Transition Ottawa

Building Community Resilience Through Action

I just came across a new matching service: bringing together those in urban areas with land they don't use with those living nearby with skills and desire to garden but no land.

The site, (which could be read two ways: shared earth and share dearth, as in the city's dearth of food production land and of natural foods), is only a few weeks old, and hasn't really officially launched.  It has been founded by the brother of Dell Computer's founder and CEO.

Although I am not much of a food-focused person, I have recently been exposed to three interesting sources: 1) watched a documentary, Food, Inc, on Newsworld, about large-scale food production/preparation, 2) watched British chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (6-part on ABC Fridays, now finished) about getting America's most obese city, Huntington, WV, to reform its school lunch program), and 3) read "The End of Overeating" by a Yale doctor, about the way food is over-processed (prepared, pre-cooked, pre-chewed ;-) to overcome our ability or desire to notice when we are full, and to steer us to food items that they can make more money on.  All reflect the dependence on food industry on using as much as possible of  a) fat, b) sugar, and c) salt to trigger our individual "reward systems."

I owe my attention to this on personal health issues (the most relevant is a condition that has given me type-2 diabetes), and have taken a number of food courses, and now read labels more and try to buy the raw ingredients much more.

I recently gave a talk on the need to the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome proposing organizing a comeback for sharing in all ways, as a way to reduce consumption without having to go without, and to increase a sense of community.  I thought I had mentioned all possibilities, but apparently not. [I can send a *.rtf file of it.]

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Thanks Chris,

Would it be appropriate to make the *.rtf file available here as an uploaded document? / jd
Been wanting to comment on this for awhile. I loved that this started through Craigslist!

I was at a presentation at Industry Canada last month about the service economy and how it could be increased in a low carbon society (called Green Servicizing). They provided examples such as:
- (and Fortum Active)

But your example goes further as this adds to building community as you mentioned and connecting with the local ecosystem.

Great link!
Thanks for the other references. Yes, as we cut back on producing things, to reduce CO2 and fossil-fuel energy use, we will either do without, or we will find ways to share. I addressed this in a talk in March to the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR), not yet posted on their site,

Katherine Forster said:
Been wanting to comment on this for awhile. I loved that this started through Craigslist!

I was at a presentation at Industry Canada last month about the service economy and how it could be increased in a low carbon society (called Green Servicizing). They provided examples such as:
- (and Fortum Active)

But your example goes further as this adds to building community as you mentioned and connecting with the local ecosystem.

Great link!
This seems like a slippery slope toward classical serfdom/feudalism... not that I don't have any concerns about it in its ostensible current manifestations... like someone makes shoes for a pittance and they get shipped back where they sell for an arm-and-a-leg (and all the dynamics that unfold from that) "Sounds like a deal to me. Where do I sign (away my soul)?"

Dell ay?...
"Let's see... I can't gardern for shit, but have all this property acquired with laws that uphold my purchases with the money made for me, and those with slave wages and no property know stuff I don't. Hmm, let's see... How can I leverage this one..." ;)
I wonder if the brothers share their spoils...

..."Tell you what: Subdivide your McMansion and get your ass off some of that large tract of land you're squatting on and I'll grow my own. I'd be willing to tend the soil on 'your side' in exchange for whatever we can negotiate. And while we're at it, quit charging me for my tenancy at the rabbit hutch in which I live."

In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, apparently, some people are happy in chains and with the shadows on the cave's walls... I wonder if Plato considered that who were imprisoning were they, themselves, prisoners of a sort. I suppose it might be lucrative to fake it in any case.

What does Permaculture and Neo-Feudalism have in common? Stay tuned!
"Prior to emancipation, sharecropping was limited to poor landless whites, usually working marginal lands for absentee landlords. Following emancipation, sharecropping came to be an economic arrangement that largely maintained the status quo between black and white through legal means."
-- Wikipedia

I have my doubts that Mollison or Holmgren would like this idea.
Thanks for this Chris! I added this information in a "Transition Town Ottawa" flyer we made for the Community Garden events! Great link!
Katherine Forster said:
Thanks for this Chris! I added this information in a "Transition Town Ottawa" flyer we made for the Community Garden events! Great link!

