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Posts Tagged ‘consultations’

Students of this year’s Student Directed Seminar in the Geography of Food Security have come together this year to work on a documentary movie that showcased the recent history of the UBC Farm (aka ‘the Farm’). Our intention was to provide a historical introduction for new and upcoming students who are not aware of the events that have led to the protection of the Farm. The movie focuses on student involvement from a student’s perspective. We intend to show how students have come together to protect the Farm from preset developing plans.

Guided by Andrea Morgan’s narrative, president of the Friends of the Farm AMS Club, the movie starts with a description of activities that take place at the UBC Farm. “When you walk around at the Farm, you are literally looking at hundreds of different projects without knowing”, says Andrea. “UBC students grow over 250 different varieties of fruits and vegetables”, and the research that takes at the Farm encompasses several faculties, including “Forestry, Land and Food Systems, Education, Medicine, Family Studies, The Institute for Aboriginal Health” among many others, and the “number of user groups and the number of projects just increases every year, and [the Farm] is becoming hugely important” regionally”.

Viewers are taken through a journey that starts at the genesis of the Friends of the Farm phenomenon into the infamous Fall of 2008 Campus and Community Planning (CCP) ‘consultations’, and the development and implementation of the Great Farm Trek plan, which raised awareness for the Farm at a whole new level. Andrea explains that “in 2000, students began to take special interest in the Farm because of its label in he Official Community Plan as ‘future housing reserve”.

Seeing the deep flaws inherent in the consultations set up by the UBC administration, UBC students, in collaboration with the Friends of the Farm, created the UBC Farm Design Workshops, which took place in late 2008 at the First Nations House of Learning.This workshop was incredibly successful, and its process, creative, participatory, and engaging, contrasted deeply with the deeply flawed ‘consultations’ set up by CCP – the differences were staggering – students were able to get more participation, feed people, and produce better materials, and get world renowned supporters to speak on their behalf (e.g., Michael Ableman) for under $3,000 whereas the CCP spent over 1 million dollars in a highly contested and problematic ‘consultation’ process that triggered a social movement on behalf of the UBC Farm.

Students organized, created the Great Farm Trek concept, and secured the support of the Alma Mater Society, the largest student union in the country with about 47,000 members. This alliance was strengthened by over 15,000 signatures collected by Farm supporters, and delivered to the UBC President, Prof. Stephen Toope, who pledged to support the Farm. Farm supporters did not hold back and approached the Metro Vancouver Council with  request for support to the 24 hectare UBC Farm. Metro Vancouver Council responded with their unanimous support, and wrote a letter to the UBC administration voicing their unwavering support to the 24 hectare Farm.

Over 2,000 Farm supporters participated at the Great Farm Trek, on April 7th 2009. Shane Point, speaking on behalf of the Musqueam Nation, on whose territory the UBC Farm rests, told the public that “they [the administration] should not take away from future generations”. “None of us have the right to take away anything of beauty from future generations”, he said “you good people are saying it needs to stop, here at UBC, on Musqueam territory, and I agree with you – I am humbled today by your presence and your commitment”. For Morgan, the Trek was really important, because “it demonstrated that despite there being this apathetic culture at UBC” students managed to make the Great Farm Trek a “really huge thing” and “people all over the city were willing to come out to UBC that day in support of the Farm”. For Morgan, “watching thousands of people walk through the newly constructed Wesbrook neighborhood, in the middle of cranes and a huge construction zone, and then just take that right turn down to the UBC Farm, where the atmosphere changes completely… it was magical, and emotional, and really a pivotal moment in this entire thing”.

World renowned Greenpeace founding member and activist Rex Weyler also spoke at the Great Farm Trek, asserting that “we don’t need huge mega projects, new highway, new bridges, new everything, new apartment houses – we need each other, we have to take care of each other, look after each other and build sustainable communities”. For Weyler, “we have to calm down and learn about the earth – to do this, we are going to protect this Farm, like Shane says, not just for ourselves, but for our children and their grandchildren”. Weyler cautioned, referring to the plans preset by Campus and Community Planning ‘consultation’ processes, that “wrecking half the Farm and saving a little corner of it, that is not saving the Farm”. This comment drew a very loud cheer from the crowd. Weyler finished his speech by making a point about food security, asserting that “when things really get bad we are going to be glad that we have that Farm and so are our children and our grandchildren”.

With their efforts, students and Farm supporters from the greater Vancouver area were able to secure, for the Friends of the Farm, their input and participation in the South Campus Academic Plan Committee, which will ultimately determine the future of the Farm. According to Morgan, “if planned and thought out properly, the Farm could become a seriously important and innovative space for research as it relates to sustainability, human, economic, social, and ecological – all based around food production and place”.

A preview of the movie will be presented at the “Ethical Eats – Chow down & Act up!” event, to take place at the Agro Café, on Granville Island, December 18th 2009, 8PM. This event is hosted by our Student Directed Seminar – GEOG 442, Environmental Communications: Improving our Food System by Increasing Awareness.

Link to the EVENT on Facebook:

<http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/event.php?eid=177814113231&ref=ts>

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The following email has been sent on behalf of Joe Stott, Director, UBC Campus + Community Planning:

Here’s the Plan!

