Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I'm sorry.... we should have consulted the public

There's something about sincere apologies. Others, well....

Listen to CBC Radio One's On the Go host Ted Blades' Monday Oct. 30th interview with Mayor Andy Wells on how due diligence and standard procedure was, somehow, forgotten in a private meeting held in August.

Are you convinced this will not happen again?

The audio feature will be up later today. Meanwhile, click on On to Go's audio feature of Oct.27th to hear an interview with resident Ray Cox and comments by Paul Johnson, the proponent of the Johnson Geo Park.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Defending the fen - part 2

I've received lots of emails from concerned residents of the City of St. John's, from nearby communities, as well as from people who visit the City and live outside the province and country. There's an overwhelming sense of dismay because all recognize the good works that the JFF and Grand Concourse have done for this City.

I urge you to leave your thoughts on this blog, and also contact
City Council and the Grand Concourse Authority.
From the GCA website:
Tell us about your walks. Were there things you particularly liked? Disliked? Any things you'd like to see changed? Any problems or concerns about your walk? Of just let us know what you think of our Web site... we're always working to make things better!

Let's build on this offer to dialogue, and email them at:
COMMENTS: PLease leave a comment - what are your concerns about the fen, and ideas for this Johnson Geo Park - on this blog - just click on comments below.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

defending a fen

Johnson Geo Park, submitted to St.John's City Council

Small wild spaces in the city are rare. For that alone, they should be heralded, celebrated, defended. Some are so beautiful, one can't imagine anything ever happening to them.

There's a wetland, a fen, on Signal Hill, of significant size that lies in a valley between the Johnson Geo Centre and Signal Hill National Park. Few who have walked or driven up Signal Hill could fail to be moved upon seeing the fall flash of colours, or notice the sweet mélange of bird song drift up from this valley. It is, miraculously, a place as yet untouched by Tim Horton coffee cups, or rocks marked ‘Dave loves Deb.’

Now, backhoes, stakes, and metre-plus deep crushed rock and gravel are scarring this urban wildspace. Undoubtedly, these other emblems of ‘civilization’ will soon follow.

The sad thing is, this is being done in the name of conserving and enjoying our natural environment. It is being done by a group that has done so much for the City of St. John's: The Johnson Family Foundation and the Grand Concourse Authority. They have brought us about 100km of urban trails, a system that is heavily used and appreciated by residents and visitors.

But there are and should be places that simply do not require, nor should be developed for, a trail system. This extraordinary wetland is one of them. It is a habitat that should never be opened up. Nor is there any need for it. Both the beautiful valley, and its inhabitants, including a variety of water fowl, can be viewed from both Signal Hill Road and the old Burma Road.

This wetland road-grade 'trail' is but one faulty part of a scheme called the Johnson Geo Park that includes miles of wide gravel 'trails,' signage, stoneworks, building facades, lighting, contoured meadows, manmade ponds and water fountains.

I believe that the intent of this Park is for the public good, but I suggest that the advice provided to the JFF is quite poor. Take a piece of urban wilderness, with its outcrops and dense shrubbery, a warren-like age-old maze of tiny paths worn by curious children and others over time and turn it into a hard-surfaced, lit, man-made park. One is left questioning the thought-processes of the architect.

Our own City council and staff might have picked up on the problems - only they no longer have an environmental advisory committee - that's been defunct for the past three or more years.

You know, I love the trails around our City but, well, too much of a good thing, like too much medicine, can be a poison. I think we've found the dosage.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Humanity Living off its credit card

Human Footprint Too Big for Nature

October 24, 2006 - Beijing, China/Gland, Switzerland:

A new report released today by WWF and Global Footprint Network shows that by 2050 humanity will demand twice as much as our planet can supply but that we don't have to follow this path. "How can we live well and live within the means of one planet? This is the main research question of the 21st century," says Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network, an international NGO working to make ecological limits central to decision making....

Global Footprint Network, which co-authored the report, calculates that in 2003 humanity's Ecological Footprint was 25 per cent larger than the planet's capacity to produce these resources. This ecological Œovershoot‚ means that it now takes about one year and three months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year. ....

"Humanity is living off its ecological credit card," said Dr. Wackernagel...

But the report goes on to suggest that meeting this challenge may be possible, using scenarios to show two future paths that, in contrast to business-as-usual, could end overshoot and help restore depleted ecosystems and support a healthy biodiversity....

Read entire article in Global Footprint

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is it a case of you get what you pay for? Am having problem with text editing (fonts, etc.) on this blog. Apologies for tiny text! Alison

Groc & Conf'd

Alison Dyer harkens back to the era of the tiny corner store.

The corner store doesn’t carry things in ones and twos anymore.

It was just the other day, or so it seemed, I made a trip up to my local groc and conf for a couple of smokes – individual, buy-them-one-at-a-time cigarettes you need to get through the day, or to help you cut down. Another family store I remember sold individual band-aids. Aspirin and eggs too, I bet. That one smelled of damp pets and mouldy ceiling tiles on dreary spring days. There was no muzak blaring, just the cadence of Missus behind the counter bantering about the weather or politics with you or Gerry from down the street. There were never more than two customers in the place, unless school was out and the door would set the little bell jangling as long-limbed, droopy-jeaned teenagers stormed in for a quick fat-sugar-salt fix. And time wasn’t wasted looking over a score or a hundred choices of pea soup or chocolate bars. Two, three brands max if you were lucky. And don’t bother checking the expiry date

Now: big box stores. What a concept. What a load. They should offer Airmiles just for visiting, considering all the trudging up and down the aisles and back again because of something missed.

