When the combined powers of corporations and government seem to overpower all, don’t despair; recall the triumph of the fight to stop Dump Site 41.
That campaign succeeded because so many stakeholders came together: environmentalists, farmers, First Nations, scientists, and concerned urban and rural citizens. Elected officials eventually saw the writing on the wall and put more stock in public demand than in “no worries” reports from corporate consultants.
Linking arms in a coalition of caring, we prevented the potential poisoning of one of our cleanest water sources and sent notice that we are serious about reducing waste. Even better, stakeholders learned to work together effectively, and continue to do so as new corporate or government actions threaten the clean water, air, and soil so vital to our health and lives.
The new threat on the horizon is the Melancthon “mega-quarry”, a proposal to create the largest quarry in Canada, churning 2,316 acres of prime spud-growing land to gravel pit and limestone extraction. The project’s scale is staggering: 4000 truckloads in and out each day, an area 1/3 the size of Orillia scoured deeper than Niagara Falls. In digging 200 down feet, far below the waterline, the operation will need to pump out 600 million litres of water every day, forever. That’s almost ¼ as much water as is currently used by all Ontarians.
Over many years, Highland Companies bought up land on the pretext that they would continue the traditional use of potato farming. Now, their application reveals they don’t have any requirement to preserve farmland, or restore it after digging it up. Instead, Ontario’s Aggregate Resource Act puts gravel ahead of food. In response to this concern, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey quipped that the post-quarry land would make a nice golf course!
Highland believes that after the quarrying, “crater-farming”, requiring perpetual pumping, will somehow be a viable operation. Such fantasy boggles the mind. As Green Party leader Mike Schreiner has noted, our politicians must put food first.
There are many threads in the community struggle to save our soil, water and air from this threat, and this Saturday (August 20th) is a chance to engage your spirit in this cause. From 10 am to 2 pm Anishnabek First Nations and the North Dufferin Agricultural Community Taskforce will host a prayer lunch near Stayner, open to all faiths and nationalities. For more information, email Vicki_monague@live.ca or call 705-305-0125.
Another key upcoming event is Foodstock on October 16th, an outdoor festival/protest featuring 70 of Canada’s to chefs preparing local foods to highlight the value of our farmland over quarrying. More details to come, but save the day in your calendar for a delicious way to show your support for taters over craters.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.
(Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner)