Agriculture, Environment, Land, Food, Planning, Sustainability Archives - Page 4 of 5 - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

Web Gallery of Red Barn Fire is now up

For a gallery summarizing the events of the past several days, please go to my web site and navigate to my Work page and  “Special Projects & News”


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“Elegy” is part of the Featured Exhibitions at CONTACT 2009

Just got the great news that my work is indeed part of the Featured Exhibitions for this year’s CONTACT Photo Festival Toronto- a small part, but definitely featured, not just a listing:

Welcome, Hope Township, Ontario.  Tombstones, Walker Family Cemetery

Harbourfront Centre, Toronto


From his ancestral home in Southern Ontario, Peter Sibbald presents landscape as a nexus of human will and nature. Elegy for a Stolen Land depicts a place where politics, spirituality, environmental science, commerce, social justice and philosophy collide.

Supported by:

The Canada Council for the Arts


The Ontario Arts Council

The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario


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Saving the CBC- A Grass Roots Strategy: Back to Basics

Each of us is feeling an economic crunch to some extent and the Canadian government, this time under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, has taken advantage of this latest recession to cut the funding to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, yet again. In response, CBC President Hubert Lacroix has announced:

  • 800 jobs will be cut
  • many of his (that is, “our”) crown corporations assets will be sold off
  • more of its regional bureaus closed
  • regional programming cancelled and
  • the airwaves filled with ever greater levels of repeat programming.

The subject of this post then is how we respond to this challenge to democracy—indeed to this core force of our Canadian cultural identity—both in the context of this brave new world of on-line communications but also in this week when our Prime Minister at the G20 Summit in London has quite nakedly stated something to the effect of: ‘I make no secret of the fact that I am a great fan of the United States.’

(Not that I have anything against the US, but they have only the thinnest shreds of a public broadcaster left by comparison. Anyway, I will update this quote as soon as I can confirm it).

In particular I’m prompted to write this post by a request that I received earlier this week from the global pro-democracy organization AVAAZ to sign their on-line petition. by the way is an independent, not-for-profit global  organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making.

I would argue that the current federal Conservatives are not the first government to have an antagonistic relationship with our public broadcaster nor are they the only political stripe to act against it. Such antagonism is intrinsic to the watchdog role a public broadcaster ought to fulfill, and one that the CBC has been relatively effective at, and so the CBC has from time-to-time incurred the wrath of each of the parties. But the Conservatives are the ones doing it now, and one would do well to consider the power, long-term bias and typical strategies of this current government when forming a response to their latest tactics.

In March 16, 2009’s Georgia Straight online Friends of Canadian Broadcasting’s spokesman Ian Morrison makes a persuasive case detailing how the Stephen Harper Conservatives have for some time had it in for the CBC, including the hand-picking of Mr. Lacroix, a well-known pro-private broadcasting executive, to head this collapse of the CBC from the inside.

In recent years just as funding to public broadcasting has been whittled away, much has been made of the democratization of media as a result of rising use of the internet with email campaigns, blogs and citizen journalism, the potential power of online petitions and Facebook Groups. Indeed, many of us have enthusiastically seized upon these tools with a sense of greater empowerment, for indeed they do have potential.

As a for instance, nearly 30,000 additional signatures have been added to the Avaaz petition just since I first started thinking about this a couple of days ago and Avaaz is now within a few hundred of their 100,000 target.

But is this not a good thing?

Probably it is good, but more to the point: Is it effective?

There is a potentially serious downside to our online fervour. Uncoordinated use of these tools can easily lead us—we, the people—to be divided and conquered by those forces that would happily stand by and let us expend our energy placating ourselves with the sense of catharsis that such activities bring and the mistaken assumption that we are doing something of essential consequence. For we may in fact not be. It is in so many ways, only virtual, and not tangibly material. That is, if one is not very careful, one can easily fall into a self-delusional trap of non-effective civic engagement, and therein lies the potential for our own undoing.

Consider this: a quick survey of Facebook groups yields some 165 different groups through the filter “save the CBC”. Is joining one of those going to be helpful?

Are writing blog posts such as the one I may yet write in defence of the CBC going to have much effect other than venting for the writer?

Is the Avaaz initiative effective? I’m not sure. It can’t hurt directly, but after all, how much does it matter to a Canadian government what the rest of the world thinks when that particular group of “leaders” has already shown such utter disdain for the institution and role of the media in general and public media in particular, or for so many of our citizens in general with, for example, its parliamentary shenanigans over the Christmas period immediately in the wake of their re-election, what others have coined “ Prorogue-gate”.

Yet… it’s good to be engaged though.

So yes, join a FB group. Write a blog post and let your voice be heard. Join and support the most established voice in this long-time battle, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and stick with them so that you can follow their lead.  Sign the Avaaz petition if you like. But at the same time, be only cautiously optimistic of the effects of these things and err on the safe side to improve our chances of effecting a desirable outcome.

I am not positive of this statistic but I recall having read in recent years that only 4½ % of Canadians are regular CBC listeners, but nevertheless that is roughly 1.5 M Canadians (Again I will update as soon as I can get an accurate figure…). Add CBC television watchers and perhaps one approaches 10% of our 33M population. Even a conservative estimate of a CBC audience as 8% of Canadians would not be an insignificant figure, particularly given that the demographic of this audience includes most of the country’s decision makers and politically engaged citizens in particular the men and women who will be seeking our votes in the next election.

