Saturday, May 7, 2011


My family moved to Edmonton almost 36 years ago. According to the spring census of that year, the population was 451,635, and we were just 5 of the almost 10,000 folks who increased the city's numbers by the next spring census. Moving to the city was a big deal. We came from flat prairie Saskatchewan, a town of maybe 300 people, where, as kids, we walked wide swaths around the water tower because it was so tall that it seemed it might fall on us. But the water tower had nothing on the 32 story AGT building that was Edmonton's prime landmark at the time we moved. It was so big, we could see it from our picture window across the river, and I seem to recall almost falling over the first time I stood in the building's shadow and looked up.

My brilliant sisters recently discovered an interesting picture on the Provincial Archives website. It was taken in the month before we moved to Edmonton, and that the skyline has changed a lot is no surprise, given that the last census info I can find from 2009 has our population at 782,439. We've also been through several booms and busts in construction cycles, but our city council seems to have gotten on the downtown densification bandwagon that has become popular in larger North American cities. Better to build condos downtown than spread any further than we have on the arable land that borders our community. We might need it to grow food for our citizens once fossil fuels are a thing of the past, which, according to many predictions, is a time that will arrive sooner than we can imagine.

For interest's sake, here's the picture from 1975 and one my sisters took last month from the same viewpoint:



Quite a change, isn't it? Of course, it can't show the change that is going on in the people of Edmonton themselves. I'd like to think that, after a period of rapid urbanization, we are waking up to ways to be urban dwellers who find ways to live more in sync with nature. I was at a well attended workshop this morning that seems to attest to it.

My moodling today, after spending the morning hearing about edible landscaping from Ron Berezan, also known as the Urban Farmer, has been about how our city has changed. Over the past hundred years, my neighbourhood, which once housed a market garden and several farms, has become mainly residential with mostly useless green lawn monocultures... but after hearing what Ron had to say, I suspect a few more of us will implement some of his recommendations for turning our yards into food-providing naturescapes that are more-species-friendly. Since I first heard Ron in 2007, our family has been slowly converting our lawn into garden space, and it's been fun to have conversations with people who stop to ask questions. Somehow, no one ever commented on our lawn.

Change is inevitable (except from vending machines, says Robert C. Gallagher). But positive change is the best kind, and that's what our world needs.

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