The aisles are so long and high I’m surprised they haven’t called them avenues: Avenue du Pain. Promenade de Poisson. Surprised they haven’t got traffic lights at the major intersections.

Think of all the sale bin items they could have at a red light for pedestrian-shoppers!

Then there’s the muzak. To blank out the whirl of refrigerators, air conditioners and other mechanical grumblings, there’s the mind-numbing muzak. To put me in a happy ‘shopping’ mood.

“I have always imagined a crash in which the only survivor would be the Muzak,” wrote composer Murray Schafer.

What do I know about marketing, but Big Box stores have gone for the kitchen sink, forget about niche. I mean there you are, innocently cruising aisle number 8 with the pasta and cereal and boom! You’re into bath bombs and kitchen gizmos. Turn the corner and you’re looking at colour-coordinated things that would make Debbie Travis turn an unflattering shade of cerise.

And now they’re adding other ‘services’ to mimic different stores – a florist, a photo shop, a dry cleaners, a liquor store, a kitchenware boutique. They’re like a big box mall.

And parking lots! I tell you, you’d better have a damn good memory, like where you parked your car with five thousand SUVs lined up like a backgammon game. The parking lot is like a landing strip, and is devoid of anything idiosyncratic (unless you count how they prune the pathetic seedlings trying to survive on the property fringes).

I’m just lamenting the loss of the ma and pa groc and confs.

I know they’ll soon all be gone, and worse still, revitalized as part of a living museum. But tell me, what’s wrong with wanting just one or two of something?

Alison Dyer is a St. John’s-based writer whose local groc and conf, [that's grocery & confectionary] at the base of Signal Hill, has a ‘for sale’ sign on it.
(Published in The Scope, St. John's alternative newseekly, October12, 2006 http://thescope.ca
URL to article: http://thescope.ca/?p=437

Monday, October 16, 2006

the Sound of fall..

As I get ready for fall...
There’s a fat-petalled wild rose spread out on my Regal Stove, reposing, slumped like a tired flamenco dancer, sweet-smelling, so pink pink against the dirty black metal. Another present from son Ezra who’s pulling wheelies on a friend’s bike on the Cove road. Daughter Ella, barefoot in skimpy orange shorts, is dangling from a poplar tree (having forsaken Artemis Fowl for the moment).

I take the short walk into Hant’s Harbour. Friday evening and the loudest thing is the blaring white of the lighthouse across the harbour at Custard’s Head. Save the occasional ATV. Save the off-key clamour of gulls decorating the crab-plant roof.

Hant’s Harbour is protestant white. As in all the houses are white. Probably take a mayoral declaration or clerical nod to add a brush of colour to a window sash. Sometimes feels like an Angela Lansbury set. Only the place isn’t particularly postcard pretty. No chorus-line of saltbox houses or lobster traps. No knot of old men in woolies and wellies hunched over an old wooden bridge. No, this is a working Newfoundland community. Thank god. Two general stores, a post office, museum, senior’s club, library, (the school was torn down last year) and, on the highway, a gas station with gift shop. It’s far more than pretty.

At Janes’ store, over a single purchase, Muriel and I hold a 10-minute conversation. The weather. This morning a biblical rain, probably spun off from Hurricane Katrina, has us all, once again, thankful that we live in Newfoundland.

Early evening I make my way up over and down the hill to our own craggy piece of paradise in Caplin Cove, and wondering how the sun does that here. A bugger of a day and then the sun throws a bone out over the hillside. Enough to make silver platters out of all the puddles and potholes along Meade Gardens Road, enough to make a hummocky ridge crescendo to silent, standing applause; enough to make the bowl of old green meadows shimmer like a litter of young kittens.

I’m never ready for fall. The very sound of it.
[my editorial column in WORD, newsletter of the Writers' Alliance of N&L, fall 2005 issue. I'm still in Caplin Cove in the summer & whenever I can during the rest of the year. ]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Maps for Canadians

(One happy map user: photo by Jamie Lewis)

Hey, this is a time to rejoice - the federal government has reversed its decision to get out of the paper map making business thanks to hundreds (thousands?) of outdoor enthusiasts who wrote the Minister of Natural Resources and voiced their concern. And to Maps for Canadians, a group that got a good campaign going. Apart from needing those excellent NTS maps for sea kayaking and hiking, I'm going to doubly enjoy pouring over them this winter while planning new water and land trails to explore the coming year.

Had to add this letter that was posted on the Maps for Canadians site - it's wonderful!

From Mo Tipples. Grandmother of 6 in Manitoba, Heart of the Country !
This is the worst email I have ever received ! What an absolute travesty. How can our Government take away such an important educational tool for Canadians to get to know their country and develop pride in its vastness and wonder ? The access by computer in now way compares to having a map on the wall , floor or in hand.The numbers of people without computers is still huge and having attended a seminar on GPS, that is not the answer either. A map is the reference point that travels with you on any travel anywhere.Maps are the way you connect with the earth when you can not get out there on the ground, and more importantly how you connect when you are out there on the ground and in our lovely wilderness areas. Are they trying to discourage us from finding out the hidden details so that the Lumber companies can go rampant ? They are an important learning tool for the young to use , as important as reading a book.My letters will be written and sent.