Regarding “Enviro shakeup” (Jan. 22, Sustainable City), I think Chris Benjamin has missed some very good news for the environment in the recent provincial cabinet shuffle.
When ministers change, one department’s loss is another’s gain. In this case, Brooke Taylor is very highly respected in the agricultural community, and no one I know is pleased to lose him as minister of agriculture. But by appointing Mark Parent as his replacement, it would seem that the government recognizes the impact of the way we produce and consume food is a key element in any serious approach to environmental sustainability.
Every step we take to replace imported food with quality, sustainably produced local food reduces our carbon footprint. Right now, it’s estimated we import 80 percent of the food we consume, much of it highly processed, transported over great distances and over-packaged. Even a 10 percent increase in local food purchasing would make a difference. A 40 percent increase would be a substantial contribution to addressing climate change.
The good news is the demand and market for local food is not only growing, it’s accelerating. The bad news is that, for decades, Nova Scotia agriculture has largely been oriented to commodity production for the global industrial food system. Over time we’ve all come to realize some of the true costs and risks of participating in that system, and now Nova Scotia agriculture is faced with the challenge of adapting as fast as possible to meet the new direct-sale and direct-to-retail market that’s opening up for producers. This represents a great opportunity for everyone, but like all major adaptations, it’s not going to be easy. In Nova Scotia, with so much of our local agricultural support infrastructure dismantled, with a hollowed out “middle class” of producers, it’s going to be very difficult.
In this situation, I think we can all take satisfaction in knowing the government has appointed as minister of agriculture an experienced minister, who “was good to deal with,” who “meant well and was personally committed” and who did an “incredible” job with environment. If he does the same with agriculture, we’ll all eat, sleep and breathe better for it, and the environment will thank us.
---Don Black, Halifax