry up. Eventually, the river carries less and less water until it no longer meets the sea, disconnecting itself from the water cycle, and leaving a dead space in its wake, dead to diversity, and no longer renewable.

 Eighty years ago, we did not understand this pattern with dams. However, in recent years, the pattern has been well documented the world over wherever large dams are in place. If our descendants are to have access to abundant river water in the future, we need to take care to protect our rivers now. New dams and hydroelectric power are not the answer.

 Non-polluting: Not harmful to living things. Recently, Dick Green of Rochester, campaigning for a State Senate seat called Hydro electric power a “non-polluting” form of energy. If the word pollution means to make harmful to living things, then energy made by creating carbon dioxide emissions from rotting trees and vegetation is “polluting” energy. If the earth needs a diverse population of species to hum along harmoniously, then what happens to the food chain for wildlife if deforestation for dam construction eliminates their habitat possibilities and their food supply?

 Hydro Quebec’s empty promises of cheap power are being used to deceive people into agreeing to subscribe to power that is non-renewable in the long run. Their NorthernPass plan will not only destroy and pollute the environment, the NP will limit our future water supply and subjugate subscribers to astronomical rates for future power.

 The Forest Society’s Trees Not Towers Fund needs to raise $2.5 million by October 31 to finalize easements that prevent the NP route from going through. One way to stop the NP is to contribute whatever you can at www.forestsociety.org/np or send your check to Society For Protection of New Hampshire Forests, 54 Portsmouth St., Concord, NH03301. Earmark it “Northern Pass Opposition.”

 

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