“It’s not enough.”
“Well, it’s a start. Oh, you mean the protest? I thought you meant…never mind.”
“Meeting here every morning for coffee is not enough,” he said. “What else are you prepared to do to save this special place?”
“I’m not sure, perhaps get arrested.” Miriam, who wouldn’t even stay overnight in the camp, had never considered breaking the law, but she made the comment in response to his condescending attitude. “The construction company is getting a legal injunction to force us to abandon the protest. If we don’t move, we’ll be arrested and charged with contempt of court. But it won’t come to that.”
“Really. Why not?” he folded his arms like an inquisitor.
“There are literally thousands of people all over the world behind this. Groups like Green Peace, The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, even Robert Kennedy Jr. The government will choose another option. After all, we’re influential people, well, most of us.” Miriam took a deep breath. “They appear to be listening.” That was better—intelligible, even well considered. She actually surprised herself.
“The way of war is a way of deception.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“They will appear to be listening,” he said picking up a loose piece of splintered stone, “right up until the time they plant the charges and blow the Bluffs to pea gravel.” He hurled the stone with surprising force and it disintegrated against the cliff face.
“No. No, you’re wrong,” Miriam said. “The tunnel, widening the existing highway—all these alternatives, they’re no more expensive. The Bluffs can be saved.”
“That’s a nice fairy tale.”
“But why would they do something that will cost more and cause so much destruction? It doesn’t make sense.”
“That depends,” said the new arrival, his tone like that of a patient school teacher with an interminably slow student. “If you’re the Minister of Transportation and one of the biggest financial contributors to your election campaign was Giffen Bros. Ltd., the largest road-building consortium in the province, it makes sense.
“It’s about payback,” he said patiently in response to Miriam’s bewildered look. “Or should I say payoff? Going through the Bluffs instead of around them costs more, so there is more room for profits and kickbacks. It’s about government paying back those that helped them get elected. Basically, it’s about two human characteristics that motivate most the decisions we make.”
“You’re not going to say love and kindness, are you?”
A benevolent smile spread over her teacher’s face.
Her stomach flipped. My stomach actually flipped.
“If only it were so,” he said. “But I’m afraid it’s more often power and greed.” He turned away, stepping off the rock platform, but not before Miriam glimpsed an inconsolable look of anguish on his delicate features.
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