ICRPS 2012: Renewable Energy and Contemporary Art in Baie-des-sables

by Eric Marr, 03/07/2012

Day 11 began with an early morning bus ride from Rimouski to Baie-des-sables located along the coastof the Gulf of St.Lawrence. It was immediately apparent that the long days were catching up with participants which made for an unusually quiet group; at least until dinner. The purpose of the excursion was to visit a wind farm up close and personal. We had the opportunity to stand at the base of the turbines which lent perspective on their size. The response from participants was mixed, mirroring the polarized public opinion around such developments. While some thought that they were louder than expected others thought they were quieter.

Once everyone was herded onto the bus we departed for Jardins de Métis. Jardins de Métis is a popular tourist destination within this area of Eastern Quebec, although seemingly unknown in English Canada. This large park incorporates gardens with natural spaces alongside numerous contemporary art installations. Here we had presenters on alternative energy sources with a concentration on wind. I found this presentation very interesting and quite useful for my role in the energy portion of the group project. In particular I found it interesting that public opinion of wind farms seemed to be much more positive than in the other provinces and that communities saw wind developments as an economic opportunity for an economically disadvantaged area.

Quebec also has tremendous opportunity for wind developments, however I observed three key obstacles to achieving this goal which are quite different from most of our contexts. Indeed, Quebec has very cheap energy prices which make relatively expensive wind developments economically unviable in some cases. Quebec also has an abundance of energy, and is an energy exporter to the United States, thereby making wind developments an opportunity but not a necessity. Finally, hydro power makes up the vast majority of energy production in the province thereby negating any pressure to change for the purpose of emission reduction.

Following the presentation we proceeded to the dining room for an excellent lunch, perhaps too posh for some members of the group who got confused by multiple types of spoons. Following this we proceeded back for two more presentations. The first presenter discussed a research project being undertaken at UQAR on climate change resilience in coastal communities. Following this presentation we had our very own Yakub Abiodun from Brandon University present on a project to develop an online tool, to identify appropriate community economic development toolsets for practitioners (http://choicematrix.ca/).

This concluded the presentations for the day and gave us the opportunity to explore the gardens, enjoy the weather, and relax. Groups had the chance to explore the grounds and take in the excellent landscaping and confusing contemporary art installations. In the end many people ended up napping on grass, relaxing on the patio, or posing on sculptures at the request of tourist groups.

This full day concluded at Restaurant Capitaine Homard, a maritime themed restaurant on the shore of the Gulf. This excellent restaurant included lobsters, crab, and other seafood indicative of this part of the country as well as the expected antics associated with wearing bibs and eating clawed creatures. After this full day we took the school bus back to Rimouski to prepare for the next day where we will get down to business and finish our projects/presentations.

Photos by ICRPS 2012

Eric Marr is a Master’s student in the Rural Planning and Development program at the University of Guelph. His main research interest is transportation disadvantage in rural communities and opportunities for public transportation within the rural context. He also participated in ICRPS 2011 in Norway.

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