Archive forNovember 2009 - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

Nearly December

? To be concerned or delighted by the persistent lack of snow here, let alone Copenhagen (at 55º 41’N is 12º further north than Toronto)?


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Food for thought: Is “local food” really local?

My friend Vincenzo Pietropaolo has been documenting the hard lives of migrant farm workers since 1984. It is a thoughtful and poignant work that Vince has just published in the guise of his latest book,  Harvest Pilgrims.

“Like migratory birds, most of Canada’s 20,000 “guest” farm workers arrive in the spring and leave in the autumn. Hailing primarily from Mexico, Jamaica, and smaller countries of the Caribbean, these temporary workers have become entrenched in the Canadian labour force and are the mainstay of many traditional family farms in Canada. Many of them make the trip year after year after year.”

In it—and so germane to the theme of Mixed Farmin’—Pietropaolo poses among other questions, the following:

If local food, which has been the fashionable darling of urban foodies these past few years, depends on workers flying here from the Caribbean and Latin America to harvest it for market (because they are the only ones willing to subject themselves to such labour for minimum wage) is it really local?

Good question!


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Royal Dot Connecting On This Epoch’s Most Inconvenient Truth

With the recent visit by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to our little colony, there was much chin-wagging on the monarchy debate in the media which left me, as it does usually, sitting on the fence.

Clearly I have misgivings concerning the monarchy’s historically imperial propensities and Great Britain’s unfortunately enduring legacies of colonialism, not only here, but throughout the global shards of that Empire. The monarchy does seem much of the time a barely living anachronism, and undoubtedly must feel a most expensive burden to the British taxpayer, a case well crafted in Canadian documentarian John Curtin’s new film, After Elizabeth II.

However, one point for the monarchy that others have made is the value of having at a country’s disposal a head of state who is relatively immune to the toxic exigencies of party politics within 4-5 year election cycles. An example of such big picture leadership can be seen precisely in The Richard Dimbleby Lecture, titled “Facing the Future” as delivered by HRH The Prince of Wales on July 7th earlier this year at the St James’s Palace State Apartments in London. I was unaware of this speech until I first heard it last night on CBC’s Ideas. It is inconceivable that it might have been written let alone delivered with such authority and passion by even the most enlightened world leader such as US President Barack Obama—tethered as he is to the art of compromise in the trenches of a daily politics dominated by transnational business—let alone by our own, more nakedly polemic and narrowly focused Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Indeed, such a lecture could only ever be written by someone who resides above such relatively small and short-sighted concerns, while at the same time possessing the economic and social capital that such global leadership would imbue, and with the time: sixty years and counting for this British monarch in waiting.

Incidentally, this speech can be found on the Royal Channel or on HRH’s own site both as video and in transcript. As an participant-observer in media I find it fascinating to assess my own reaction to HRH’s speech as I consume it in its different forms. Even the Prince who partakes in the fun about his odd appearance might not therefore be surprised that his speech has, to me at least, greater weight when heard or read rather than viewed in a visual medium; his physical presentation distracts significantly from his message.

But what a message! He manages to clearly and concisely spell out the connections among some of the most significant facts and difficult ideas of the day, all in well less than an hour. And he delivers this synthesis in voice and text as one of the finest examples of the Queen’s English I’ve heard in some time, which is frankly some small measure of relief given Charles’ apparent destiny to replace her as language guardian.

There is one key assumption of the Prince’s that I must take exception to. He says:

“So, I wonder, is it the case that the problem lies first and foremost not in what we do but in a fracture within us that leads to a limited view of what and where we are in the natural order – and that, therefore, we need urgently to look deeply into ourselves and at the way we perceive the world and our relationship with it? If only because, surely, we all want to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren something other than the nightmare that for so many of us now looms on the horizon. But that threat will not go away just because we deny it. We are standing at a moment of substantial transition where we face the dual challenges of a world view and an economic system that seem to have enormous shortcomings, together with an environmental crisis – including that of climate change – which threatens to engulf us all.”

I have met far too many individuals—often rich and powerful—expressly concerned with their own short-term greed to assume “surely, we all want to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren something other than the nightmare…”. I would urge HRH to investigate this assumption and its implications.

I do agree however with  his key implications that one of the greatest threats may been our own complacency. In July 2009, when he delivered this speech, Prince Charles noted that he believed that we only had 96 months left before we passed a point of no return, a tipping point beyond which resuscitation of the environment was still possible before the accelerating momentum of global climate change spins the world into unimaginable disaster. That means we have only 92 months left.


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Eating Local in Ontario: An effective message

Not that I’m ever a great fan of food corporations, but kudos to Hellmanns for sponsoring this very effective video:


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