That is then, make sure you cover the basics:

•    Write or at least phone your MP.
— To find your federal riding and your MP go here.
— For MP contact information go here.

•    Dash off a quick letter (or letters… the more the merrier) to the editor (your choice).

•    Send a note to CBC President Hubert Lacroix ( ) telling him of your concerns and copy it both to the PM as well as to your favourite CBC programs contact emails.

•    For more detailed letter writing toolkit also please check out Stand On Guard for the CBC Blog

To quote from the Avaaz call to action:

“Our CBC is a national treasure, and a pillar of public-interest journalism in a country whose media is owned by a few large firms. We won’t hear an outcry from their media outlets, and the CBC is too principled to use its megaphone to make the case for itself. We are the only voice the CBC has.”

One way or another, in a period of minority government, 1.5 to 3 M letters to federal MPs, or signatures on a petition is not a figure that even the most callused of politicians can ignore easily.

Canada: Yours to Engage!


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Audio Profile by CBC’s Shelagh Rogers


Shelagh Rogers introduces photographer Peter Sibbald at the Peter Gzowski Invitational fundraiser for Frontier College.

Peter is interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on Sounds Like Canada, CBC Radio One

Recorded and aired Monday June 4, 2007
(duration 23 minutes)
Shelagh Rogers, ©, with courtesy

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Following the Money in The 905

Recently the independent, non-partisan community organization Vote Toronto published a study by York University professor, Robert MacDermid, “Funding City Politics”, citing the very strong connection between elected politicians and the development industry: nearly 70% of political campaign contributions to the winning politicians come from development related corporations, their friends and families.

And what if you’re a candidate who wants to slow down development and make it more ecologically sustainable?

“You’ve got a tough row to hoe:, says MacDermid.

More from CBC Ontario Today

©CBC, 2009

Vote Toronto offers a comprehensive set of recommended Electoral Reforms


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Dewatering for The Big Pipe

Stouffville, Ontario. Dewatering
Approximately 43°56’57.22″N   79°15’7.87″W, facing East, circa October 2, 2005

From my series: Elegy for a Stolen Land

As part of the extension of York Region’s $350 million mega-project known as the “Big Pipe”,  a large sewer trunk passes through land along the 9th Line in front of this 19th century farm house. The land is dewatered so that workers can get deep into the ground, at or below the water table, to install the pipe.

This trunk of the pipe, to accommodate growth in Stouffville’s secondary plan, is to move sewage to the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant near Lake Ontario. Rates of dewatering range from 5,000 – 30,000 litres per minute, and the project stretches well up into the Oak Ridge’s Moraine, the natural aquatic battery for all lands southward to Lake Ontario.

On January 3, 2004 The Toronto Star’s Leslie Ferenc reported in an article entitled Close -up: The Big Pipe, that opponents, from the province’s environment commissioner right on down to farmers and individual farm owners, argue—and officials readily admit—that dewatering process has proven to empty aquifers, parch resident’s wells, bleed streams and fields dry, destroy fish and wildlife habitats, and draw effluent away from failing septic tanks into the wider water table. Proponents argue that they will be able to set things right later by implementing mitigating measures.

Such mitigating measures are planned on the assumption that such measures may yet be invented and successfully implemented.

This and other of The Star’s stories about the Big Pipe are no longer freely available on the internet, but you can find a copy of this one here. Environmental Defence and Lake Ontario WaterKeeper have archived some of that coverage. Otherwise they can be sourced through The Star’s paid archive service.

… Comin up next, “Following the money…”


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Sensational Singles



Markham, Ontario. Real Estate Billboards.
Approx.  43°54’7.53″N  79°14’27.90″W, Facing south, circa May 5, 2005

From my series: Elegy for a Stolen Land

Before Europeans arrived, these lands were rich in freshwater and wildlife, and home to successive waves of first peoples who saw themselves and the land as one.

Later, due to a combination of soil quality, water availability and growing season—determined by latitude and proximity to the moderating influence of Lake Ontario—settlers turned these lands into productive class 1 farmland that would feed the city it surrounded for more than a century.

On the former pioneer family farm of John Raymer, real estate billboards promote the sale of roughly 2,500 homes on the lands of such former pioneer farmer neighbours as James and Adam Clendenen, and John Reesor. According to official documents filed in 2005: “the GTA/905 Regions of York, Halton, Peel and Durham have been and will continue to be the fastest growing regions in Ontario, collectively growing at twice the provincial rate of growth by adding more than 90,000 new residents each year.”

In a time of increasing global economic uncertainty and wildly unstable fuel prices, those and the other new residents of the past half century inhabit a new land crop of bricks and mortar, and are meanwhile ever more dependent on food imports from the USA, Latin America and Asia.


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What We Are and What We Did

In his 2008 essay, Going Home (Anansi), in reference to our changing relationship to land, Governor General’s Literary Award-winning poet and essayist Tim Lilburn writes:

What we are: detached long ago, while still in Europe, from that part of the Western intellectual tradition that would have taught us the suitability of living undivided from one’s earth,” we cannot value what we most need, indeed cannot name it. What we did: we met the new land as conquerors and subjugated it. We moved too quickly over the ground, omnivorous, self-uprooting on principle, marked by the inevitably anarchic character of capitalism… Finally we just filled it with our will, so that the land came to look tired in its heart: almost empty but crammed with human intention, sick with a sameness that came from us.


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