Below is a copy of a recent email on the subject that elaborates on my expressed concern:

...Thanks for your response, and your good points are well-taken. (Please feel free to post this email-- edited or verbatim-- where/how/-ever you see fit, in its support, and to have anyone else contact me.) I still await one from the Permaculture Research Institutes, although in Australia, for example, our late yesterday was their late Friday.

To clarify and put it simply, I'm of the "cautious contention" that everyone needs to have a reasonably sizeable/fertile piece of land that they can call their own-- at least on par with a so-called "owner"-- or it is doubtful this permaculture thing will work in the long run.
And I say this from the inside, as a fellow "Transitionist", which lends all the more gravity, in part because I wish I didn't feel like I have to (and despite whether you agree).

I imagine you've heard of the butterfly-effect/chaos theory? Well, simply put again; the mere gentle flapping of a butterfly's wings "today" can cascade into a full-blown out-of-control hurricane "tomorrow".
My weather vane is spinning unusually quickly for just such a potential effect with an otherwise ostensibly-innocuous "butterfly-as-the-land-sharing-thing", and so I'm very interested in nipping it in the bud, should my vane prove correct. ('Sharing' seems a misnomer if the "sharing" is somehow inequable-- perhaps a bit like a marriage, where the husband owns the house that the wife cleans.)

From what is understood, permaculture is, first and foremost, ethically about Care of The Earth, (and Care of People), and I suspect that the longer we maintain various kinds and degrees of dislocation of people from it, is the longer and harder the drag will be on our transition.

Species have come and gone in the grand natural historical scheme, and it may yet prove that humans, as exceptional as they think they are, won't be in this case. Certainly not if we keep repeating age-old mistakes, blowing ourselves backwards.

I'll leave you with these two quotes:

"Our intention in telling this story is... to honour a community that stood up for its rights, sacrificing greatly in the process. Not since the Metis Resistance of 1885 has there been an event as significant as 'the Oka Crisis' in proclaiming and defending Aboriginal rights. This country still has a lot to learn about respect for native people and their communities, and the script does not hold back from portraying the ignorance and racism of Governments and Canadian society".
~ Gil Cardinal,
Director, Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis

"The Eden that Europeans described when they reached North America was not a wilderness, but a well-managed resource, a complex combination of nature and culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural wealth free for the taking. The result of this land grab in North America is that only 2% of the land is now wild, its major rivers are polluted, its lakes have caught fire, and its forests are dying from the top down.
The tragedy of this commons was that it never really was a commons after colonization, but was surrendered to plunder, privatization, and exploitation in the name of Manifest Destiny and progress."
It is great that the last two comments to my food/landsharing is being so productive.

The natives attitude is so much logical: you don't own -- in the Western European sense of exclusivity -- but you hold a trusteeship with those living within a walk. This reference to walking is important because community-supported agriculture (CSA) has always required owning a car or truck to reach the land that is being shared.

Ottawa has the rare asset of a greenbelt. And there are many underutilized parcels of land in parks and in roadway cloverleafs. We need not only to catalogue these, but to develop an agreement between the 'owners' and those wanting to add value for a decent return, something like the Creative Commons for intellectual property. (2010 Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom, who was honoured for her studies of the indigenous sharing agreements of water and timber, has also co-authored a book on intellectual sharing: Hess, Charlotte & Elinor Ostrom (eds.) (2007) Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (MIT Press)]

I will close with a thought on cars and bikes as object for sharing. They, too, are durables, and represent a use of resources that a) break down over time, and b) are utilized too little before they decline, when owned by one person. The private ownership regime means, therefore, that too many are manufactured for the amount of travel that, overall, needs to be done (and much travel done in privately owned vehicles is really needed, anyway), and that means that a great deal of land must be used for parking (which might otherwise be farmed, eh!). We share the roads; why not share the means for transportation! And when the crops on these shared lands need to be harvested and distributed, this task should be done using a shared vehicle (and I am not saying that his has to be motorized).

Chris Bradshaw
Hi Chris,

Good points...

The green ribbon along the south bank of the Rideau River was mentioned, along, however, with a concern with urban food toxicity-- which I especially append to your mention of roadway cloverleafs. It might be insightful to get some soil samples done at a lab.

