The Chance Gardener: Gregor at his "symbolic" future veggie patch. Credit: K. Thompson, Metro
An icy wind blows through Metro Vancouver today, and Gregor's Garden is a long way from being seeded. In fact, it's now covered with snow. Last Thursday Gregor Robertson, Vancouver's farmboy mayor, like a proud papa posted the following message into his Blackberry for all of his Twitter friends to read:
"relished digging up some city hall lawn to transform it into a symbolic community garden"
If there was anything more shallow, more entirely meaningless and wasteful the new team running Vancouver City Hall could do about climate change, I defy them to top this idea. It's even better than the chickens.
Pity Vancouver City staff, who must grit their teeth and smile through this vain and pointless attempt to make the city "green" after years of struggle on that front. If the economy wasn't in such sad shape, I imagine more than a few key staff considered quitting when they heard about the Mayor's community garden on the north lawn of City Hall.
Vancouverites probably do not realize that our city is widely heralded for its leading efforts at reducing the city's carbon footprint. One of the pillars of sustainability is economic, as in don't chase good money after bad. Gregor will be able to point at his symbolic garden from his office window, but he'll have a hard time justifying the wasted expense.
Sod back, the garden Saturday
As we pointed out the other day, the City of Vancouver has very clear guidelines regarding community gardens. There isn't a line in there that about having an edict sent down from the Mayor's office that says, thou shalt put a garden here. Rather, it requires an extensive public consultation process.
I have to ask, where are the "Group of Vancouver Neighbourhoods" activists now? They've spent hours in council chambers complaining for more public consultation, and now they're silent when the Mayor issues his decree on the new garden.
When it comes to the North Lawn of City Hall, this is only the latest slap in the face. Most Vancouverites don't realize that this is the front entrance of their most important public building, not the Mayor's backyard. After years of neglect, there has been an attempt to improve this public space in time for 2010. Recently a very beautiful Japanese garden sponsored by a local consulate has been installed beside the East Wing. Respected landscape architect Jane Durante has also been working on a new design for the area over the past year, but now these plans and the costs associated with them are being tossed aside by GCAT's pointless pea patch.
Questions have also been raised about the timing of the garden pronouncement. This isn't exactly gardening season, is it? The fact the Mayor presented at last Thurday's GreenTech Forum might explain it. This blogger was over the moon that this Mayor was giving them a new community garden and backyard chickens. Some crowds eat up these kinds of empty gestures.
Of all people, GCAT committee member David Suzuki should have seen this community garden idea for what it is - pointless. He knows well the urgency of the carbon crisis, and the time for "symbolism" is over.
As Thomas Friedman in the New York Times states sharply, "We can't do this anymore."
Instead of political posturing and writing speeches for green conferences, Vancouver should be redoubling its efforts around EcoDensity. It should be taking the time to educate the public on the benefits of sustainable practices, and enforce the rules for those who abuse our environment. It must abide by and expand the real, long term sustainability objectives of the City, and ban green photo ops.
Vancouver should not just be seen as a sustainable city. It must BE a sustainable city.
Finally, we must know what this little plan of the Mayor's is going to cost and who is paying for it. The community garden policy guidelines are clear - the City must NOT pick up the tab for a community garden. Here are a few questions for His Worship:
- Will SPEC, a non-profit society, pay for setting up the garden? If so, show me the money, gang.
- Where are the neighbourhood volunteers and how are they going to pay for what will be planted in the garden?
- What is the long term plan for maintaining the garden, and who will pay for watering systems, tools and storage?
- Is there a plan for the surrounding grass and what can the City now do with the north lawn now that it has a big vegetable patch in it?
- Will any of GCAT's $60,000 budget go into this garden? (My guess is not one penny will).
Of all the arrogant and self-serving acts of this Vision government in the past 90 days, for me this community garden at City Hall takes the cake. How will Vancouver ever become a sustainable city for my kid to grow up in with empty gestures like this?