The Road to Hope — Part 3: Hudson’s Hope

Our trip to Hudson’s Hope to learn about the Site C dam.

Damian Kuehn
Dec 12, 2017 · 6 min read

Four years ago I decided to travel across Northern British Columbia with my two kids and a veteran cinematographer to learn more about where our energy comes from. Along the way, we spoke to local residents about the ways their communities are being impacted for better or for worse.

Hudson’s Hope

The next morning, we visited the home of Gwen Johanssen, the mayor of Hudson’s Hope. Gwen was warm and welcoming, and our conversation flowed easily. Her pride in her home and community were evident, and she was clearly passionate about living so close to nature, and the value of the ecosystem in and around the Peace River that flowed behind her home. As with many other local residents and farmers, her property was in close proximity to the Peace River.

The Peace River Valley, near Hudson’s Hope, BC

Construction for the Site C Dam would force these residents to leave their properties, as the entire area was to be inundated to create a basin for the dam. Gwen talked to us about the effect this would have on local wildlife and flora, in addition to losing some of the most fertile farmland in the province. Hudson’s Hope already encompasses two of the province’s largest dams, and there is a great deal of debate over whether the energy from this latest dam is needed and, furthermore, whether it is worth the $9–12 billion price tag that will be passed on to taxpayers. Gwen also had similar concerns that we’d heard in Kitimat and Dawson Creek about temporary workers living in work camps rather than being integrated into the community, offering little hope that they might stay long term and contribute to population growth in the area.

Overlooking the existing Bennett Dam in Hudson’s Hope

When we were done, Gwen took us to an event that she had heard was taking place that weekend: a retreat for local youth and elders put on by the local Indigenous band. She knew the organizers and was kind enough to introduce us. The event took place on a plateau overlooking the Peace River, and indeed there were many multi-generational families taking part, not only Indigenous, but those of European descent as well. There were art activities, music, and storytelling, in addition to a sweat lodge. It struck me that the Indigenous and European communities in this area seemed to be much more unified than any other region we had visited on our journey, perhaps drawn together by their common dependence on the Peace River. Although both communities saw different reasons for preserving the river — the non-Indigenous community depended on it for farming, and the Indigenous community for cultural significance and access to wildlife for hunting — everyone seemed to agree that it was necessary to their way of life, and they managed to find a way to share the land and coexist.

Before leaving the area, we followed the highway along the river, one that would have been perfect for filming a car commercial, until we found a vantage point to capture some of the lush landscapes and farmland on both sides of the river. We did a bit more off-roading in our rental van, at one point scaring a deer that was perched on a plateau overlooking the river. After grabbing some final footage, we made our way back to town, and the following day started our trip back home.

Louis with our camera, the Peace River Valley in the background

Homeward bound

Tunnel near Ashcroft, BC

Reflections

I came back from my trip to B.C.’s north inspired and wanting to make a tangible change. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I want to find a way to make ordinary people look at their individual energy consumption, and empower them to change our current course toward catastrophic climate change. It’s easy to say: “Let’s not have any more pipelines, let’s not frack, let’s not flood any more valleys,” but how can we make this a reality?

I also realize that I am part of the problem. Although travel by car has a much smaller impact than flying, and electric cars were not an option at the time, I nonetheless traveled nearly 5,000 kilometres by automobile, spewing additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Despite many mistakes made along the way, I’m very happy that I made the journey. I learned a great deal about the issues and got to share a memorable experience with my kids. I’m sure it’s an experience that they won’t soon forget. I do wish that we had been able to take time to capture more images and had been able to speak to more people.

Shortly after returning home, I started a new in-house role and realized that I would not be able to complete the documentary as I had originally imagined it. I struggled for a long time with what to do with the material — I felt a responsibility to share the information with the world. These are, after all, issues with which we continue to struggle. Finally, after taking a long time away, I returned to the material and managed to pull it together in a way that felt cohesive and, hopefully, interesting.

Read about our adventures as we traveled to Kitimat and Dawson Creek.

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The Road to Hope

My journey across northern British Columbia with my two…

The Road to Hope

My journey across northern British Columbia with my two kids to learn about where our energy comes from and talk to some locals along the way.

Damian Kuehn

Written by

Commercial photo and video producer. Design and music lover. General people person.

The Road to Hope

My journey across northern British Columbia with my two kids to learn about where our energy comes from and talk to some locals along the way.