In Part One of the story of Councillor Cado, we left him bracing for the meeting of the regional Peterborough Watershed Council where a contentious item was about to be debated.
CHERYL LYON – Cado finished his deep drink of water as the first delegation approached the mic to speak to the contentious Item 17 – an abandoned condo building.
Even though the area had a fairly robust recycling/reuse program, new challenges had arisen with this condo demolition due to the sheer amount of material, and to surprises in the kind of old material found that the local recycling facility and landfill site were not now licensed to handle. The Province had recently legislated that materials prior to 2032 required a different kind of disposal that was going to cost more and stress the Watershed’s waste management budget. Signs along rural roads had sprung up saying “Send it to the Premier” and “Don’t Let the City Dump on Us.”
Council had actually met with today’s first delegation − the highly articulate student group C.A.N.O.E (Council Action Now Or Else) − and felt their visceral commitment to scrutiny of every local decision affecting their future.
At age 23 himself, Cado’s heart was with the youth scheduled to speak. They were the ones inheriting the worst impacts of the 2032 smashing of the 1.5 degree global temperature limit that would have given the world a better chance to curb the damage that was now cascading since that fearful milestone. He took note, sadly as always when taking his seat, that the Council Chamber was now, in 2037, underground – an adaptation to both the heat and the taxpayer cost of cooling civic buildings (even though most electricity now came from renewables.) Today’s temperature had reached 110⁰ again by noon for the eighth day in a row.
The youth presentation was three young people covered head to toe with wilted brown leaves. Some Councillors shifted uncomfortably. The delegation did not speak but held up a sign saying “We are here to speak for Nature.” Still in silence, they then put up large side projections of former local natural areas like wetlands and forest tracts compared with current photos of the same areas today – dry, polluted or built over.
Several more youth delegates spoke passionately about how this Council had a chance – by voting to use the condo site for green space − to redeem the record of past Councils that had seemed incapable of caring about the future beyond the next four years.
Next, developer delegations argued for a new residential building with greater density on the site. Another group argued for a huge municipal swimming pool, given the average summer temperature for the area had risen by 4 degrees.
After three gruelling hours of hearing all sides, the vote was called. Councillors unanimously not only decided to pay the extra for the special disposal costs, they also supported the youths’ proposal for the cleared land: to restore the site into a food forest (after two years of soil remediation), making it part of an updated Local Food Security Plan and linking it to the unfinished new Biodiversity Corridor. This latter project, begun in 2030, was linking the heritage areas of the Liftlock and Canoe Museum with Little Lake and Beavermead Park into a single, protected, Nature Preservation Zone extending, eventually, further down the banks of the Otonabee River to join uninterrupted with its natural path through the next municipality’s Watershed. Ecological thinking at work.
Cado heaved a sigh of relief. As he walked out into the humid autumn air to the catch the electric, inter-township tram to his home in Norwood, he mused on the contrast of the meeting with accounts of those he’d read about from past decades when municipal Councillors’ underwhelming knowledge of the ecological crisis and developer-friendly Provincial legislation had dangerously delayed crucial efforts at faster adaptation to the climate emergency. “Why could they not see?” he wondered.
A couple of the young people who’d been at the meeting suddenly came up to him. Whooping and clapping his back, they unfurled a T-shirt to give to him. The front said “It’s humans who have to change!” On the back, “The climate will follow.”