Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Don't give up--there are still ways to stop the Outlook Feedlot

This postcard shows a river that is still safe for swimming. . . .

Sure, the R.M. has dodged the petition, for now, but there are still ways to slow down and then halt this project. Opposition will start to build as the people of Saskatoon wake up to the truth that their river could receive run-off containing growth hormones and antibiotics from the province's largest feedlot. Meanwhile, those of us who are concerned must let our own MLAs know, as well as Jim Reiter, the MLA in whose constituency this feedlot is to be built. Please write a short and polite letter and address it to:

Hon. Jim Reiter, MLA,
Box 278, Rosetown,
SK S0L 2V0.

While you are at it, why not send a copy to Premier Wall and Dustin Duncan, our Environment Minister?

The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building
Regina, SK S4S 0B3

The Honorable Dustin Duncan
Minister of Environment
Room 315, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S 0B3

Meanwhile, if you are looking for inspiration, read this wonderful letter I received recently from an Alberta friend, Don Ruzicka, who has appeared in this space before. In my mind, Don, an award-winning organic producer, is one of the wisest farmers on the Canadian Plains. Have a look at his web site when you get time.

Anyway, here is Don's letter, verbatim, but first an excerpt from his email to me, which read as follows: "Since I have become more connected to nature over the past 14 years through changes in the way we farm, I have noticed that the land, nature, the environment or Creation (whichever you choose to call it) are more forgiving. This "gift" has been passed onto me.

The riparian areas were running on empty; wetlands were drained or pugged from overgrazing; the pastures were overgrazed and going backwords and many trees had gone south. After doing a 180 with regards to the way we manage the land, it has been steadily coming back to good health. For me, this is a sign of forgiveness for what I had done to the land and is also a catalyst for my own spiritual health. When one has been forgiven so profoundly, it is hard not to reciprocate.

Wendell Berry would be able to share some wisdom with the people of Outlook. He writes that when land is farmed in the right way, with respect and love, it has a positive affect on those who see it develop. Conversely, the opposite is also true. Are the people of Outlook even remotely aware of this or has their good sense been subverted by the promise of economic development and all of the so called "prosperity" that it will bring?"

Now the letter he enclosed:

Hi Trevor,

You have explained the issues well and there are no easy answers. Some people see opportunities while others see quality of life being compromised along with the environment that they live in. The result is the polarization of the community. Cases like this make me think that we have to re-define ”progress,” sooner than later while we ponder what we want the future to hold for our children and grandchildren.

Farming publications quite often contain articles on how important it is to know your cost of production as well as the economic benefits of various agri-business ventures. I have yet to see a story on the “cost of destruction.” You give a good example of “destruction” with the picture of a riparian area damaged by cattle. These areas, when healthy stabilize creek banks, remove toxins from the water, filter run-off, sequester carbon, provide habitat for fish, increase biodiversity as well as many other benefits. I had a damaged riparian area like this and it took me 10 years to bring it back to good health after fencing it off from the cattle.

A report was recently released on a study that was done on two southern Alberta rivers. A species of fish was found to have 85 to 90% of the population to be female and some of the males had eggs in their testes. This is referred to as “gender bending.” Normally, 55% of populations are female. These fish are responding to estrogen-like compounds in the environment. Some of the highest counts were in an area where run-off containing antibiotics and growth hormones from a feedlot entered the river. If there is no river, where does this run-off go? The fish are telling us what is going on in the environment just like canaries used to tell miners when it was time to get out of the mine shaft.

I think that if we were to tally up the costs of bringing our surface and groundwater back to good health, this “cheap beef” would be very expensive. I believe that consumers are becoming more discerning in their food choices and are acknowledging that caring for the land has a cost that should be included in the price of the food. And yes, we have a long way to go.

The Amish have a message when it comes to making decisions regarding the land. They understand that their community is a part of nature, not above it. When an opportunity involving innovation, technology or change comes to their community, they ask the question; “How will this affect our community?” They feel that when they do damage to the land, they also do damage to their community as well as their relationship with the Creator. Perhaps we need to become a little bit Amish.

Don Ruzicka,

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