Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Week of Wellness: Day 2

It passed, it passed! Unanimously even!

Hundreds of people came to Edmonton City Hall last night to show support for the municipal development plan that now includes amendments that ensures food security issues will be considered in any developments that would impact farmland.

Here is a summary of about 3 1/2 hours of meeting time by comprehensive local blogger, Mack Male. This picture is from his website as well, and I'm even in the picture (find the lady with the red hat, and then go left one person and down one person - I'm the one with the black coat and white hoody sticking out). There are more pictures at his website, and in one of them you can see I'm scribbling furiously in my little notebook. :) Counsillor Don Iveson posted his thoughts about the municipal development plan and his closing speech in support of it here.

It was an amazing experience! There were so many people there, of all ages - from babies to people probably in their '70s or maybe even '80s. What was so heartening was the range of all ages that were there - lots of school-aged kids, and many people in their 20's. Lots of young families, and multiple generations of families.

The GEA organizers had asked people to come for 6 pm, but all the presentations for and against the municipal development plan (MDP) had spoken in the afternoon session. But the GEA speakers all took the time to say their speeches again to the gathered crowd, before city councillors returned to resume the council session. The speeches were terrific, and were made by people including a three-generation potato farmer, and the 12 year old daughter of a new berry farmer, all of whom have farms on Class 1 farmland that was, until today, at risk of being paved over for new 'development.' The new berry farmer got a huge cheer when she revealed that she had turned down the offer of an "energy company" to buy her 9 acres of land last year.

One of the best lines of the night came from Monique Nutter, GEA organizer: "local food requires local land." That says it all, doesn't it? It's so obvious, yet so profound! She went on to say that this MDP recognizes that we have a "fundemental dependence on nature's bounty" and that in passing this document, the city has given a "gift to future generations."

After the speeches, we were encouraged to talk to someone there who we didn't yet know about why we came to the meeting. I spoke with a mother and daughter next to me who came because they saw the city's subdivisions encroaching on the natural and farming areas surrounding it, and worried about where we were going to be getting our food 20 years from now. The daughter talked about how depressing it was to talk with people of "older generations" and their focus on "development only." I was inspired talking to her, because I worry that the younger generation doesn't think about anyting other than video games or what new phone to buy: she proved me wrong, and I'm glad.

At about 7:15 pm council reconvened, and the nitty gritty debate continued. I was impressed overall with how committed the councillors seemed to be to crafting a document that incorporates environmental considerations into it, and which guides development towards sustainability on a number of levels, including more firm targets for in-fill development rather than urban sprawl, protecting the river valley from "resource extraction" - i.e., gravel pits, promoting public transportation, preserving wetland areas, and now, incorporating a food and agriculture strategy into all future 'development' considerations.

At about 8:30 pm one of the organizers said that we could leave if we wished, since council knew we were here and the presentations had been made. I stayed for another half hour or so, finally packing it in as the debate on various wording changes wore me down. I turns out I should have stayed another 20 minutes, because it looks like things sped up considerably after that and the MDP passed second reading unanimously! I found that out by searching twitter's #yegcc (Edmonton City Council) hashtag this morning.

It was a great experience! Democracy in action. Beautiful.

And now today I have a day at home, which I will enjoy immensely. I picked up a new book at the library yesterday, I will meditate, do some tai chi, do a few chores, make a healthy supper, and mostly just putter around. And that's beautiful too.


miss sarah said...

Don came home to say he was so incredibly inspired by the fine group of people who came out that evening. Evidently when local food people speak, oftentimes the developers will roll their eyes. However, when the developers speak, the local food people are taking notes.

I think that says it all.


Theresa said...

Hello miss sarah - thanks for coming by and taking the time to post :) The people were inspired by Don too - he would make a fine mayor one day (soon). I wasn't there when the developers were rolling their eyes, although I did read a twitter about it after the fact. You'd think developers didn't need to eat!

It was an inspiring evening all around - just amazing to have it passed unanimously!

Jerry said...

I`m glad you went to the meeting, Theresa, and I am glad to hear of the turnout and result. Its a little push for me to try to get more involved up here as well. I have developed too much of a knack for avoiding involvement that I must do in person. Ill try to follow your lead and spend less time throwing snowballs from safe distance.

I do sort of struggle with the term "the developers" though. Local food producers are developers of a sort as well after all. Perhaps its a moot point but I think it might add support for an "us" vs "them" idea, which is not really productive. Many of "their" developments ARE important to communities as well, outside of issues regarding profit and land requirements.

It is certainly nice to see the signs of a shift back to what I feel is a more sensible community ideal than competitive consumption.

Here`s hoping the rest of your week goes well.

Theresa said...

Thanks Jerry, you make a good point. The small farmers are indeed developers too, although it seems to me that they are likely (hopefully?) working with the land rather than just using it as a platform for something else. Any us-them element in the post is my doing - the GEA people were definitely all about working with all groups in a balanced approach. I just get peeved when I hear people say that land is "undeveloped" if it has no buildings or roads on it. It bugs me in the same way that it does when people call certain countries "undeveloped." If the goal of the "developed" world is to make those countries into "developed" ones, then things are not going to get any better. Anyway, I'm ranting now.

A Canadian Foodie said...

It was my first time out to support the sustainable local food supply initiative and this is just the beginning for me. I teach junior high students and many have no idea where their food comes from... most don't even eat "real" food anymore. This is a critical issue, and as someone who loves cooking, and understands the importance of the family around the table - I will definitely put in some volunteer time doing more in this area. I have already been doing quite a bit of this with my Nutritious Lunch Project at School, and with my Slow Food membership. I was incredibly impressed by the work of GEA last night.

Theresa said...

ACF - thanks so much for stopping in and commenting. It was my first time at a meeting like that as well. That is scary about kids not knowing where their food comes from, definitely. One of the places in the northeast area of Edmonton that will hopefully be preserved now is the City Farm, which gets schoolkids involved in gardening. I don't know if they have programs suitable for jr high students, but it wouldn't surprise me. I was also really impressed with the professionalism and superb organization of the GEA last night - and the OriginalFare cards were great as well. I forgot to mention that in today's post - I'll have to rectify that tomorrow!

Amber said...

Yay! This is wonderful news. So happy to hear and grateful to you for sharing it. Thanks and have a lovely week.

Theresa said...

It was a good day, that's for sure! Thanks Amber!

Simply Authentic said...

Yea---I'm so glad that it was such a good solution. I know you've had so many frustrations with the local government up there and big business, so it's nice to hear that something positive happened. AND I'm so glad you got to go and be a part of the masses and feel the connection of other like minded people---its always wonderful to know that there really are many others out there who care about the same things! Congrats!! :-)

Theresa said...

Thanks SA - being there was terrific, and awe inspiring. To know that people of all ages and walks of life can come together to work on something so important - it really renewed my hope and optimisim. :)