Summer Activism 101: The Kids Investigate the Mega Quarry


Tuesday’s installment for our Summer of Funner Film Festival happened to be another Wes Anderson movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The kids were particularly interested in the amount of underground digging performed both by the animal protagonists in flight and by the big three farmers in pursuit of them. They were also dumbfounded by the elective flooding of those underground spaces with truckloads of cider.

Over the past few days, the kids have started putting two and two together, relating their interest in the film (and Dahl’s novel) with life around them. And, this morning, they started asking about the “Stop the Mega Quarry” signs they’ve seen on lawns and in storefronts throughout the neighborhood. So, we decided to spend some time investigating how people have depicted this “problem” and the proposed “solutions” surrounding it.

Today, the kids took an important first step in becoming Socially Responsible.

SUMMERof FUNNER ACTIVISM 101: INVESTIGATING THE PROBLEM

First, we had a good look at the sign in the window of our coffee shop:20120803-092008.jpg 20120803-092000.jpg 20120803-105107.jpg
From the words on the back of this signboard, we learned that there is an area 100 km Northwest of Toronto in which the “Highland Companies,” backed by a “Hedgefund,” have purchased quarries and thousands of acres of farmland, with the intention of creating a “Mega Quarry.” We read that what was once precious farmland would be converted to quarries which would produce limestone. And we read that the site in question is connected to the “headwaters” of five major rivers, and that several hundred million litres of Ontario drinking water would have to be diverted and perhaps treated before being returned to its natural course in order for the land to be quarried.

I brought home a few flyers for the kids to have a closer look:
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As we were reading, the kids stopped to look up a few basic terms in the dictionary: Quarry, Mega, and Hedgefund. And the kids wrote out the words and their definitions in their Yesterday Books.
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One thing I wanted to make clear to the kids was that whether or not we agree with the “Stop the MegaQuarry” Mission, there is always a basic “agenda” or “point of view” in a flyer, and there is always an “author” or writer behind that opinion.

So, our next step was to investigate the “About Us” section of the www.ndact.com website to find out about the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce who produced the flyers and signs. We found that the group consisted of residents (many of them farmers) from the Melancthon and Mulmur townships in Ontario, an area to the north and west of our home in Toronto. From what we could gather, it looked as if several of the farmers who had lived in the area “sold out” to the Highland Companies. The group producing the flyer consisted of a group of concerned residents who were left. At least, the group consisted of those who were not actively employed by or involved in the quarry industry itself. I was careful to remind the kids that there are likely just as many if not more people who might support the quarry industry or be supported by it. I wanted to make sure they were aware of the alternative voices which might arise from within that community.

Then, we moved on to investigate the environmental impact of the proposed Mega Quarry as propounded by the NDACT group. As I read the kids the bulleted list of points regarding the impact of the mega quarry, they drew “symbols” of what this impact was or meant.
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Where the flyer argued that the agricultural land in the area produces 50% of the potatoes consumed by the GTA, the kids each drew potatoes.
Where the flyer argued that the pit to be excavated 180 feet below the water table threatened four major watersheds, and that, in turn, the water resources for one million Ontarians could be affected, the kids drew taps and a water table.
Where the flyer argued that the Highland Corporation would have to pump 60o-million-litres of water from its quarry per day, the kids drew a flooded tap and a water line.
Where the flyer argued that to operate the quarry, hundreds of diesel trucks would have to run every day, creating traffic and pollution, the kids drew fleets of dirty, barely distinguishable trucks.
Where the flyer argued that the streams and rivers running through the Niagara Escarpment would be affected by the Quarry, the kids drew more streams.
Where the flyer argued that once the limestone is extracted, the Highland company will attempt to farm the bottom of that pit, which seems costly, risky, and a dubious pursuit, the kids drew failed crops and a farmhouse sunk in a pit.
And, where the flyer aruged that the proposal will use unproven technology, the kids drew question marks.20120803-092154.jpg 20120803-092200.jpg 20120803-092210.jpg 20120803-092230.jpg
When we were finished, the kids had filled their yesterday books with a few good pages of definitions and symbols:20120803-092253.jpg 20120803-092305.jpg  20120803-092317.jpg 20120803-092323.jpg
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Then, we had a “big conversation” about what they thought was most important about the proposed Mega Quarry.  They were concerned about the wildlife in the region and along the Niagara Escarpment, particularly the birds of Ontario sheltered there. They were particularly worried about the potential impact of the Mega Quarry upon the water supply. We talked about the uses of water in our everyday lives, our own body’s percentage of water,the percentage of water on the face of the earth, and the relation of water to wildlife.  Inspired by a conversation I’d had with the owner of the cafe where we picked up the flyers, I asked the kids why something like a “hedge fund” would be interested in the quarry: was it just for the limestone and the income to come out of it, or was it for the access to the water, after all?  This got us all wondering about how important pubic or private control of fresh clean drinking water has become and will be in the years ahead.

The next step was to decide if and what the kids wanted to do about the proposed Mega Quarry. The kids are experienced protesters, after all… Last summer, we  produced our “Save the Riverdale Farm” Sketches and we made T-shirts and a Rob Ford Protest Song in support of our local libraries. Today, the kids decided to learn more about the Mega Quarry by visiting the partner websites:  http://www.ndact.com, http://www.citizensalliance.ca, and http://www.nomegaquarry.com.  They also decided to send the illustrations they made today and a brief email of concern to their Ontario party leaders. [They asked me, however, not to reproduce their messages as they felt they wanted to keep the private.]  They are also planning to produce their own t-shirts later this summer. Although, at this point, they’re not sure if they want the shirts to say “Stop the Mega-Quarry” or if they want to ask others, “Is a U.S. Hedgefund Taking Control of Your Drinking Water?” 

You’ll have to stay tuned to see the results of their efforts…But, wait a minute, what are YOU going to do?

UPDATE: 
SUCCESS!
The Mega-Quarry will NOT be pursued.
Read all about it here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/11/21/quarry-melancthon-proposal446.html
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One response to “Summer Activism 101: The Kids Investigate the Mega Quarry”

  1. Judy Irwin says :

    What an outstanding Parent you are to be able to take the time. To teach, grow & dream about the future with them. Seems rather remarkable to me. What interesting children you have created. They certainly are OUR future leaders of OUR tomorrows. And, I would love to spread this around the world of your splendid efforts but I won’t. Because, you requested that your children’s expressions might change.

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