You know I saw our new Mayor (Larry O’Brien) talking a couple of weeks ago about our future growth. As with most politicians his discussion of the topic of growth implies that growth is good and necessary. This was an interview on TV and the question where not about growth per say. But this sort of talk is so indicative of a mind set so common. We in Canada live is big country and we take for granted that we have room to grow forever, that water and trees are forever. But really are they? We must start today to think of city growth much more carefully. Ottawa is a special case I think and the residents of this city are too complacent and take for granted just how lucky there are to be in a city that has parks, and paved paths, water (rivers, lakes etc..) just every where. Where we don’t have those parks and wild areas we have farmland, and this is another thing that makes Ottawa unique.
How many cities do you know that have so much farmland included in there city boundaries? Just like wild places, trees and water farmland is a precious resource. If you took a census of all the best arable land in the country how much of that is located near to cities that where found at the beginning of a countries founding or before even that. Why, because markets needed to be close the the products that needed be be sold. That was also connected to you closes source of water.
So how does this connect to city growth. Canada and other nations must look to protect there best arable land as a national resource. When good arable lands falls in or near cities we need to be protecting that resource from development. Nothing pains me more than seeing top qualities top soil being strip off the land to be put down around homes just so they can have pretty lawns or building homes where we should be growing potatoes etc. Why care, well as we put more concrete and asphalt down on our best farm land it requires more input into the poor land just to get the same amount of crops with no inputs on our good to best land. Inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and aside from there harmful effects on the land, the farmer and his/her family and adjacent surroundings, there is the cost to the farmer. As it becomes hard to grow crops in your own country either due to poor land management or climate change we will be force to buy our produce abroad. That is just not smart management or economics.
Presently we are blindly going on just like every other city in the world pretty much… business as usual. But time is on not on the side of big sprawling cites. Just how must oil do we know is in the ground? How many years of oil is left. According to a story I read on the BBC web site some months back many of the Middle Eastern Oil countries are lying about how much oil they still in the ground. And even measuring oil reserves is a tricky business. Do any of us see any new technology that will replace the combustion engine? I don’t. So why are cities, why is Ottawa going about the business of city planning as if nothing will changed? It is not like the next 50 years is going to be just like the past 50 years. So do we go about the business of planning city growth the old school way or do will look for a new path?
Ottawa is the capital of this country and is in the best position to demonstrate what can be achieved by true management of city growth that benefits both the urban, rural and non-human inhabitants.