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.