Re: Do you know of any examples of...?

Fri, 28 Apr 1995 00:12:58 GMT

In article <>,
>Do you know of a situation where a community group has come into
>conflict with a government agency or large company, and where
>both of the conflicting groups have made competing predictions
>about the future?
>For example:
> In 1983, a debate was raging in Tasmania, Australia. Should the
> Franklin River be dammed for hydro-electicity or not? Environmental
> groups claimed the river had high conservation value and further
> claimed that the dam was unnessesary.
> The Hydro-Electricity Commission produced a forecast of the demand
> for electricity in Tasmania in 1993. The Tasmanian Wilderness
> Society also produced a power demand forecast and arrived at a
> different figure.
> ( If you're interested, the T.W.S. overestimated demand by 6%,
> and the H.E.C. overestimated demand by 22% ).
>I am a postgrad student, researching social movements. I want to
>look into examples like the one above so that I can examine the
>notion that bureaucracies are superior producers and consumers
>of technical rationality.
>If you know of any examples like the one above (and I'm sure
>there must be many out there) please contact me. I'm interested
>in all examples - ie. regardless of which group made the best
>prediction and even in examples where the question of who made the
>better prediction cannot yet be decided.
>Les McFarland
>Dept. Anthropology and Sociology
>Latrobe University
>Bundoora 3083

Les McFarland:

A similar situation, as you describe, concerned the confrontation
between the Quebec government/ Hydro Quebec forces and the Crees of
northern Quebec (my people) in 1971. Both of them made certain
predictions; they negotiated an agreement, the James Bay and
Northern Quebec Agreement.

They predicted that they would build a hydro-electric project. They did.

The Cree thought that Hydro-Quebec would be placated; they were wrong.
In the 90's, Hydro-Quebec sought to expand the hydro project further,
called the Great Whale River Project. They thought that the Crees had
given up all their rights the first time around; they were wrong.
Resistance and doubt concerning the need for more gigawatts in the
United States lead to cancellation of Hydro-Quebec contracts.

Hydro-Quebec consumed massive amounts of research dollars forecasting
hydro dollars that never materialized; were they wrong? definitely.

My comment: Hydro-Quebec may use as much technical information it
wants as one of the biggest bureaucracies in Quebec; but it won't
change the fact that this information it seems has been "manufactured"
for political and economic (read "money) ends.

Parizeau, the premier of Quebec, announced this year to shelve the
Great Whale Project for another time. Matthew Coon-Come, Grand Chief
of the Quebec Crees, said that Quebec put the Project "on ice".
However, he also said that ice can be "thawed". I'm sure that this
battle will continue at some future date.

Your research should consider the political production of such
technical information, rather than simply implying that such
information is accurate or not. I think that technical info can be
molded to suit some future outcome; for instance, if you wanted to
increase the need for it, all the governments have to do is build big
consumers of it, such as smelting, mining or other industries. As
well, governments in terms of justifying something may hold back in
considering and producing new or alternative energy sources.

I recall at one time the authorities saying that we need nuclear
reactors all over the place if we are to meet our future energy needs;
yet when all the political "fall-out" lessened the public's taste for
them, this need mysteriously disappeared. Yet at the time, I heard it
said that there were not enough rivers to dam and all that; there
hasn't been any increase in rivers or dam building, yet everyone is
managing. I wonder whatever happened to all that technical

Bureaucracies may be "superior producers and consumers of technical
rationality", as you suggest, but they may also be inferior producers
and consumers of "political rationality", as the situation of
Hydro-Quebec demonstrates.

For more information, I would suggest contacting Hydro-Quebec and the
Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec). The phone numbers for the
latter is (514) 861-5837; (819) 673-2600; and (418) 525-4565.

Peter Coon
Masters student
Carleton University