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What’s really behind the Ford government’s push to pave protected wetland in Pickering

What’s really behind the Ford government’s push to pave protected wetland in Pickering

Rival developers competing to host Canada’s biggest retail warehouse, which sources say is for Amazon

Roughly half of this property in Pickering, owned by Triple Group, is classed as a protected wetland. If approved for development, commercial real estate analysts say it would skyrocket in value, potentially to more than $100 million. This view looks northwest from the corner of Bayly Street and Squires Beach Road. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Moves by Premier Doug Ford’s government to grant special permission to pave over a protected wetland in Pickering have generated headlines, but behind the controversy, there’s an untold story.

That story involves a battle between rival developers and rival municipalities to get the chance to build what would become the largest retail warehouse in Canada, a project worth hundreds of millions of dollars that multiple sources say is for Amazon.

The battle is playing out just east of Toronto near Highway 401, on two pieces of property less than one kilometre apart: one in the city of Pickering on a provincially designated wetland, the other in the town of Ajax on a golf course.

Whichever site clears all of its legal and zoning hurdles first will be in the driver’s seat. The landowner’s property value will skyrocket and the project will bring at least $50 million in new tax and development revenue to one of the municipalities.

While the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has vigorously objected to plans to build on the wetland in Pickering, it is not opposed to the plan for the golf course in Ajax.

However the Ford government has gone to great lengths to smooth the way for the warehouse to go on the Pickering wetland. That property belongs to the Triple Group of Companies, owned by the Apostolopoulos family, backers of the nearby Durham Live casino complex.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Development: a failed project

Development: a failed project

It’s time to abandon development and think about postdevelopment instead.

Deforestation in the name of development | Image: crustmania, CC by 2.0

“They talk to me about progress, about ‘achievements,’ diseases cured, improved standards of living. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out. They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. […] I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted – harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population – about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting of raw materials.”

– Aime Césaire (1950): ‘Discourse on Colonialism’

Let’s not beat around the bush: to understand the problems with current ‘development’ discourse and practice there is no alternative other than situating ‘development’ as a construct that has resulted from colonialism and that continues to perpetuate itself within this legacy. Nothing illustrates this better than the above quote from Aime Césaire’s powerful essay on the ‘Discourse on Colonialism’. It almost reads like a contemporary critique of failed development interventions, sharply dissecting extractivism, fetishism of economic growth, the global division of labour and the marginalisation of non-Western worldviews, cosmovisions, imaginaries. The text is almost 70 years old, yet its relevance today could not be clearer.

What are the problems with ‘development’?

I only write about ‘development’ in inverted commas. The word, the concept, the practice has been (ab)used for such a broad variety of specific agendas, all of them structured by power hierarchies and asymmetries. Depending on fashionable fads, ‘development’ has come to be conceptualised as development-as-growth, development-as-progress, development-as-empowerment and many more. Fundamentally, ‘development’ has become what Gustavo Esteva calls an ‘amoeba’ term – one lacking any real meaning.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Debating population, poverty and development

Debating population, poverty and development

Last week, Small Farm Future chalked up yet another first – the first vehement critique of one of our posts by a working academic with apparent expertise in the matter at hand. The post was this one about global population and its entailments that I published in June, and the critique came from Dr Jane O’Sullivan of the University of Queensland in Australia (our exchange is linked below).

I’d precis the main substance of Dr O’Sullivan’s critique as follows: my post failed to consider the importance of top-down government or expert-led population control policies (broadly conceived) in reducing global fertility (ie. births per woman) over the last 50 years, and failed to consider the implications of the recent slowdown in the decline of the fertility rate and its causes. If that was all that Dr O’Sullivan had said, it would have been easy for me to concede these points (especially if she’d made them politely). I don’t think the concession greatly alters the main points I was making in that post, though perhaps it does a little. But in the course of our ill-tempered exchange (I’m sure the fault was partly mine…though not, I think, entirely) Dr O’Sullivan also unleashed quite a barrage of assertions that in my opinion varied from the somewhat questionable to the downright misleading, along I’ll admit with the occasional useful nugget. I should probably give myself more time to reflect on the issues, but some of them are highly relevant to the wider themes of this blog, and I think are less clear-cut than Dr O’Sullivan supposes. So I thought I’d write a quick, work-in-progress kind of response now to present the issues as I see them, in the hope that other commenters may bring some wider illumination.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Farewell to Development

Farewell to Development

As inequality and environmental degradation worsen, the search is on not only for alternative development models but also for alternatives to development itself. Leading post-development theorist Arturo Escobar, co-editor of The Post-Development Dictionary and author of Design for the Pluriverse, discusses the fight for pluralism and justice in Latin America with Allen White, Senior Fellow at the Tellus Institute.

