St. Lawrence oil and gas well proposal has Farley Mowat ‘hopping mad’

Author: 
GLORIA GALLOWAY
Source: 
The Globe and Mail
Date published: 
Sun, 2013-07-14

There is no denying the amount of fight still left in Farley Mowat. Just let him get going on the “evil forces” who are sacrificing the environment in their lust for oil.

The writer, conservationist and conversationalist, who completed what he declared to be his final book nearly three years ago at the age of 89, is irate. A proposal to put an offshore oil and gas well in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will not go away, and Mr. Mowat is aghast at the depths of human folly.

Back in 1984, he wrote a book called Sea of Slaughter that detailed a litany of environmental wrongs in the gulf and on the Atlantic seaboard. The looming development, known as the Old Harry Prospect, holds the potential to unleash more of the same, Mr. Mowat said this week in a telephone interview from Cape Breton, where he and his wife, Claire, spend their summers.

“I was so appalled by what I discovered when I wrote this book, I could hardly believe that human beings could be so thoughtless, so destructive, so devilish, just plain devilish, all in pursuit of money,” he said of Sea of Slaughter. “It took me five years to write the damn thing, and I have never been able to fully reread it since, I get so upset about it.”

The spit and vinegar that surfaces whenever Mr. Mowat broaches environmental matters is what prompted those who oppose drilling in the gulf to enlist him in their effort – that and, of course, his literary celebrity.

The Old Harry is a 30-kilometre stretch of the Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland that could be the largest untapped oil and gas reserve in Eastern Canada. Corridor Resources, a Canadian oil and natural gas company, has held licences to assess its potential since 1996, and wants to drill an exploratory well by 2014.

The name Old Harry was taken from a settlement on the nearby Magdalen Islands. “The oil companies mistakenly – and I think this is wickedly sardonic – have called it Old Harry because they liked the sound of Old Harry. It has such a familiar, pleasant, uncle-y name,” Mr. Mowat said. But Old Harry is sailors’ soubriquet for Satan, he said. “They don’t realize that, what they are doing, is they are calling their company after the devil’s own domain.”

Mr. Mowat is one of the subjects of Tuesday’s season-ending episode of Cinefocus Canada’s Green Heroes, a TVO series that profiles environmental luminaries. Another is Mary Gorman, the fisherman’s wife turned activist who conscripted Mr. Mowat in her fight against the Old Harry.

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