Last Harvest?

<p>Chris Turner reports on an artistic experiment in suburban agriculture that raised the ire of Calgary's city hall.</p>
February 12, 2008, 12pm PST | Michael Dudley
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"In municipalities across Canada, antiquated bylaws and the restrictive covenants of developers actively impede progress in the mounting fight against climate change. In recent weeks, for example, the Ontario government has faced the ridiculous task of overturning municipal rules that forbid residents of certain Toronto suburbs from hanging their laundry from clotheslines. Toronto City Council, meanwhile, has formulated one new bylaw to override the 43 that prevent residents from generating and selling their own renewable energy, as they have been urged to do by the province itself. And North York resident Franke James - another artist - fell afoul of the law last year when she turned her asphalt driveway into climate-friendly fescue. (Having won her appeal, she now boasts probably the greenest driveway in suburbia.)"

"Arbour Lake ran into trouble when it planted its tidy barley crop where suburban propriety dictated a putting-green lawn should be. As summer drew to a close, the barley towered well beyond the bylaw-mandated cap of 15 centimetres, and the Frosst brothers received a series of warnings and finally a notice from the city. Their lawn was deemed to be "infested" with "weeds" of an "objectionable and unsightly nature forming a nuisance or fire hazard."

"The fight is best understood as a sort of allegory, an absurdist street-theatre rendering of the argument that suburbia is intrinsically unsustainable. Not only is the contemporary suburb incapable of providing its own daily bread, residents are expressly forbidden from remedying that problem in the most obvious way - by growing grain - because community standards more or less dictate that sustainable practices be abandoned. So it turns out that the climate problem involves a recalibration not just of our power grid and consumption habits, but also of the values embedded in those outdated systems."

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Published on Saturday, February 9, 2008 in The Globe and Mail
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