The Fate of The Food Forest

Part 3 of the now extended Councillor Cado series

Part 1 | Part 2

CHERYL LYON – The lively woman at the mic was finishing her presentation to the municipal Watershed Peterborough Council. “I’m a grandmother now so you’d better listen to me,” she said with a smile. Then with sudden seriousness, she concluded her remarks with “I know some of your children. I’ve taught them at our community farm. They are wise. They’ve learned how we must live in these times. Hear them when they speak.”

The Mayor thanked her and, since she was today’s last delegation, turned to the Council meeting agenda. When the standard item on Declarations of Conflicts of Interest was called, one Councillor humorously asked if Councillor Cado Sani had a conflict since that last speaker had been his mother. “No Your Worship” replied Cado, tongue in cheek, “It has never been in my best interest to have a conflict of any kind with my mother Chioma!”

The fate of the proposed Food Forest would be decided today. Two years ago, in 2037, Council had supported demolition of two derelict condo buildings and two years of soil remediation for the land to become a Food Forest.

But Earth’s temperature had continued to rise rapidly. People now used the term “the before times” for anything prior to 2032 when the average annual temperature in south-central Ontario had surpassed the 1.5⁰C increase limit and shot up by 2⁰C creating the “now times” of heat waves and other disasters rolling across the globe. The Peterborough region was not spared.

Food Forest: an agricultural system that mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals for non-edible forest plants. Fruit and nut trees make up the canopy, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the understory.

It wasn’t that people in the “before days” hadn’t believed scientists’ predictions of the consequences. It was – well, it was a lot of things: human nature, capitalism, the Canadian myth of the invincible ‘We the North’ or the “boiling frog” syndrome. The heat waves’ intensities had crept up slowly.

Central Ontario had considered itself a “Goldilocks Zone” compared to other parts of North American: a bioregion “just right,” blessed with the world’s largest mass of fresh water – the Great Lakes – its own abundance of smaller lakes, rivers and wetlands, not over-populated, well-educated, peaceful, biodiverse enough to grow many different crops and plants, without highly-polluting industry, and, so far, abundant in carbon-sucking trees.

But incessant heat was testing Goldilocks now. Power for air conditioning was being rationed to certain hours. The racket of generators eroded even the finest neighbourly good will.

The area had had a few single days of record-breaking daytime temperatures each summer for a few years; but this year, 2039, the record was smashed by twelve consecutive days of 50⁰C daytime temperatures, 40⁰C nighttimes. Crops died. Food supply was disrupted. Hospitals were overwhelmed. People said it was worse than the COVID pandemic’s impact in the ‘20s. A report by NASA scientists back in 2021, expecting the warming rate for 2015-2040 to double “unless appropriate countermeasures were taken,” had come true. *

Locally, people called it “The Big Heat.” A different “now” had been ushered in.

To be continued…

* James Hansen and Makiko Sato. 13 August 2021.

The Fate of The Food Forest © 2023 by Cheryl Lyon in The Greenzine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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