Tell us about your personal journey. What inspired you to become a critic of mainstream development theory and a pioneer of a new paradigm?

I grew up in Cali, Colombia, a city of a half million people, in the 1960s, in many ways a typical member of a generation seeking modernization and development, in the mainstream sense of the words. Both of my parents came from the countryside—my father from a very poor peasant family and my mother from a middle-class family in a small town. They migrated to Cali to improve their lives and secure opportunities for their children. We attended good elementary and high schools, which required substantial sacrifice on the part of my parents. Upon graduation, I attended Cali’s public university, Universidad del Valle (the only affordable option), where I majored in chemical engineering.

As I was nearing completion of my undergraduate degree (1975), I realized two things. First, I didn’t want to work as a chemical engineer because that probably meant working for a large, multinational company. Second, I was becoming very interested in questions of food and hunger. Through acquaintances in Colombia, and with knowledge obtained through study of UN documents about the hunger crisis of the early 1970s, I was awarded a fellowship to begin a Master’s Degree in international nutrition and food science at Cornell University in the late 1970s.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Left should embrace degrowth

The Left should embrace degrowth

Stop sign and poppy [Related Image]
Only if we stop the cycle of endless growth will our planet prosper, argue Degrowthers. Jenny Downing under a Creative Commons Licence

Degrowth is a frontal attack on the ideology of economic growth. Some call it a critique: a slogan or a ‘missile word’. Others talk of the ‘theory of’ – or the ‘literature on’ – degrowth; or of degrowth policies’. Many see themselves as the ‘degrowth movement’ or claim they live ‘the degrowth way’. What is degrowth and where did it come from?


Intellectually, the origins of degrowth are found in the Continental écologie politique of the 1970s. Andre Gorz spoke of ‘décroissance’ in 1972, questioning the compatibility of capitalism with earth’s balance ‘for which … degrowth of material production is a necessary condition’. Unless we consider ‘equality without growth’, Gorz argued, we reduce socialism to nothing but ‘the continuation of capitalism by other means – an extension of middle-class values, lifestyles and social patterns’.

‘Demain la décroissance’ (‘tomorrow, degrowth’) was the title of a 1979 translated collection of essays of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a Romanian émigré teaching in the US and a proto ecological economist who argued that economic growth accelerates entropy. These were the times of the oil crisis and the Club of Rome. For continental ‘red-green’ thinkers, however, the question of limits to growth was first and foremost a political one. Unlike Malthusian concerns with resource depletion, overpopulation and collapse of the system, theirs was a desire for pulling the emergency brake on the train of capitalism, or, to quote Ursula Le Guin, ‘put a pig in the tracks of a one-way future consisting only of growth’.

The slogan ‘décroissance’ was revived in the early 2000s by activists in the city of Lyon in direct actions against mega-infrastructures and advertising. Serge Latouche, a professor of economic anthropology and vocal critic of development programmes in Africa, popularized it with his books, calling for an ‘End to sustainable development’ and ‘a long life to convivial degrowth’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Natura 2000: EU Reserves Are Facing Development Pressures

Natura 2000: EU Reserves Are Facing Development Pressures

An astonishing 18 percent of the European Union’s land area is protected under a network of preserves known as Natura 2000. Now, at the urging of business interests and farmers, the EU is examining whether regulations on development in these areas should be loosened.

Berlin’s world-famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate, is only 9 miles away. But in the Tegeler Fliess area, a protected nature reserve on the northern outskirts of Germany’s capital, visitors seem far removed from the city’s bustle. River otters, rare throughout Germany, are active along the creek that runs through the wetlands. Eurasian cranes circle overhead, searching for food in its extensive meadows and wetlands. On summer nights, the monotonous song of the corncrake, a species of rail in decline in Germany, can be heard.

