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Will we commit to doing the right thing?

By Cheryl Anderson
One of my heroes is Dr. Paul Cox, an Harvard trained ethnobotanist, who famously mortgaged his house to save a rain forest in Western Samoa from logging.  While studying the medicinal plants used by the villagers of Faleolupo, Paul was amazed to hear logging going on in the forest. The villagers used the trees to make the huts they lived in.  They used the fruits and roots and shoots produced by the forest for medicine and food.  Yet, the government had decreed that they must have a school.  The school was going to cost $64,000.

Living on the land in a subsistent way, they had no way of finding $64,000– and so they sold the logging rights to their forest.  In order to prevent the destruction of the rain forest Paul Cox mortgaged his house, back in the USA, and paid for the school.  He then went on to make a covenant with the villagers of Faleolupo that they would become stewards of the forest in exchange for owning patents on any medicines derived from the plants and they would promise not ever to permit logging.  He also contacted some large organizations and companies that started to help the villagers develop an eco-tourism industry on their island.

Paul Cox is a person that commits to doing the right thing.  Through the Faleolupo Covenant, he designed a way for the villagers to start to move into the modern world without destroying their traditional way of life.
It strikes me that, in Prince Edward County, we may be confronting some of the same sort of issues that the Faleolupo villagers dealt with.  We need industry so that our young people will be able to have jobs and live a good life.  Our agricultural roots are withering unless they can be converted to vineyards or restored to vegetable growing in a future time.  Farmers are enticed to permit alternate energy uses on their land, because finally they can see a dependable source of income.

For millennia; however, Prince Edward County has had another use.  We share the space with wildlife.  More and more we are taking over land and leaving less for birds, animals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.  Some of the space they use (we call it habitat) is more important than others to their continued existence.  Such is the South Shore of Prince Edward County.  It is part of a migratory pathway for birds, but also it is used by several species at risk. National and International organizations recognized this by designating that area as an Important Bird Area.

Now we have to decide to save that important place from development.  It will take money and guts to fight the government approved plans to put Industrial Wind Turbines across the South Shore.  Will we be like Paul Cox and say “I will find a way to stop this” or will we just let it happen?

* * *

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, founded in 1997, is an affiliate of Ontario Nature. It provides an educational forum dedicated to the study, promotion, appreciation and conservation of the flora and fauna within Prince Edward County. The public is welcome at the meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month from September to May, except December, at Bloomfield Town Hall. Guest speakers introduce a variety of nature related topics. All members are encouraged to participate at meetings by sharing their experiences and observations. Regularly scheduled field trips in the vicinity offer members the opportunity to experience various habitats. Membership in PECFN is open to all. Contact: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, P.O. Box 477, Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0 Or Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096

Filed Under: News from Everywhere Else

About the Author: The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, founded in 1997, is an affiliate of Ontario Nature. It provides an educational forum dedicated to the study, promotion, appreciation and conservation of the flora and fauna within Prince Edward County. The public is welcome at the meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month from September to May, except December, at Bloomfield Town Hall. Guest speakers introduce a variety of nature related topics. All members are encouraged to participate at meetings by sharing their experiences and observations. Regularly scheduled field trips in the vicinity offer members the opportunity to experience various habitats. Membership in PECFN is open to all. Contact: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, P.O. Box 477, Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0 Or Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096

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  1. Karen Empringham says:

    Being a transplant from the city, I have to question the blanket statement that we all came and cleared land to build big retirement homes. My husband I bought an existing farmhouse which we have lovingly continued to preserve and other than adding gardens to what was already mowed grass, we have left the landscape (including a large unplowed field) much as we found it.

    We moved here to get away from the city and enjoy the pastoral setting which wind turbines will destroy.

    The wind turbine issue is a divisive one, to be sure. Let’s look at the original sentiment of the article posted which was to applaud an approach that respects the people most affected and see if we can’t come up with an approach like that here.

  2. David Norman says:

    SAB, an “unfortunate misunderstanding”… we should endeavor to make ourselves clearly understood and as you aptly pointed out, be forthright. I do not and would not readily judge anyone who leased land for a wind turbine. If it offered a financial security that their farm otherwise could not, I would not presume to question that decision. I do however resent and question it when it is cloaked, disguised behind rhetorically absurd and fraudulent propaganda. That we move in and alter the very “nature” that we seek to preserve and enjoy is another absurdity which is difficult to justify. How far do we go… when does it stop? Industrial Wind Turbines destroy the very environment they are purported to preserve. Short of the removal of 3/4 of the earths human population I cannot see any resolution to the environmental problems we face.

  3. SAB says:

    Dear Mr Norman: I also moved to the county, and was including myself in the question, would I accept the wind turbines if it meant loosing $ in the value of my home…Also did we new comers take into account what we were doing when we cleared land to build our new retirement homes.

    I do not wish to engage in a debate with you, I was just asking if these people (myself included) gave any thought to the environment, when we were building. My comments may not have been well written, but they were not meant to be cruel, humorous or entertaining.

    Doris, I certainly agree with you that we are fortunate to have the many new people, with their skills, who are sharing their expertise with those of us who are living and enjoying the county. I have sat on many committees with many of these people and I am in awe of the expertise and their willingness to share this knowledge without any fee.

    I just want us all to look within and ask ourselves what we would do if we owned property on which we earned our living and someone wanted to rent or buy a parcel of it. Would we rent or sell if it meant we would be able to stay and continue to live and enjoy an ancestoral home. I once had a cattle farmer tell me after a wind turbine was installed on his property, “Every morning, I walk out to it, stroke it, and say you are the best cow I have ever owned”.

    This issue seems to be causing such a rift between neighbours. I feel that we must try and put ourselves in others shoes before we criticize them.

  4. David Norman says:

    SAB, I see nothing “unfortunate” in your indictment against “city folk”. They, like myself came to live here for the specific reason of the “natural environment”. That they invest in the creation of a “high priced big home” (unlike myself)as you have pejoratively inferred has nothing to do with with the merits of Dr. Cox as you attempted to make implicit in your comment. When using rhetoric to present your fraudulent assertions at least try to do it with some a-plomb so that we might at least be entertained.

  5. Doris Lane says:

    I only know that we have some clever dedicated people working with APPEC. They have putin countless hours on research and doing reports. We are lucky to have these people in the county and they are doing all they can to save the county from destructive forces

  6. SAB says:

    I certainly agree with the accolades that Dr Cox has received. I do wonder though, how many of the people who are against the wind turbines, are the same who have sold homes in cities at high prices and moved to the county to clear land and build high priced new homes. Now they are more concerned about loosing the value in their homes, and not so much in the environment. Unfortunately I think if most of us were in this situation, we would be against the wind turbines also.

  7. Jim says:

    A look at farm stats for Prince Edward.

    http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/stats/county/central_ontario.pdf

    The numbers show several vibrant ag sectors with great futures. As Cheryl Anderson notes, it’s good to welcome vineyards to the community.

  8. David Norman says:

    The environmental organization, Seacology, that Dr. Cox founded and serves as Chairman, is one of a very select few that is not politically engaged or corporately controlled. They actually concentrate on practical environmentally sound grassroots solutions that respect and give voice and decision making to the people involved. A true hero indeed. My first knowledge of him was in 1997 when Time magazine named him a “Hero of Medicine”.

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