Friday, 5 June 2009

Peak Oil, Urban Sprawl, And Canada's Inability To Feed Itself.

I meant to write this post in honour of earth day. Earth day is the day of the year when Canadians fashionably care about the environment by recycling (or something) and then spend the rest of the year polluting it by over consuming and driving their cars to the corner store or to walk the dog. It is also the day when Canada's environmentalists put their stupidity on display and totally ignore the environmental costs of mass immigration while wagging their fingers at everyone and everything else.

Then I came across this article in the Toronto Star.

Drive up 400 could get worse

Province lets Barrie annex swathes of farmland, critics fear moves will kill plans to contain sprawl
Jun 05, 2009 04:30 AM
Phinjo Gombu

The province yesterday announced it would allow Barrie to annex thousands of hectares of agricultural land from Innisfil for future growth. It also launched a study for a massive employment zone on either side of Highway 400 in the Town of Innisfil.


If approved, critics say, these moves would kill efforts to contain growth and would bring suburban sprawl to the area stretching from Bradford West Gwillimbury to Barrie, an area that is now mostly thousands of hectares of farmland, located north of the protected greenbelt that caps the outer edges of the GTA. That would put massive pressure on Highway 400, the main north-south route in the region.

Highway 400 is a north/south route leading into and out of Toronto. It is traveled to reach the various communities located outside of the city and it has become, and is becoming, awfully crowded. There are several reasons why we should be concerned.

The first is peak oil. Former CICB economist Jeff Rubin talks about it here in a Toronto Star article about his book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. I don't know how real this is. It may be a bunch of alarmist Chicken Little speculations capitalizing on worst case scenarios. But it is a real possibility and we should, as a food producing nation, be prepared for it.

What peak oil means is higher oil prices which means higher fuel costs and thus transportation costs as well as a general increase in any petroleum based product. When the price of oil goes up then so does the price of food which is what happed when gas rose to above a $1 a litre and it looks like it will happen again.

The other problem is urban sprawl. From the linked Toronto Star article about former Toronto mayor John Sewell's new book, The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto's Sprawl.

"The Toronto urbanized area," Sewell writes, "had more than tripled, from 193 square miles in the 1950s to 656 square miles by the end of the 1990s, but the population had only doubled. Residential density in the former City of Toronto in the 1990s, built up mostly by the start of the Second World War, was 7,000 units per square mile; in the rest of the Metro Toronto (including the outer suburbs of North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough which were built largely between 1950 and 1985), it was 3,300 units per square mile. The population comparison was similar: 20,000 residents per square mile in the former city; 8,000 in the rest of Metro; and 4,700 in the developed portion of the fringes."

Sewell also quotes a 1995 study that showed "that in the former City of Toronto there are an average of 49 residents and jobs per urbanized acre, and in Metro Toronto as a whole, 23. In the fringes the ratio was much lower: Mississauga, 14; Brampton, 16; Markham, 13; Vaughan, 9; and Richmond Hill, 9."


But what the board didn't look at was the cost of suburban job creation. As Sewell documents, it is enormous. In addition to the loss of much of Canada's finest farmland, the price in pollution and health is disturbing. According to Sewell, each year about 1,700 people in the Toronto area die prematurely because of "poor air quality."

One of the major causes is vehicular emissions.
Even so, getting people out of their cars won't be so easy.

The densities of sprawl communities are too low to justify public transit, which in turn encourages the car dependency on which they were based in the first place. That's why there are 1.5 metres of road per resident in the city core, 5.5 in the outer suburbs.

In this way, Sewell points out, "low-density development has imposed much higher capital and operating costs than more compact development ... in the order of $1 billion per year in the GTA, or more than $1,000 per family per year for those living in the fringes."

Toronto and the surrounding area is situated on some of the most fertile land in the country. This also includes the Niagara Region, home to some of Canada's finest wine producers.

The Ontario Farm Animal Council sponsored a forum in Guelph, Ontario that was held in March of 2009. It was stated at this forum that Ontario could be an "agricultural leader". Canada is a net exporter of food with Ontario exporting 50% of its pork products to the United States. Ontario is home to 1/3 of Canada's population but less than 2% of Ontario's population are farmers yet are able to feed a lot of people. And with Ontario's rich soil the province can invest in agriculture to feed a growing world population to help fill the void being left by the dwindling manufacturing sector. What can undermine Ontario's agricultural position, the OFAC realizes, is urban sprawl.

With the advent of peak oil, communities around the world will have to become more dependent on home grown produce. Imported foods will become luxuries. What position will Canada be in if we have paved over much of the nation's arable land to build communities to accommodate the unnecessary mass importation of people the nation didn't need to fill jobs that don't exist? To add salt to the wound, peak oil will compel individuals to move closer to their jobs and to urban centers leaving the suburban communities they moved to because of cheap fuel and housing depopulated, laying waste to the land that could have been used for agricultural production.

The city of Barrie's growth was fueled by cheap gas and housing as well as "white flight". Now the city has reached its limits and is seeking to annex neighbouring lands. Toronto's satellite city of Brampton also owes it growth to cheap gas and housing but also to mass immigration primarily from south Asia. Both cities are cultural waste lands home to traffic problems, over population, and are both pushing urban sprawl onto farmlands. And a lot of this is caused by mass immigration. Sacrificing Canada's biodiversity and agricultural potential for cultural diversity and Liberal party votes is not worth it. In the end, at least in Brampton's case, all the Canada will gain is another unlivable suburban slum.

