18, 2003: Land is not as important to the economy
as in the past. To homesteaders land was everything. Today's
economy can soar, the stock market can fly -- and plummet
-- on a digital bubble. Yet we spend more energy, time and
debating land use issues than ever before. Ontario's Smart
Growth Panels are the most recent effort to guide land use
planning as competing opportunities and pursuits swell with
a rising population.
A public forum on complex land use issues sponsored by the
Ontario Rural Council this week indicated that more information
is in the works to inform our decisions about land. Jim Peden
and Jeff Dean of GIS Spatial Solutions demonstrated that technology
is ballooning information possibilities. Global
imaging technology is helping local communities understand
their fit into
the larger economy and environment.
But more information will not simplify decisions about land
First, land use decisions can be informed by more and more
data, but such decisions are primarily about competing interests.
While more data can help to make decisions, it is just as
likely to enshrine specific interests, as it is to develop
a consensus solution.
Second, whose data can we trust? In the 70s, when Ontario
Environmental Assessment Act to deal with Ontario Hydro's
desire to criss-cross farmland with high voltage transmissions
lines, we opted for
mandatory environmental assessments, to be completed, and
paid for, by the
proponents of big new projects.
A presentation at The Ontario Rural Council (TORC) forum
by Jim Mahone from the University of Guelph demonstrated the
effectiveness of facilitated workshops for bringing out all
the concerns of a broad stakeholder group about a proposed
land use change—a waste management facility. A long
list of concerns about the waste management site emerged.
Mahone invited participants to vote for the most important
points. The result? A large majority favored an independent
environmental and economic assessment. We no longer trust
proponent-prepared environmental assessments.
The emergence of global imaging data for local communities
and facilitated workshops for all stakeholders is a response
to the need to balance economic interests with equally important
environmental, community and social values.
Debbie Crandall from the citizens group, Save the Oak Ridges
brought the TORC forum an example of environmental, community
values coming into their own. Recent legislation will protect
much of the
Moraine from development.
In an Ontario with a growing population, the tension around
"the people need to go somewhere" is here to stay.
But the process of how to make land-use decisions is maturing.
A balance is emerging between the economic drivers of our
time and the environmental, community and social values that
make life worth savoring.
For more on the myths about hunger and the Canadian Foodgrains
Bank, a Christian response to hunger visit
- April 9, 2003: The
emerging managed food chain
- April 3, 2003: Farmer
nominees for the Rural Red Tape Reduction Project
- March 28, 2003: Farm
- March 21, 2003: Myths
- March 7, 2003: Europe
Gets Innovative about Farm Subsidies
- February 21, 2003: Seven
ideas for Strong Rural Communities
- February 7, 2003: An
Action Plan for a Fresh Vision for Agriculture
- January 3, 2003: 2002
ag policy changes to have big impact in 2003
- December 13, 2002: Farmers
know ag’s “multiple-benefits”, but wonder
how to make them profitable
November 5, 2002: Intervening
in farm markets for the public good
- October 25, 2002: Standing
up to commodity agriculture
- September, 2002: Wishes
and dreams for Ontario agriculture
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