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Archive for November, 2011

UPDATE (Dec. 2, 2011):  Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has announced that a public consultation on urban agriculture will be held this spring. The city clerk has confirmed that the petition meets the criteria for the right of initiative and contains 29,068 valid signatures.

They did it. On November 15, 2011, the Work Group on Urban Agriculture (GTUA) announced that it had collected 25,082 signatures on a petition calling for public hearings on urban agriculture. This is well beyond the 15,000 signatures required to meet the City of Montreal’s criteria for launching a public consultation by right of initiative.

In effect since January 1, 2010, the right of initiative allows citizens to initiate a public consultation on any matter that concerns the City or their borough. In the case of a City matter, the petition must be signed (on paper) by at least 15,000 people, ages 15 and over living on the territory of the city of Montreal, within a three-month period. The GTUA is the first group to successfully make use of  this new tool.

The GTUA hopes the City will mandate the Office de consultation publique de Montréal to begin public hearings soon. This would allow citizens and experts to express their points of view, and would help establish a profile of the state of urban agriculture in Montreal, the group explained in its Nov. 15 press release.

Public hearings could highlight the economic, social and environmental benefits of urban agriculture. (Photo: Eve Krakow)

“The reflection process will foster the emergence of a concerted vision as to the place that urban agriculture should have in the Montreal of tomorrow,” the group stated (in French). “It will allow for recommendations for reaffirming the necessity of gardening in the city, on the social, economic and environmental levels.”

On Dec. 2, 2o11, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced that a public consultation on urban agriculture will be held this spring. The final count on the petition was 29,068 valid signatures.

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On a recent family trip to Burlington, Vermont — originally intended for pleasure only and not for writing or professional purposes — I was pleasantly surprised by how “green” this city appeared to be.

Walking up the street our first afternoon, I noticed a bus pulling up to a stop, a passenger getting off the bus — and then the passenger unhooking his bicycle from a rack attached to the front of the bus. The cyclist and the bus then each carried on their respective merry ways.

It turns out that all buses run by the Chittenden County Transportation Authority “are equipped with easy to use bike racks, which hold two bikes. Each bike is held securely by a spring-loaded clamp.” (Source: CCTA website. Check out their photos.) Granted, this is probably not feasible on most routes in a large city such as Montreal, but it still offers food for thought.

The next morning, when we got up and looked out our 8th floor hotel window, we were greeted by another surprise: a huge array of solar panels had popped up on top of the roof of the building across the street. We hadn’t noticed them the previous afternoon, so I suspect they are deployed to follow the sun. It reminded me of those images of solar panels unfolding from satellites or spacecraft.

An ECHO animal care specialist shows us the turtle's flexible shell. (Photo: Eve Krakow)

After breakfast, we visited the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Centre. I’d heard it was a great place for kids, with hands-on exhibits — for example, you can touch a starfish. But while the exhibits are definitely kid-oriented, the centre is interesting for adults too, because it’s part of the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain — a 2.2 acre environmental campus on the Burlington Waterfront that is home to a consortium of science, environmental education, research, and cultural history organizations.

We arrived just in time for a demonstration with some baby Spiny Softshell turtles. This species is considered threatened not just in Vermont, but also in Canada. For the past few years, the centre has been gathering these turtles soon after they’re born, caring for them, and releasing them in the spring, when they are big enough to be less vulnerable to both natural predators and human impacts. (Read more: ECHO Lake Aquarium welcomes 26 spiny softshell turtles.)

After the aquarium, we headed to the Vermont Pub & Brewery for lunch. One of the dishes we ordered came with several wedges of Vermont cheddar, but because we’d ordered more than we could eat, we asked if we could take them home with us. The waitress promptly returned with a container — and it was NOT made of Styrofoam. Although I didn’t ask, it looked compostable, perhaps made of sugar-cane fibre (like the cartons used here in Montreal by Burritoville).

It’s always interesting to see, first-hand, what other cities are doing to help protect the environment. My short visit to Burlington was both encouraging and inspiring.

The baby spiny softshells will be released back into the wild once they are big enough to withstand most predators. (Photo: Eve Krakow)

If you haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to fill out the first-ever EnviroMontreal Reader Survey

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