Bioethics Blogs

The dirt on ‘clean’ energy: #MakeMuskratRight

Debbie Martin criticizes large-scale industrial and energy developments, such as the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, that are threatening Indigenous territory.


Nova Scotia aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This is an ambitious but important goal – unmatched virtually anywhere else in Canada.

Historically, Nova Scotia has relied heavily upon coal for energy and has had a poor track record when it comes to renewable sources of electricity and energy.

In 2013 Nova Scotia penned an agreement with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in which it agreed to purchase hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls.  This electricity, which is expected to flow to Nova Scotia via a subsea cable by 2019, is an important part of Nova Scotia’s plan to reach its clean energy targets.

Although setting renewable energy targets is laudable, and certainly needs to happen in this era of climate devastation, the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions must be weighed against associated social and ecological harms.

Muskrat Falls, Labrador (Photo Credit: Google Maps and Donald Atkinson, 2001)

Consider, for example, the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation project – a multi-billion dollar project that is currently under construction in Labrador. This project involves the construction of two large dams, the first one (which is currently under construction) at Muskrat Falls and the other at Gull Island. The reservoirs created from damming these two sites will completely obliterate 100 square kilometers of pristine wilderness. This land is owned by the Innu, and is upstream from where approximately 2000 Inuit live.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.