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Friday, May 10, 2013

Hey, ReThink London: This is no way to treat our spaceship

Is this sprawl? If it is, are North London and South London also sprawl?

It was 1963 when Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth hit the bookstores. Fifty years later an updated section on the design of the ships's accommodation is desperately needed. For years the ship's crew have been extending the living quarters into the food production areas. This simply cannot continue. Spaceships have limits and spaceship Earth is no different. Buckminster Fuller wrote:

"Our little Spaceship Earth is only eight thousand miles in diameter, which is almost a negligible dimension in the great vastness of space."

Unfortunately, as Fuller points out, our ship is so well designed that those on board are not even aware they are on board a ship. Their lack of awareness leads to some incredibly foolish conduct. The ship's oxygen generators are being destroyed, the ship's stores of fresh water, called aquifers, are being depleted and the factories that supply the spaceship with food are being demolished to enlarge the living quarters.

Since 1971, in Canada alone, expanding urbanization has built over an area of farmland almost three times the size of Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island. About half of Canada's urbanized land was once some of the country's most productive farmland, according to Statistics Canada.

Randy Richmond, in a London Free Press article, refers to London as the "poster child for suburban sprawl." Richmond gives us too much credit. Sprawl is as Canadian as peach pie made with canned peaches from South Africa.

Abandoned orchard. Homes and not fruit soon will grow here.
Actually, it's lucky we can get peaches from South Africa, asparagus from Peru, potatoes from Idaho, and strawberries from California because we're paving over our own farmland and closing our food processing plants.

When it comes to frozen vegetables, some of our Europe's Best brand frozen vegetables come from China. I remember when frozen corn came from fields south of London. Today that London Green Giant plant is closed.

Are there any solutions to sprawl? Yes, but you won't find them in any of the planning suggestions being bandied about by ReThink London. The solutions cloaked in the ReThink mantra are not solutions at all.

The city has put forth three scenarios for future growth in London: The compact scenario, the hybrid scenario and the spread scenario. Only the compact scenario doesn't require more farmland to accommodate the city's population in the near future. City planning director John Fleming calls the compact scenario "extreme."

Extreme is continuing to build on our precious farmland. Extreme is paving over our future food lands. The water table in Peru where they grow our asparagus is dropping. Here is a link: How Peru's wells are being sucked dry. The Washington Post reports, "A 2011 lawsuit against the Whole Foods grocery chain alleges that frozen vegetables sold at its stores are made by prisoners in China and irrigated by a polluted river. . . . "

John Fleming tells us Londoners don't want sprawl. Fleming also warns us that London will need to annex more farmland in the future. He does seem to hold out much hope for the compact scenario that his own planning department put forward.

Fleming insists London needs Smart Growth. What is smart about paving over Canada's best food producing lands? This is no way to treat our spaceship.

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