More food security needed for Metro area

Published Tuesday, May 12, 2009 in the Moncton Times &Transcript – written in association with Michel Desjardins (co-founder of Post Carbon Greater Moncton)

If you were affected by the changes in energy prices in the last year, you are not alone.

Post Carbon Greater Moncton (PCGM) is a group of approximately 65 citizens of the Metro Moncton area that have come together because they share the view that the world is about to enter an era of oil scarcity.

This will result in dramatically more expensive energy supplies and a significant shift in the way we live. This view is supported by a growing number of geologists and scientists from around the world.

The time to start planning for a future marked by the high energy costs is now. Being less dependant on fossil fuels means being more self-sufficient and less vulnerable to volatility in the world oil market.

To reduce our dependency on fossil fuels we should start by focusing our attention on at least four areas of activity:

1. Food self-sufficiency and security;

2. Energy efficiency;

3. Active and public transportation;

4. Education and awareness.

Let’s take food as an example. The agri-food industry is extremely reliant on cheap fossil fuel energy. Vast amounts of oil and gas are used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides and to produce food (i.e., planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting). Fossil fuels also play a critical role in the processing, distribution and packaging of food.

Furthermore, oil and gas are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads.

The year 2008 has shown just how quickly a surge in oil prices can drive world food costs through the roof. Had it not been for the Canadian dollar gaining in value against the American currency, and therefore counterbalancing the increased cost of American food imports, Canadians would have paid considerably more for their food during this period.

Even though oil prices have pulled back recently, PCGM believes history will repeat itself. Most energy analysts today are of the opinion that oil prices are poised for a swift recovery in the next few years, if not months. Communities unprepared for a new round of price hikes run the at-best risk of having to pay a higher proportion of their income on food. At worst, they could suffer food shortages.

PCGM proposes to conduct an experiment to determine how urban agriculture can contribute to self-sufficiency and food security.  A volunteer local family “backyard farm” will grow fruits, vegetables and also raise three chickens.

The goals of the project are to explore optimal conditions for small-scale farming in an urban setting and lay the groundwork for an effective municipal regulatory framework.  PCGM also expects to use the project to raise awareness about food self-sufficiency and security in the Greater Moncton area.

Many of you already benefit from a vegetable garden in your yards, but the raising of chickens for eggs may seem exotic or strange at first glance. Our grandparents raised chickens at home and today it is common practice in approximately 100 North American cities. For example, in San Francisco: “It is permitted for any person, firm or corporation to keep or feed up to four of the following in any combination: dogs of age six months or older unless part of a dog kennel, hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, pigeons, game birds of any species, or cats provided that coops or enclosures are approved by the Director of Public Health.”

Other chicken-friendly cities include Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle and New York.

There are numerous advantages to raising chickens in an urban setting. Here are a few key ones:

* Chickens are productive. They provide eggs for personal consumption and fertilizer for gardens;

* Chicken-raising gives control over the quality of eggs, i.e. antibiotics, etc.

* Chicken-raising is an easy and accessible way for average people to contribute to local food security and self-sufficiency;

* Chickens are trouble-free, quiet and people-friendly. It is a fun and educational hobby.

It is for serious reasons that Post Carbon Greater Moncton has formally requested that the City of Moncton allow this pilot study and consider at a later date any necessary changes to bylaws.

Within a few years, energy will decline. Economic dislocation will greatly stress the fabric of our society causing financial problems for most citizens.

Some economists believe that this recession was caused by rising oil prices in 2007 and 2008. Therefore, the next recession may be sooner than many imagine.

Shall we examine our future under a clear and focused light, and acknowledge that oil will decline and that we need to adjust?

Or shall we wait until a larger crisis strikes, and our leaders flop about like fish out of water?

The choice is ours to make.

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One comment

  1. kathi dunphy walsh · June 27, 2009

    Excellent idea! Funny how municipal councils wouldnt think of questioning dog or cat ownership even tho dogs can pose a nuisance with barking, and some a danger with biting. Cats kill huge numbers of songbirds and often annoy by messing in the neighbors properties. The poop from both is highly offensive and cannot be recycled.
    Chickens on the other hand, are quiet, harmless, produce healthy eggs, and also make friendly pets that produce valuable manure for the compost pile.
    Forward thinking towns and cities are allowing a limited number (4-10) hens, no roosters, in an enclosure in backyards across the country. Think pets, not livestock, these are not your factory batteries with miserable drugged and tightly confined birds.
    To see my 5 feathered girls : http://www.kathidunphywatercolors.blogspot.com
    Down a few posts to see the movable chicken tractor on our front lawn in St Martins.

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