Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the US, and I have a wonderful story to tell you, in celebration. It’s a true story, and a scary story, but it has a happy ending.
Six years ago, an American hedge fund quietly bought up massive tracts of land in Ontario, about an hour north of Toronto, purporting that they wanted to farm potatoes. In reality, they planned to build Canada’s second-largest limestone quarry, to feed Toronto’s burgeoning condo market and its bottomless hunger for aggregate. The quarry they had in mind would cover an area of 2,300 acres, at a depth of 200 feet, deeper than Niagara Falls. But not just any 2,300 acres: 2,300 acres of the finest, richest farmland in Canada.
This would have been bad enough, but that wasn’t even the worst of it. Melancthon and Mulmur Townships, in the County of Dufferin, are situated on the headwaters of the Grand and Nottawasaga Rivers. These water systems are the source water for more than one million Ontarians. To keep the floor of the quarry dry, the quarry would have to pump out 600 MILLION liters of water daily. FOREVER.
They planned to pump out the water, store it for three days, then pump it back into the aquifers, along with all the toxins from the blasting (ammonium nitrate, anyone?). The quarry would be situated on one of the highest points in Ontario, and estuaries from FIVE rivers run underground in this location. The pumping of 600 million litres of water daily, in perpetuity, would have threatened these rivers, and the drinking water that flows to millions of Ontarians.
But, wait! There’s more!! Blasting would happen 24/7, with 7,000 gravel trucks on the road to this quarry daily: 3,500 in, 3,500 out. Every day.
How did this chicanery happen? Politicians were bought, palms were greased; it was supposed to be a done deal. Nobody expected the local community to wise up, rise up and protest. But they did: farmers, ranchers, First Nations people, artists, musicians, chefs, writers, city folk who had weekend homes there. They fought like dogs to protect the land, the water, the farms.
For six years.
This morning, the American hedge fund withdrew the proposal. The quarry has been defeated. The people got pissed off, they got organised, they spoke truth to power, and they won.
It was a victory for everyone, but especially those of us who want to live peacefully, in harmony with the land and our animals, and who believe that there have to be some things in life too precious and god-given to go to the highest bidder.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, with special thanks to my dear friend Gail who fought the fight, and wrote much of this post.