In the great north woods (part 7)

Day 11
We're within 80 kilometers of Fort St. John and the landscape has flattened and become considerably more worn. There are frequent road signs marking truck crossings, and the ranks of RVs have been augmented by trucks hauling timber and natural gas and heavy natural resource extraction machinery as well as dusty pickups transporting workers to and from the extraction sites.
For lack of a better spot, we're camped next to an old dump tonight and the yellow flares of natural gas wells dot the horizon. Many of the gravel pull-offs we passed today were marked with signs warning visitors of poison gas. We find out later that poison gas is unrefined natural gas. Before the hydrogen sulfate is extracted, natural gas is highly toxic to humans: just a few parts per million of hydrogen sulfide is enough to kill someone.
The land further north around Ft. Nelson was used for drilling as well, but mostly in the winter when the muskeg swamps had frozen and were passable. With the rising cost of energy, the oil and gas companies have started to use "floaters," large floating sections of road laid on top of the water to allow vehicles to pass through the swamps.
A global consensus exists around the notion that our current levels of natural resource extraction are not sustainable and that, to ensure the continued survival of civilization, we must learn to better manage these natural resources. But beyond sustainable resource management, the protection of wildlife and wilderness as is its own objective seems to be a more controversial idea.
As the enlightened few, do environmentalists have the right, and obligation, to guard what remains as untouched wilderness from use by the rest of global society? Would this conservation be in the long-term interest of everyone else and they just don't know it yet, or will only the global elite ever benefit from the existence of untouched wilderness spaces?
We, with our Patagonia gear and fabulous plans for outdoor adventures, are not the ones that suffer when the increase in the price of fuel results in a doubling of the price of the rice they subside on. We are not the ones that have had to sell our cars in rural Mississippi and hitchhike to work. We are not the ones forced to choose between paying the heating bill and buying groceries in the middle of February.
Photo: Power Lines (Isan Brant)

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