Rospuda Valley

Erik de Haan/Flickr
The Natura 2000 network helped preserve the 29,000-acre Rospuda Valley in eastern Poland.

“The Tegeler Fliess is a biological treasure trove,” says Anja Sorges, managing director of the Berlin branch of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, Germany’s largest nature conservation organization, known as NABU. Sorges attributes the high diversity of the 1,144-acre reserve to its legally protected status as part of the European Union’s Natura 2000network, the world’s largest system of nature reserves. “There is so much pressure from the city to use areas like this for building or infrastructure,” says Sorges.

But how strong this protection will remain in coming years is unclear. Tegeler Fliess and all the areas that form the EU’s Natura 2000 network — which now covers 18 percent of the European Union’s land area — are facing growing political pressure to scale back some of the protections the reserves now enjoy. Triggered by a group of member states, especially Great Britain and the Netherlands, the European Commission is carrying out an in-depth review of its nature conservation directives, which some top EU officials, as well as business and agricultural interests, say are outdated and stifle farming and business development.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The end of global development as we know it | News | Engineering for Change

The end of global development as we know it | News | Engineering for Change.

Development professionals do their work under the assumption that the developing world will some day look a lot like the developed world. But there’s a good chance that they’re wrong. A practical look at the world’s energy supply, and interesting new research into the link between energy, culture and quality of life, shows that the reverse is probably true: The developed world will soon look more like the developing world. Here’s why that’s happening and what we can do to prepare for a big change right now.

From farmers to desk jockeys
Since the early 1990’s, the US government has not counted “farmers” as a category in the national census, and that is a symptom of energy consumption. Diesel fuel, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are all forms of energy that have supplanted human and animal muscle on the farm. This energy, that comes from cheap, accessible fossil fuels, has turned the agrarian serfs of the middle ages into today’s corporate, government, and academic “cubicle serfs,” in developed countries. And global development professionals are trying to shepherd the developing world along the same path.

Fossil energy has facilitated three doublings of the global population since the eighteenth century, while erecting a byzantine techno-social hierarchy in the developed world and in the power centers of the developing world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ontario’s Greenbelt is under threat | – Environmental Defence

Ontario’s Greenbelt is under threat | – Environmental Defence.

Ontario’s Greenbelt protects farmland and natural areas like forests and wetlands from urban sprawl. It ensures that nature isn’t a long drive away, and protects the sources of drinking water for millions of GTA residents. And it ensures that we in the Greater Golden Horseshoe have access to fresh, local food.

But, our world renowned Greenbelt is at risk. Today, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance and Environmental Defence jointly released a new study, Ontario’s Greenbelt at Risk, which outlines four key threats to the Greenbelt:

  1. Proposals for infrastructure, such as new mega-highways that would pave over prime farmland, contribute to poorer air quality, and generate more greenhouse gases;
  2. Sprawl developments in the Greenbelt that would destroy farmland, forest and wetlands and the animals that live there;
  3. An unnecessary airport in the Greenbelt that would eliminate 7,530 hectares of prime farmland and forests, isolate Rouge Park from the Oak Ridges Moraine, spark development along the boundary of the Rouge Park and contribute to climate change;
  4. Dumping contaminated soil, which puts water and food sources at risk

The good news is that actions can be taken to reduce each of these threats.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eco-tourism on agenda in Tasmania as government accepts proposals for development in national parks, World Heritage Areas – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Eco-tourism on agenda in Tasmania as government accepts proposals for development in national parks, World Heritage Areas – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

A new environmental battle is looming in Tasmania as the state opens up untouched areas for eco-tourism.

The Hodgman Government wants tourism operators to take advantage of development opportunities inside national parks and World Heritage Areas.

It has received 37 proposals, including one from operator Ian Johnstone to build permanent hut-style accommodation along the South Coast Track bushwalking route, 110 kilometres from Hobart.

He believes he can increase the numbers walking the track by between 1000 and 1500 people each year.

Currently, to do the seven-day walk, which is known for its rugged coastline, boat crossings and pristine forest, tourists must be self sufficient and carry a heavy pack including all of their own supplies.

“People that are coming and walking in the South Coast Track, are really the young, the fit and the very strong, who are happy to carry a heavy pack which means a lot of the population really can’t experience it,” Mr Johnstone said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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