Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Urban farming is illegal?

To people living in the mid-island area of Vancouver Island, Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw's urban (well, mostly rural) 2.5 acre Compassion Farm was created with the hard work of rebuilding the top-soil by hand! (The previous owner stripped all the top-soil off, leaving the gravel sub-surface). Due to a complaint by a neighbour the municipality has ordered them to stop growing food. (See a local newspaper or the Nanaimo blog for the scoop.)

Many other cities are realising the importance of urban gardening, and have changed the bylaws to allow for such operations. Not true here! Despite the fact that only about 5% of our food on the entire island is grown locally (down from 60% just a few decades back). We would soon starve if a natural or political disaster were to strike. Our food security is not secure.

It is strange that while homeowners can have home-based businesses, those who grow food cannot make it into a business, unless they are able to afford the very expensive (and increasingly harder to find) agricultural land. Farmers have discovered that they cannot compete with the subsidised foods of the world, and Canada is quickly losing ground in terms of self-sufficiency.

It is the Dirk's and Nicol's of the world who work for about $2/hour to bring us the best, most nutritious, least carbon-intensive food of the world. We owe them our gratitude and support.

If you wish to join the effort to change the bylaws you can join the Facebook group ("Compassion Farm") or write a letter to Lantzville's council.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Transportation Forum

Just over a week ago our non-profit (Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island) hosted a sustainable transportation forum. With about 100 people participating, 2 key-note speakers, 9 panelists, and a really engaged group, it was a great event!

Those participating recognised the fact that especially in our region we are totally dependent on the automobile to get around. Our communities have been designed around the car. Cyclists don't feel safe. Transit (while improving) is not adequate. Greyhound keeps on cutting back its service. One cannot get a taxi at the local ferry terminal. Cars costs us an average of $8K or more (that's close to minimum wage, after taxes)!

People picked up the notion that we need to design our cities and municipalities differently. We need to have more densely populated areas near the arteries, roads that have lots of public transit. We need to cut back on the sprawl. We have lots of land in the current city boundaries! We can be far more intelligent in the way we live and move around.

Being sucked into spending huge sums of money (individually and through our local taxes) to continue the current unsustainable system has to end. Maybe then we will begin to talk to our neighbours, rather than zoom past them! Maybe then we will begin to get back into shape and save the beleaguered health care system from certain demise.

The possibilities are limitless!