Scratching the surface of city agriculture
I was very interested in following the progress last week of six Yukon families as they took the Family Food Challenge.
The Whitehorse Food Bank and Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition invited these families to live for one week on $6.50 per person per day, the amount they would have received were they on social assistance.
This got me thinking about a proposal that came from Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Elias Darius several weeks ago.
He suggested a section of the lawn behind the Yukon legislature be turned into a vegetable garden.
Community volunteers, with a small amount of help from private business and government, could plant, tend and harvest the garden. The food could be donated to the food bank that is to be opened in a few months, to elders and to others who are not financially in a position to regularly benefit from fresh, healthy food.
This also got me thinking about being able to raise chickens in Whitehorse and other Yukon communities.
Currently Whitehorse’s animal bylaw doesn’t allow for chickens within non country zoned residential areas.
When I inquired about this, the city cited reasons of noise/odour nuisances and health risks, such as avian flu.
While avian flu was a concern some time ago in the Lower Mainland, I understand that the disease only affected two large commercial operations where chickens were packed together like sardines.
I have not found any evidence of disease among small backyard flocks.
As for the noise/odour issue, I would suggest a few chickens scratching in the backyard wouldn’t make any more noise than the neighbourhood dog.
If their living quarters are tended to regularly, odour should not be an issue.
And on the plus side, chickens produce a regular supply of highly nutritious eggs and provide fertilizer for growing other food.
I believe simple solutions like urban gardens and small backyard flocks not only help address issues of poverty, but also go some distance to decrease our carbon footprint and ensure our food is safe, healthy, and raised in a way that doesn’t rape the environment.
See related story on page 68.
Backwash from the Queen
The recently concluded Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment screening of the Yukon Queen II operations raises a few concerns on several levels: If the department of Fisheries and Oceans is the only decision body, then who will be responsible for the impacts in all other areas that do not fall within the department’s mandate?
Sure, matters like bank erosion, entrainment and habitat destruction will be addressed, but only in the context of salmon and species habitat.
Who will be responsible for assuring other effects such as; loss of mammal and bird habitat due to erosion, direct impacts on wildlife, disruption to commercial and domestic fishers, impact on recreational river users, pollution, etc., will be properly addressed?
There is no point in the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board recommending mitigation if there is no authority with the responsibility to implement it.
Fisheries and Oceans will simply advise that this is beyond its mandate and it will be ignored.
Where are the Yukon and Federal governments in all this?
Hundreds of thousands of freshwater fry are apparently killed as a direct impact of operations, but Fisheries and Oceans is seemingly not concerned.
It seems that “fish” only extend to the species useful as part of commercial stocks.
Not only does the loss of these freshwater species directly impact the regional ecosystem, it diminishes the traditional fishing practices of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in among others.
Surely Fisheries and Oceans is mandated to protect all species and habitat?
As far as I can tell, there is a huge amount of technical and other information missing in submissions, information that Holland America has deemed too expensive or difficult to obtain.
Surely the onus is on the proponent to prove that activities do not have adverse impacts, or that proposed mitigation will be effective?
At a recent open house, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board confirmed it cannot assess the positive economic impacts of the Yukon Queen II and direct spending by passengers in Dawson City.
It seems absurd this is not taken into consideration, at least as a way of compensating for the environmental impacts.
If this is indeed the case the act needs changing, and this should be implemented as part of the five-year review.
Having said that, those that have already offered support for the Yukon Queen II on that basis should be aware that the actual economic benefits (money spent directly in the community) is likely less than $100,000 each year.
Most expenditure goes directly into Holland America’s pockets (hotel rooms, provided meals, organized tours and activities, etc.) and out of the country.
I had hoped this process would be an opportunity for open and fair discussion and a meaningful assessment of what is a controversial operation.
Seems like I’ve been let down again.