The Bitter Ash, Larry Kent, 1963
“The city’s first coat of arms … was a representation of things that were the lifeblood of the city at that time … a sailing ship, a tree, wooden docks and a train.”
Lori L. Wallis, & Jake Adams, The Greater Vancouver Book
Wood was everything: transportation, clothing, shelter; from fuel and tool to conduit for spirits.
The first European settlements were sawmill camps; loggers and millers lived on wood, in wooden homes heated by wood fires, and walked plank sidewalks and streets paved with wooden blocks. The forest loomed large –literally and figuratively.
In everything but postcards, the city started turning its back on cedar and Douglas Fir. By the early 1980s the economic decoupling was obvious: the loggers checked-out of their skid road hotels for good, and the winter morning pungent whiff of pulp disappeared. The cooperage was the last to go, making way for the Exposition, the “coming out” party. And then even the logrolling competition vanished from the fair grounds.
Far from our life of concrete and glass life, the poorly stewarded forest is an icon debased, a harvest of raw logs and woodchips –a steaming pile of waste, passing briefly through an orifice.
Photo courtesy Rommy Ghaly, Vancouverish.com
It’s an idea that sounds and looks beautiful: fallow urban land is converted into agricultural use, with the harvest making its way into local markets and restaurants. Food miles drop, food security rises, and the whole enterprise may even be economically viable.
It’s an unlikely marriage of dedicated urban agriculturalists to developers leasing their property free of charge. And it’s a fruitful love match, with plots springing up everywhere, including two full acres near Pacific Boulevard and Carrall Street.
So far, so wholesome: the community, in all its diversity, joining hands to dance ‘round Mother Nature and partake of her bounty, while Mayor Greenest blows a folksy tune o’ the pipe.
But as The Mainlander recently noted, where undeveloped property would normally be subjected to a tax rate of 1.75%, this drops to 0.56% with the presence of an urban farm. On a lot such as 58 West Hastings, owned by Concord Developments, this translates into $17,000 less for the City’s coffers. That’s a pretty sweet deal, if you’re a developer -sweeter than a pound of sun-ripened, hand-picked, tax subsidized heirloom tomatoes.
And as the plots are all temporary, they’re less urban farm and more a corporate-induced macro-lichen, softening both ground and minds for the inevitable -and inedible- growth to follow.
“A few people know … that the decorations, including the nurses and the panels around the arch at the main entry, include symbols and pictographs of scientific medicine, Christian belief and faith, and medieval and ancient magic and superstition …. Does anyone know that at the entrance the caduceus, a rod with two snakes entwined at the shaft, is a symbolic mistake? A shaft with twin serpents is a symbol of Hermes or Mercury, gods of commerce, not healing or charity.”
Danny Boyd, Vancouver Sun, May 30, 1989
“… the old [building] has been there all this time and forms an important part of our collective civic memory. A city without a past suffers amnesia, and Vancouver is fast becoming a world-class center for architectural Alzheimer’s disease.”
John Davis, letter to the Vancouver Sun, May 11, 1988
Tip-of-the-hat to Johnny Drift.
“Many men who had failed at the mines were washed down here like the river silt to find their treasure ….”
Bruce Hutchison, The Fraser
According to Human Rights Watch, Eritrea “is one of the world’s most repressive and closed countries. The government of President Isaias Afewerki has effectively banned the independent press. Journalists languish in detention, as do officials who question Isaias’s leadership; many have died in jail …. Nearly all men and many women over 18 are conscripted into indefinite ‘national service,’ which exploits them as forced labor at survival wages.”
The “hermit-like pariah state on the Horn of Africa” was subjected to United Nations sanctions in 2009 for supporting the Somali Islamist insurgents Al-Shabab.
But there’s gold in them thar hills, so enter Nevsun Resources Ltd, 760 – 669 Howe Street, Vancouver, British Columbia. Nevsun’s Bisha mine was built with slave labour, but by an Eritrean sub-contractor.
Pacific Rim Mining Corp, 410 – 625 Howe Street, is suing El Salvador via a World Bank Tribunal for placing a prohibition on mining and effectively scuttling its plans for the El Dorado (sic) gold mine. “Recent murder and death threats against activists in the region have put the spotlight on the gold mining project there.”
Goldcorp Inc., 3400 – 666 Burrard Street, opened their Marlin Mine in Guatemala in 2005 to heavy opposition from local residents. “Critics suggest that Marlin is environmentally unsound; while Goldcorp points out that since 2005 they’ve been the driving force behind building roads, schools and health clinics in the area.” Both, of course, are possible.