Saturday, 19 April 2008

A snowy day...

In contrast to last weekend's summer-like temperatures, this weekend we are getting a Spring snowstorm. It's not that bad where I live, but some areas of the province are getting 10-20 cms of snow. I'm grateful for it actually, because it has been a pretty dry Spring so far.

So I'm doing inside things today, which I don't mind a bit either. Some bread-baking, some soupstock-making, and some regular Saturday things like dusting, laundry and book-keeping. And some blogging of course!

This morning, while doing another one of my favorite things, reading, I came across two really interesting articles in the latest Westworld Magazine, which we receive as part of our AMA membership. The first was a short piece describing the work and life of The Urban Farmer, Ron Berezan - how neat for this local permaculture guru to exposure in this magazine! It seems as though words like 'permaculture,' 'locavore' and 'foodshed' are becoming more and more mainstream these days. What a great day it will be when these concepts reflect just the way things are, and when people just can't imagine treating the earth any other way than with respect.

The second article was a reminder that we still have a long way to go in this regard. The author of the article states,

"For me, as for many Albertans, the cumulative impact of this latest oil boom is only now lurching into focus, the rousing parade of economic numbers, buoyant immigration figures and housing starts slowly turning sour as familiar places become unrecognizable. Soon, one can’t help thinking, the archetypal Alberta land-scapes of bald prairie and foothills and rolling fields with patches of parkland bush will exist only in carefully cropped, soft-focus postcards. Meanwhile, one immediate consequence of the boom is the steady loss of Alberta’s agricultural land to residential and industrial development..."

The author goes on to report that despite the perception of Canada being a 'breadbasket' nation that exports a lot of food, it is actually a net importer of food if you take wheat out of the equation. Alberta actually imports 85% of its vegetables. All around the Edmonton area where I live, top grade top soil is being stripped off the land, and large subdivisions are being grown instead. Where farms used to stretch to the horizon, now I see closely clustered rooftops, surrounded by asphalt, with some tiny saplings planted in the depleted soil.

"Only five per cent of Canada is capable of producing food, and only 0.5 per cent of such land is Class 1 (characterized by ideal climate and soil quality), yet the loss of superior farmland is a countrywide phenomenon – from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia to the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario to B.C.’s Okanagan and Fraser valleys. And it’s particularly significant in Alberta. In 1971, 1.5 per cent of Alberta’s Class 1 land was occupied by urban development; by 2001, the figure had jumped to 6.5 per cent, and has continued to increase since."

Only 6.3 % of Alberta's landmass is Class 1 farmland. So why do we keep scraping off and paving over the land that we need to grow food? One of the people the author interviewed for the article seems to have an answer:

“The land is a reflection of our whole attitude, and what it’s showing us these days is a complete lack of accountability. We have such powerful means to intervene in the world, to reshape it, yet we have no real sense of the long-term effects of any of our interventions. All the same, I remain eternally hopeful.”

Despite the snow outside today, I can still hear a robin singing merrily, as if the sky were blue, the leaves green and the worms abundant. I guess the robin is eternally hopeful too. I hope that it won't be long before the robin shares her vision with the rest of us.

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