While I'm inclined to reject the notion of ownership, at least depending on how it's defined, I will nevertheless presume that parks are public, and therefore everyone's?
At any rate, based on my research, there are instances where people have gone ahead and built or planted without 'official consent', in part as an expression of freedom and courage, as well as with the idea that one of the best proof-of-concepts is in their actual realizations.

Speaking of robust/long-term manufacture/lifecycles; Herman Daly (takes deep breath)...
winner of The Honorary Right Livelihood Award, the Heineken Prize for Environmental Science from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Sophie Prize (Norway), the Leontief Prize from the Global Development and Environment Institute, chosen as Man of the Year 2008 by Adbusters magazine, and potential recipient of an awesome big warm hug prize from me ;)
...has also mentioned their importance in his steady-state economics writings.

But again, far too much of this arrived-at Nobel-prize-winning/Phd stuff seems to go best with a "Well, duh." ;)

While I've yet to look into Ostrom's work, her 8 design principles, at least as cited at Wikipedia, do give me some pause.

I'll leave you with this quote:

"The program traces the development of game theory with particular reference to the work of John Nash (famous from 'Beautiful Mind'), who believed that all humans were inherently suspicious and selfish creatures that strategized constantly. Using this as his first premise, Nash constructed logically consistent and mathematically verifiable models, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Economics. These games were internally coherent and worked correctly as long as the players obeyed the ground rules that they should behave selfishly and try to outwit their opponents, but when RAND's analysts tried the games on their own secretaries, they instead chose not to betray each other, but to cooperate every time... What was not known at the time was that Nash was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and, as a result, was deeply suspicious of everyone around him... and was convinced that many were involved in conspiracies against him. It was this mistaken belief that led to his view of people as a whole that formed the basis for his theories. Footage of an older and wiser Nash was shown in which he acknowledges that his paranoid views of other people at the time were false... Curtis examines how game theory was used to create the USA's nuclear strategy during the Cold War. Because no nuclear war occurred, it was believed that game theory had been correct in dictating the creation and maintenance of a massive American nuclear arsenal because the Soviet Union had not attacked America with its nuclear weapons, the supposed deterrent must have worked and the theories would later be propagated through other segments of society. ...The idea of the U.S. basing its national security on an esoteric exercise with fundamentally flawed equations seems startling."

~ From the description of the documentary, 'The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom? Episode 1: F**k You Buddy',
The mention of soil contamination is appropriate. The land along the Rideau River near the Queensway is acknowledged to be contaminated by long-gone industrial uses, something which caused the old Regional government to get dinged by the province over an oil-like seepage into the water after construction of the Transitway bridge in the 1980s.

As far as contamination of soils around freeway interchanges, that would probably be less, but that is only a hunch. I have not researched testing of such adjacent lands, but it would be shame if the roadway caused enough to make the soils useless for growing food; it is already unusable for residential uses, up to 500 feet away, because of noise. Should the groundhogs even be allowed to graze there?!

As to gaming theory, I found your story of John Nash and his Nobel-garnering research to be interesting. I have long felt that our own behaviour influences others' behaviour: if you act suspicious(ly), you will induce those you deal with to suspect you and others; but act trusting, and you get a like reaction. In building Vrtucar, we found that our members were very trustworthy, unlike what the car-rental firms experience. The difference? We trust our members; they do not.

One of the best books on inherent cooperative behaviours is Petr Kropotkin's 1902 tome, Mutual Aid. I have excerpts in *.doc format to share (my own digest version). Request at
@Chris Bradshaw:
Good on Vrtucar. :)
A shame about the land near the Queensway bridge. I was unaware of that, but then, I grew up in Montreal (with its own environmental mires).
I've come across Kropotkin before, among many other interesting names. If I can get out of the Transition swamp ;) long enough, I might look into your excerpts, thank you.

I've also thought about that when I've passed by the Experimental Farm, so I agree about your idea. The thought of a guerilla garden in that grove of trees on its west side has even crossed my mind, as well as a few picket signs along the roadside that say something like, "Experimental Permaculture Farm(?)".

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