This week the Belfast City Planning Board will again consider the Nordic Aquafarms project. Here are some thoughts to consider.

I appreciate the exhaustive review of this project over many months. I understand the review of criteria that are required to be met before a project is approved, and that the Planning Board’s job is to ensure that the criteria are followed and that the standards are met. But I ask you, who looks at the whole picture? Who looks at the total impact of this project on the natural world and our way of life in Belfast?

My concerns are as follows:

1. Climate change

It is widely known that intact forests help absorb carbon and that destruction of forests releases carbon. Why would we destroy a forest to create a carbon-creating industry? It is very nice that Belfast is using solar power now, but all of that carbon-neutrality goes “out the window” when Nordic fires up its factory and all the attendant carbon burning support it will need. Trucking in and out, heating, filtering, pumping and cooling water, burning lights, waste product management, etc., all are carbon problems. This project is not carbon-neutral, but will instead put Belfast back several years in its effort to be carbon-neutral. Remember, this project is about Nordic Aquafarms making money, not having the smallest carbon footprint.

2. Water supply

We are in a drought, it’s true! We have lived here long enough to know hat this is the new normal. All citizens of the world need water to live. Nordic's project will use more than its fair share of water for its profit. Yes, I know they say they are “growing needed food,” but really, do we really need this much salmon? There are so many other foods we can eat. Climate change is upon us and the old idea of “there is plenty of water" should not guide us now in our water use decisions. The clean water supply is not unlimited, water is part of the commons, we all need it and one entity should not use more than its fair share, particularly for monetary profit. Remember, this project is about Nordic Aquafarms making money and it needs our water to do it.

3. The product

What is this fish? It is not true salmon! True, wild salmon swim to the sea and back to their river of origin by leaping through rushing water beneath the sun and moon and stars and rain. They are an integral, powerful and mysterious part of nature, bringing parts of the sea back deep to the forest after their life in the sea. They are made of the sea and the deep forest and all that they consume along the way. To those who eat them, they offer valuable nutrition. The product that Nordic plans to create is not salmon, but is something far less grand. In so many ways, it will be far inferior to wild salmon, particularly with regard to nutritional content. All that a true salmon is cannot be created in a tank of circulating water with manufactured feed. Remember, this project is about Nordic Aquafarms making money by selling a product, not about preserving salmon.

4. Our moral compass

What do we value? Freedom, wildness, the great mystery? Healthy lifestyle, clean air and water? A sustainable community? Not for a moment would I call anyone on the Planning Board amoral. They are doing this work because they want the best for our town. But I ask, how do we integrate our values, those that we use in our daily lives, into this work? Our respect for life and nature guides us daily; why not apply it to Nordic Aquafarms?

These are not part of the standard criteria stated on the guidelines given to the Planning Board to follow. How do we bring these values into this very important work of deciding between money and nature? In my mind, that is the question here.

This is a big deal. The decision of the Planning Board will affect the lives of so many creatures, not just the people here today, but the generations to come, and, yes, also every fish raised and killed in the factory, every bat that will lose its home in a tree, every bird, every coyote, raccoon and deer that will wonder what happened to its forest home — and then there are the effects of wastewater on Penobscot Bay. It all depends on the decision of the Belfast Planning Board.

I ask the Planning Board and every citizen to consider these things during this crucial time of deliberation regarding the Nordic Aquafarms project. Overall, I think Nordic Aquafarms is not a good idea for our citizens, our city or our planet. We can do better; let's wait for a better idea! I am confident that one will come! A better idea will work with and be respectful of nature and will sustain us all.

Joanne Moesswilde is a resident of Belfast.