Archive for May, 2010

Earth Week Celebrates our Efforts to Grow our Own Food

One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.  Wendell Berry

Last Saturday our region celebrated its first ‘Seedy Saturday’; it was a great success. People of all ages showed up to look at and swap a variety of seedlings, trade or buy some seeds. Collingwood’s Katimavik youth also came to the Kimberley General Store, where the event was held. This celebration of seed diversity was the perfect way to get Earth Week soaring with meaningful participation. After asking two farmers what they considered to be the perfect tomato, I came away with their prized ‘Black Zebra’, ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Hubert’s Pink’. In return they received my rare ‘Sunberry’ that tastes like a blueberry and Italian large leaf organic basil seedlings.

2010 is the International Year for Biodiversity and April 22nd the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, so making our gardens glorious and meeting fellow tillers of the soil is part of the festivities. More than ever, intergenerational cooperation is vital if humanity is to find common ground that links us to a passion for Nature. Perhaps gardening is the answer. Across Canada and the U.S. gardens are becoming the epicentre for a new engagement in community life. Gardening and a renewed respect for the farmer’s role in a stable and self-reliant community is once more gaining widespread acceptance as one way to sustain an independent and thriving local area. There are many reasons for this happening. The rise in food transportation costs have enforced the view that the globalization of our food is no longer tenable and food security can’t be left to multinationals to determine. As well, there is growing recognition that food prices throughout the world are linked to increased biofuel production at the expense of fertile agricultural lands. People want to take back the land and make it sacred once more. The Earth is not a commodity as we’ve been told.

It is encouraging to watch so many people in their 20’s and 30’s take up gardening. They want to be in control of their food sources, and it’s wonderful to hear that many are putting up inexpensive greenhouses from reclaimed glass to kick-off their early spring season sowing of seeds. Without doubt these youthful gardeners are dedicated to growing organic foods. This is good news as we will have to reduce and eventually stop using fossil fuel fertilizers. Young gardeners are literally basking in the sun with the delight of caring for their locally grown food. Conversations can be heard as to when and where to grow heat demanding eggplants and peppers, growing broccoli rabe and the joy of tending and finally eating your own raspberries.

It has been hotly debated as to when seeds should be sown this spring, owing to unpredictable and historically unseasonably hot and then cold weather we have experienced recently. Those who thought we’ve gained a month of warm weather to plant everything from potatoes to peas are now questioning the decision to plant in light of the mercurial climate conditions. Best of all, keeping up with the consumer driven Jones has now been superseded by pride in growing a better garlic or French lettuce patch. Status and wealth can be found in the palm of your hand in the cool shape of a squash seed.

Community gardens are now gaining wide acceptance. One program that Cornell University and the town of Ithaca helped start is called Garden Mosaics. It’s unique in that it focuses on “science education, youth and adult well-being, cultural understanding and sustainable communities and agriculture.” www.gardenmosaics.org It has a place in our community as well, where all too often there is not enough interaction between elders, who can impart their love and knowledge of gardening and life, to budding enthusiastic youth.

Youth Summer Employment, Leadership, Education and Love for Nature

To the degree that we come to understand other organisms, we will place a greater value on them, and on ourselves. Edward O. Wilson, “Biophilia”

How do we find authentic hope in the face of climate change, the biological holocaust now under way…and the void of world leadership adequate to the issues?  David Orr, “Down to the Wire: confronting climate collapse”

Our community and world urgently need transformational leaders, leaders who will be able to help us rethink who we are, our place in the world and as such, in the web of life. Those who have tirelessly studied biodiversity loss and climate destabilization know that this crisis can’t be understated. Youth must be the vanguard to speak the truth, inspire its peers and mentor a reluctant adult population to embrace a difficult but critical restructuring of societal values if humanity is to survive.

Biologist E. O. Wilson coined the term, ‘biophilia’, to express a deep love and affinity for Nature that is shared by billions of people. Our community now has the chance to give youth aged fifteen through nineteen the opportunity to transform their intuitive love for Nature into an action/education plan that protects the Earth and be paid while they are doing so. This month long internship is meant to inspire and lead to further educational and action endeavours across our area. Georgian Triangle Earth Day Celebrations and Elephant Thoughts expect to launch the Eco Action Centre this August 3. Ten highly motivated and courageous youth will be paid $15 an hour for twenty hours a week for four weeks to perform hands-on leadership work that will lower community greenhouse gases while developing an understanding of why Canadians have such high carbon footprints that create climate instability in the first place. Outdoor work on biodiversity restoration and community education projects are just some of the ways that Eco Action interns will enhance their leadership skills. Throughout the four weeks in August our ten Action youth will initiate a clothesline installation plan to wean homeowners away from the inefficient use of clothes dryers. Eco Action youth will be a part of river conservation efforts that will range from fish monitoring, temperature testing, water sampling, and erosion control to meeting landowners who may become part of river restoration projects. Our hands-on partners at the Centre range from the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, Kolapore landowners to Free Spirit Tours.

Community garden efforts are now under way with Collingwood’s Katimavik’s youth who are setting up the garden biodiversity experience that Eco Action youth will continue to nurture through August, and then help co-op high school students to take over right to harvest time. In 2011 we’ll start even earlier and include more people. Also, community gardens are a fabulous way to create intergenerational friendships and pass along knowledge.

Twenty hours of paid work will be augmented with 15 hours a week of education on climate science and biodiversity issues that will give youth the fundamentals with which to go forward to be community ambassadors for real solutions. Books will be read and discussions will focus on creating a unified plan for conservation that also invites other high school and public school students to join in during the school year with a renewal of hope for their planet. Two well known Canadians will visit us to help inspire successful efforts. Thomas Homer-Dixon from the University of Waterloo and Albert Koehl from EcoJustice will sit down with Eco Action youth to help them formulate their action plan.

Interested youth should send a letter to celebrateearth@yahoo.ca using the subject, ‘Eco Action Centre’. Please tell us why you are passionate about our Earth and feel that you are the right person to be part of this intense and rewarding month long project. You are welcome to send a resume as well. Interviews will be held during the month of May and June.