Gardens, Greenery…. and Gall. The Power of Community to Overcome Greed.

Grow a Garden, It’s Important. 🙂

This past Sunday I had the honour and privilege to cut the ribbon (it was even red!) at the Official opening for the Community Garden built by the Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley at 4th and Napier.

Thanks Kama Money for  the nice photo.
Thanks Kama Money for the nice photo.

It is a wonderful space and it has been put together by a who’s who of local businesses and dozens of volunteers all working together to create this important source of local food for citizens.  All of the two dozen plots are now spoken for and there is a wait list.

Long before there were grocery stores filled with fruits and vegetables from farms thousands of miles away, there were people all over the world living off the land and cultivating its bounty.

As the more negative effects of climate change start to take hold and put our centralized, industrialized food sytem under pressure, we will need more initiatives like these to get people back to the land and connected to their food.  IMG_4035

In the future, i believe we will be relying much more own ourselves and our neighbours, and I cannot think of a more wonderful future to live in.

Innovation, Technology.  Betterment of Self and Place.

859757_10152580361315204_1085488828_oIn the past few decades, we have had incredible advances in our understanding of nature, of technology, and of our human condition.  Here is a beautiful new ship docking in Alberni Harbour last year.  This ship represents jobs, opportunity, progress.  Doesn’t it?  Or does it represent log exports, recession, and environmental destruction? Decades ago our harbour ran black like coffee but now it is relatively clear.  These changes were made *with* industry as a partner and an innovator.  Proving, I believe that we truly can have our cake (jobs) and eat it too (without poisoning ourselves).  But at the same time we have seen other changes where economy has trumped the needs of both the natural world and the local community.

So what am I getting at?

Gall – def.: bold, impudent behavior.

Last Monday, the City held its regular by-invitation meeting with local forestry companies and others on issues affecting the watershed.  I was concerned, but not surprised, to hear at the meeting that logging in the McFarlane/Bainbridge lake catchment area continues.

But have you looked at Mt. Arrowsmith lately? IMG_5571-e1423707612327-1024x668 The City relies on the Bainbridge Lake water supply in the summer months in order to supplement water flow when Lizard Lake and China Creek start to get low.  Bainbridge is also our go-to source when China Creek gets too turbid in high-rainfall events in the winter months.  Island Health is currently studying the Bainbridge water supply to ensure that it is sufficiently and reliably clear so that the City of Port Alberni can continue to have a waiver from the very expensive ($$ Million) necessity of installing filtration on our water system.

The forest companies recognize the serious situation for our snowpack, but this sentiment from one of the companies shocked me.

“A lot of the risk are exaggerated as far as quality [turbidity]…. quantity more of an issue…

“Recognize that a fir tree will take 200 litres water… general science says: take away cover… to flush more water into surface water (to help reservoirs)… “

These are my notes of the meeting, so it’s just paraphrasing, but I think the message is pretty clear.  Yes, it is correct to a point (according to the science) that if we remove the tree cover, then more water is allowed to flush into the system more quickly.  But to use temporary reservoir filling during months with the least rainfall, as implicit justification for the high rate of forest harvest including old growth to the exclusion of the inevitable and scientifically proven turbidity, temperature and other risks associated with high rate forest harvesting, I found to be galling and somewhat insulting.  The flippancy actually made me angry.

Environment and Education, It’s not just a Left Wing/Anti-Business Thing.

Rachel_Notley_crop
Rachel Notley, leader of the Alberta NDP. Note: This is not an endorsement.

This Reuters article today relating to the NDP surge in historically Conservative Alberta contained this gem:  “Today Alberta is one of the youngest provinces and polls show younger and more diverse population is more likely to support left-wing causes such as environment and education and more critical of big business. The New Democratic Party still only got 10 percent of the votes in the 2012 vote, but an election of a Muslim politician as a mayor of Calgary in 2010 served as an early sign of the changing political landscape.

There is a fundamental problem with that paragraph.  It seems to imply that the young inherently care more about the environment and education (as well as diversity) and that the “old” and big business do not.   Is that true?  Is that how stark our society has become that each “side” is painted so negatively against the other?

I reject that.  Not because I do not see it play out sometimes, like perhaps last Monday, but because it must not be that way, and it is not that way for many good people and companies.  Big business, especially those majority owned by you and I through pension funds (relied upon by the not-so-young), need not stand in opposition to the environment and education.  That is why I posted my “Jobs vs. Green – False Choice” post during the campaign.

11206633_10153184788286251_5143007253263495987_oFor example, consider all of the companies that contributed to the Community Garden Project.  The City of Port Alberni contributed to the project too of course, by providing water hookups, land and other things.

Now imagine if a forest company’s name was on that list because instead of continuing to make excuses and delivering platitudes they promised to shift their private lands in the watershed into a forest-retention strategy that ensured the purest water to the garden and the whole community while also providing unparalleled recreational opportunities in combination with world-leading small patch or thinning forest practices  that created local milling and value-added jobs as well as alternative (food or cultural) forest resource development and wildlife habitat restoration.

Is the economy going to self-destruct and the oilsands shut down the day an NDP government takes power in Edmonton?  Doubtful.  Is the economy of the Alberni Valley going to go into the tank if logging is severely curtailed or stopped altogether in our watershed?  Also, doubtful.  We need to move past these dire assumptions and we need to demand private forest owners stop breaking their historic social contract obligations.  As Stephen Hume recently pointed out in the Vancouver Sun, the public is watching now and the costs of doing nothing can be sky high.

Just like a community garden can host fruits and vegetables of all types given the right conditions to grow and can counteract the increasingly negative effects of our industrialized and centralized food system, we have an incredible opportunity to build a community for all residents and all companies to live and thrive in.  But it is very hard to do if even a handful of players decide to ignore what is best for the community.

 

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Appendix – More from the Study –

Check out this “state-of-the-science synthesis of the effects of forest harvest activities on peak flows and channel morphology in western Oregon” done by Grant et al (200x – not sure when it was published) for the US Forest Service and Oregon State University if you want to see an excellent treatment of the effects of different types of harvesting on peak river flows.   It analyzes dozens of studies over the past 30 years.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.02.35 AM

It shows that while different types of harvesting (at left) do indeed change the peak rates of water flow, the biggest changes actually come on the smallest scales.  Runoff changes the most from small rain events, and from smaller areas nearest the cuts, rather than from the biggest rain storms across an entire watershed.  In fact, it is other human endeavours that affect peak flow the most….  “the effects of dams on hydrologic regimes, including peak flows, can be several orders of magnitude greater, particularly where the dams are large and used for flood control (Grant, 1997). Urbanization similarly imposes much larger changes to peak flows than does forest harvest, although less than dams. “

 

 

2 thoughts on “Gardens, Greenery…. and Gall. The Power of Community to Overcome Greed.”

  1. Chris,
    A very thoughtful piece of reporting on last Monday’s meeting with the forestry companies and the “science”. I would only add that the two municipal owned watersheds, Victoria and Vancouver don’t subscribe to the cut and there will be more water theory of the industrial forestry companies. Does anyone subscribe to that theory except the forestry companies? Many loggers will tell you privately that they do not. They watch and they know. As do First Nations.

    And science also tells us that climate change is upon us bringing more wild rainfall events and long, dry summers. Replanting in China Creek or Bainbridge watersheds on thin soils, steep slopes with heavy rain events and long dry periods…?

    And then there’s the debris and fire hazard in our watershed…

    We will keep stating the real science, the majority science, the evidence-based science that says we need a forest retention watershed management program, not a talk and log program.

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