Canada's environmentalists need to address mass immigration as one of the most impending threats to Canada's environment. It is people who drive cars, over consume, drink water out of plastic bottle, produce garbage. Indeed Canadians are one of the most wasteful people in the world. I don't know why environmentalists don't oppose mass immigration more vocally since much of it is unnecessary.


Anonymous said...

"I don't know why environmentalists don't oppose mass immigration more vocally since much of it is unnecessary."

Probably for the same reason why the liberalites and their ilk are reluctant in compiling race-based crime statistics, because opening Pandora's box just might lead from one truth to another.

It's best to keep the mushrooms locked in the box enveloped with B.S.

Incidentally, not much related to "peak oil" etc., but I thought you may be interested in reading this essay.

Anonymous said...

From On Line Opinion (Australia):

The contradiction that is Farely Mowat

By Tim Murray
Posted Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On Friday, September 7, 2007, the venerable Canadian environmental author Farley Mowat made a boldly generous but stunningly futile gesture. He donated 200 acres of his Cape Breton land to “Nova Scotia Nature Trust”.

He called on others in the province to follow his example so that good land wouldn’t fall into some developer’s clutches and be destroyed for profit “like every other part of the western world”.

But while Mowat’s motives are beyond dispute and his affinity for wildlife unquestioned, he continues to evidence no understanding of the root causes of biodiversity loss.

In North America it is runaway population growth, fuelled largely by mass immigration and coupled with excessive consumption that is crowding out wildlife habitat, wetlands and farmland.

The question to be put to the environmental movement is, can nature preserves, greenbelts and national parks permanently shield wildlife and flora from the developmental pressures issuing from this growth?

Ontario commentator Brishen Hoff answers with a categorical “no”. “History has proven that no lands are protected when the population surrounding them is growing. This applies to countries, national parks, islands, or whatever. Once growing populations that surround pristine areas reach a tipping point, the demand for the resources of the protected area will become so great that all safeguards, laws, or barricades will be obliterated and the resources will be exploited.”

That is why Albert Bartlett of the University of Colorado established as his Fundamental Law of Planning that a workable, durable local plan cannot be effected in a community until the regional population is stabilised.

Curiously, advocates of secure borders and more restrictive immigration have been reproached and ridiculed by soft greens and mainstream environmental NGOs for proposing the equivalent of an international “gated community” that couldn’t hope, they allege, to fend off the heavy global traffic of people in the real world.

Yet none of these critics will acknowledge that their little fortresses - their nature preserves, their greenbelts, their parks, their strict land-use zonings - have little hope of standing up to the pressure of the growing populations we have recently seen. Growth spilled out of the urban boundaries of Portland, Oregon - poster child of “smart growth” - into surrounding farmland. And with no let-up from immigration houses are being built on formerly sacrosanct British greenbelts, the “lungs” of Britain.

And as long as economic growth is God, conservation lands are not secure either. They can and have been withdrawn by legislation and executive order. At one time an Act of Congress removed 1,400 square kilometers of the original Yosemite National Park for timber and mineral production.

Hoff explains that designating more land as protected does not lessen the appetite of a growing population for timber, minerals and fresh water. So while there is more “protected land” today than there was 50 years ago, there is also less wild habitat and biodiversity.

“Wildlife habitat will continue to be lost as natural capital is relocated from the economy of nature to the human economy”, until the economy shifts to a kind of steady-state model, writes Professor Brian Czech of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. But such a model implies population stability, something Canada will never enjoy with a 1.08 per cent growth rate from the import of a quarter million immigrants each year. This population growth will degrade “protected” lands through air pollution, litter, trespassing, hunting, groundwater contamination, alien species introductions and easements for growing infrastructure, as Hoff enumerates the incursions.

[Continued below...]

Anonymous said...

Oddly, there is virtually no environmental organisation in Canada that makes a connection between immigration and environmental degradation of any kind. Not the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, Ontario Nature - the list goes on. None of them speak of a connection. Quite the contrary. The problem is not whether we grow, so the mantra goes, but how we grow. If we grow “smart”, we can welcome the whole world here.

And the biggest Welcome Wagon in Canada is the leader of its Green Party, Elizabeth May, who argues for an immigration level even higher than that supported by her rivals. She calls this “Canada’s Great Multicultural Project”. May parrots those two sweet-sounding buzzwords that many environmental organizations use so frequently - “cultural diversity”. But cultural diversity in Canada and the United States cannot be sustained without massive and fresh injections of newcomers to bolster existing immigrants who otherwise would assimilate.

Viable multiculturalism requires unrelenting mass immigration. And mass immigration marginalises wildlife habitat. Cultural diversity therefore comes at the cost of biological diversity. So let’s dispense with the cant. The correlation is clear. Growing cities: vanishing wildlife.

One final irony: who was the man who spear-headed the national fund-raising campaign this past summer to raise campaign donations for Green Party leader Elizabeth May? None other than Farley Mowat, the man who wants to protect animals, birds, and plant life from human encroachment.

It was Mowat who once famously compared our species to yeast in a vat, “mindlessly multiplying as we greedily devour a finite world”. But apparently Canada’s not finite, or at least that portion of it beyond the safe bosom of a conservation charity.

To think that Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who dueled with Elizabeth May over the immigration issue when she was president of Sierra Club Canada, named his newest ship, The Farley Mowat.

That makes two contradictions.

Tim Murray blogs at (We) Can Do Better. He is Director of Immigration Watch Canada, and Vice President Biodiversity Canada which he co-founded. Tim is a member of Sustainable Population Australia, the Population Institute of Canada and Optimum Population Trust UK. His personal blog is at

Original article

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