On behalf of the University, I invite you to attend one of four open houses about the DRAFT UBC Vancouver Campus Plan.

PHASE 5 | Open House Schedule

Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Life Sciences Centre, Atrium

2350 Health Sciences Mall

Tuesday, Oct. 20, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Michael Smith Laboratories, Room 101

2185 East Mall

Thursday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre, Penthouse Room

6331 Crescent Road
Wednesday, Oct. 21, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Student Union Building, Concourse

6138 Student Union Boulevard

The six phase review of the Campus Plan, which began in 2006, is now in Phase 5 – Here’s the Plan!  UBC’s academic vision is to be one of the world’s leading universities. To support that vision, the Campus Plan will shape physical growth and change on the institutional lands over the next two decades. The draft Campus Plan was developed through a rigorous program of technical research and campus community consultation.

As part of Phase 5, UBC Campus + Community Planning is seeking your feedback and comment on the draft Campus Plan. The draft Campus Plan was developed in consultation with faculty, staff, students, alumni, residents, emeriti and the broader community.

Please drop into one of the open houses or visit the Campus Plan website, www.campusplan.ubc.ca, to learn more. An online feedback form will be available from October 5th to 22nd.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Joe Stott

Director, UBC Campus and Community Planning

Tel: 604-827-5157

Email: joe.stott@ubc.ca

I’m thinking that we should take class to the meeting. We would have to do some prior research so we can contribute but let’s plan on class with joe.

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Another interesting feature of the UBC Farm Mission Statement text is how recruitment and industrial application are important ideological directives.  The Farm is good because it ‘promotes’ UBC’s commitment to sustainability. There are well-funded programs that are on the other side of the spectrum, and that are left alone to flourish, such as mining engineering and wood materials processing. The Farm could become the type of laboratory that comes out with new patents, products and techniques that can be marketed by industries and thus help to change the world, at home and abroad.

The UBC Farm is given the general utopian task of ‘regenerating’ individuals, communities, forests and ecosystems, healthy soils and foods. Maybe the idea here is that the UBC Farm could become mobile, moving throughout the land and transforming landscapes according to sustainability principles as it goes, regenerating everything along the way. The wording here is, at the very least quite awkward, unless we can figure out how a place could be able to ‘regenerate healthy individuals and communities’. It sounds like the Farm is like a hospital where people go to be cured – metaphorically, it is already working. The UBC Farm has made a life changing effect in the lives of many individual students and community members along the years, precisely because it allows them to experience a place that is removed from the most common constrictions or urbanized areas. The only issue now is that Wesbrook village was erected right at the entrance of the Farm, to the disgust of pretty much every student who has ever worked at the UBC Farm.

We should also take issue with the idea that the Farm “advances sustainability literature in students, leaders, and decision makers”. Not only does this statement make an unnecessary distinction between students, leaders, and decision-makers, but it is also signals the existence of a highly hierarchical system that must be served by the UBC Farm. The statement leaves future student generations, local children, and the Musqueam out of the picture.  We also see no mention of how the UBC Farm will engage with biotechnology, whether it will help in the production of transgenics or not. Will this live laboratory be promoting the type of sustainability that conforms to “agricultural neoliberalism” and free-trade agreements (Otero and Pechlaner 2008:1)? UBC’s new branding strategy does not mention that students came together in 1997 to oppose the APEC meeting that happened at the Museum of Anthropology, where heads of state met to set up neoliberal policies in Asia. The statement should also clarify whether the Farm will be used for the creation of new organisms for the sake of selling patents, and how much selling patents relates theory of sustainability they are promoting?

If the process of consultations continues as it has in the past, there will be a small window of opportunity available for public consultations. Whatever people say on those occasions is not automatically taken into consideration, but becomes bulk feedback that is later selected. One should wonder how much are they trying to promote consultations into this plan. All information should be made available to the UBC community, including working drafts. Transparency and accountability should be the most important directives of any consultation that leads to development on campus.

“The South Campus Academic Planning Committee will prepare an Academic Plan for South Campus focused upon the 24-ha area currently under the stewardship of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems”

How are students involved in such a project and how much of the data gathered through the UBC Farm Vision, attended by students, community members, administrators and politicians, is being used as input on the plan being prepared? How transparent are the proceedings of this committee and what is its composition? It is important to note that the Farm, through this wording, does not deserve its own plan, but it is an internal issue of a larger and more important plan, focusing on South campus. It seems like campus is divided into zones simply for development purposes. They make it clear that the ‘area’ in question is “currently under the stewardship of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems”. This is a key distinction. The wording makes the place an “area” that is currently managed by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and not the Centre itself, also known as the UBC Farm. So, the 24 ha area is not the “UBC Farm”, it is just being managed by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, currently. Currently means this is certainly up for change.  It would not be surprising if the administration found a large donor and named the place after that person once they develop a bunch of expensive structures in the area. Everyone would be in favor of infrastructural changes, and the UBC Farm Design Workshops were the perfect example of just that. We will see in the future how much of that vision will be realized in the future developments that will be falling over the UBC Farm.

References:
South Campus Academic Plan . Last accessed, October 1st 2009.

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