Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last Straw?

It's probably about time to try to talk about what is likely the straw to break the back of Jackson's Corner Farm, before it even officially exists as such. I've wanted to write about this since this last spring, but I'm still not just sure how to start. I guess the only way is to just start typing and see what happens.

I had originally thought to present via images but it will likely soon become clear as to why I've decided to forgo this plan, for now at least.

You see the thread began in the spring of '09 in that as I was driving to the farm one morning I saw that the neighbor was using a massive new tractor. I stopped to snap some pictures as this neighbor exemplifies the modern industrial farming method. This family rents large parcels of farmland in the area, each massive field containing one crop such as barley, wheat, canola. They have a yard down the road that must contain at least $3 to $5 million in equipment and sheds. Then there are at least two massive granary complexes, one in the yard near us and another about 10 miles away. Now these are not as large as a regional shipping facility, but still very large complexes. I cannot begin to imagine what their credit tallies must look like.

Anyway, the point is that this picture is of a massive tracked tractor with cultivator and trailing fertilizer applicator working a specific corner of a field that is adjacent to our last field. Later that year, their field was surveyed and a large section along the train tracks was staked off. Obviously there was going to be some kind of development here but details were sketchy and I didn't personally investigate at all. So this last spring, on a similar trip to the farm, I noticed that work was beginning on the part of the staked area that was in the aforementioned picture. All summer long we watched work progress, and 2 massive steel tanks were eventually built. Everyone in the area wondered what was going on over there, the general consensus being that some kind of asphalt facility was being built. Whatever it was going to be, I doubted it was going to be terribly healthy to live near, never mind grow food beside.

Finally, some signage went up on the chain link fence and sure enough, this is phase one of a Colasphalt facility. Highways are great and all, but I wonder just how many toxic chemicals go into making them. So then we find out through a notice in the newspaper, that they have dug two wells on their property and so they plan to take all their water from less than a mile from us and not far from many neighbors who use water wells.

A small group of these people have come together with various concerns, the more astute of them realizing that there are some significant risks to air, water and soil. Unfortunately, some of the more vocal people in this group are arguing that we must choose between trying to defer the building of the final two phases of the facility, and having any influence over the situation at all. I can't help but find this position terribly frustrating for several reasons, one of the biggest being the fact that this is a huge corporation and I'm hard pressed to believe they will do anything other than cut every corner possible in the interest of maximizing profit.

This might be a bit shallow and perhaps even hypocritical but a large issue, as far as I am concerned at least, is the destruction of property values, particularly for my family as we will now be sandwiched between a landfill sited directly up wind and this asphalt facility. Even if a decision is made to sell, it is seems likely that it will bring but a fraction of what such well kept and formerly well located land should be worth.

All in all, I find it a rather depressing situation. I know it is a situation that is occurring all over the world but it blows my mind and pisses me off royally that so few seem concerned about the situation. I wonder, as I think I've commented before, if the concentration of apathy is not much higher here, being primarily a resource extraction economy. It's time to start thinking more realistically about where to go, what to do. Or maybe I'm wrong. It is possible that peak oil could significantly harm the viability of this facility and if things start to grind to a halt around 2015, perhaps all is not yet lost.

*deep breath*

Ah well, that's enough thinking on it for one day. Peace to all.

Monday, December 06, 2010

No More White Hats

This is hardly a new analogy but when I was growing up, in the late 70's and 80's, it always seemed that WW2 had shown that the world is split into the good and the bad. The White Hats and the Black, if one is a fan of the American Western (as I most definitely must admit to being). The Black Hats were the Fascist and then the Communist countries while the White Hats were worn by the west. USA was The Lone Ranger (with a healthy mix of Jesus) and I guess Britain was Tonto. I think mine was pretty much the last generation to have this image of the US as the rotten parts (being involved in setting up "friendly" dictatorships, for example, no matter how brutal) were starting to become more and more known.

I began to see my own country, Canada, as one of the last White Hats, perhaps even a potential Marshall. But soon enough it became obvious that our proximity to the failing hero was leading to our own corruption. It could be argued that when manufacturing drove the western empire, Ontario was where US influence really took hold in Canada. NAFTA gained its foothold this way and now that natural resources and energy have taken over, Alberta seems to be the strongest connection.

So I look around now and don't see much white anywhere, other than snow...

China looks to be setting itself up as the dominant Superpower, with Brazil, India and Russia looking to show some competition, but can any of these countries be looked to as leaders in the fields of Freedom, Integrity, Wisdom, or Respect (especially for our environment)?

Things are so crazy that before too long we'll probably need to get someone's approval for (and pay the requisite fee/bribe) just to use the analogy of White or Black Hats. Sometimes its awful easy to see why those who remain "asleep" choose to do so.