There has been a lot of talk about growth in Wilmot Township recently with many references to the province’s “Places to Grow” policy. The foundational principles of the document are to restrict growth in agricultural areas and to intensify growth in urban areas. There is abundant evidence that this policy is highly flawed and is neither sustainable nor will accommodate long term growth.
The National Film Board of Canada has been charged with telling “The Canadian Story” and they do a very good job of it. One of their most powerful documentary films is “Waterlife” (2009). It is the story of the Great Lakes. The film documents the flow of water from its head-water to the mouth of the St. Lawrence. It also exposes how this most important source of fresh water is being polluted to new levels by cities like Chicago, Detroit, and of course, Toronto.
Some cities do relatively little to treat their sewage and others do more, but all are far from leaving the water chemical free. Treatment plants were never designed to remove industrial chemicals and the huge amounts of therapeutic treatments which people are taking for medical reasons. For example, more and more fish are being found to be a-sexual (neither male nor female). Scientists speculate that estrogen in the urine of women taking birth control pills goes untreated into the lakes and is the cause of the problem. Heart and other medications pass through the body and end up in our water supply. There is no treatment process for medications and there are literally thousands of drugs and industrial chemicals being dumped in high concentration into our lakes.
When I drive though rural south western Ontario, most of what I see growing in the fields is corn. Very little of our land is being used for the production of vegetables. Most of the crops we grow are used for feed to produce meat. These crops are grown with chemical fertilizers and herbicides. The producers of these chemicals claim that they are far more efficient than organic farming and they are not a problem for our water supply; however, this is clearly untrue on several fronts. Organic farmers now claim that their yields are comparable and the costs for equivalent production are far less without the use of chemicals.
Are there answers to these difficult problems or are we doomed to self-destruction? For centuries people lived on a small patch of land, grew their own food, and ran their own sewage treatment plants (septic systems) and the water remained pure. Then we all moved to the city and became dependent on others to do for us what we had always done for ourselves and that is when the problems got out of control. Moving more people into less space only intensifies the problem. The “Places to Grow” policy grows cities which are unsustainable and prevents people from moving back to the land. We need un-intensive living and intensive farming (Google it) which are both sustainable. That takes vision and courageous leadership. It isn’t easy making monumental changes but we have no choice – we are racing down a dead end street. “Places to Grow” is a policy which has no future. It prevents people from taking control of their lives, providing for themselves, and building their future on the wisdom of the past.