Developed out of existence

I was reading a magazine that had three related articles about the development we are experiencing here in Alberta. The first article was questioning the lack of foresight on the part of the urban planners. It is a well written article, but one that is maybe a bit late in coming.

Calgary is Alberta's largest city, Edmonton, the capital of the province and between them they have experienced growth of 29 percent in just five years. They are both ranked as The Most Wasteful Cities In Canada! This is not something to be proud of!

To give you an idea of the size of these cities, lets compare shall we (as the article did) to New York City (all the Burroughs).

NYC: Pop: 8,274,527 Area in Sq Miles: 303.3
Calgary: Pop: 1,019,942 Area in Sq Miles: 280.5
Edmonton: Pop: 730,372 Area in Sq Miles: 264.2

Yes, NYC was settled in 1624, while Edmonton and Calgary weren't settled until 1795 & 1875 respectively, but we nevertheless have to stop growing out and start growing up! The entire population of Alberta is still less than half that of NYC by the way, it is: 3,497,881. Here are the Wiki links to Alberta and to NYC for those that like links and stats.

One obvious problem in trying to curtail the outward expansion is turning the publics thinking away from "outdoing the Joneses". Yes, the government has to take a big chunk of the responsibility for allowing the expansion in the first place, but the attitudes of the oil boomer's and their disposable incomes also needs to be changed. Just because you can afford a 5000 Sq Ft house for your 2.5 children, doesn't mean that you have to live in one! I admit, I am not much good at this, I can't see myself living in less than the 800 Sq Ft I now occupy and I could (and have) easily occupy many more Sq Ft.

The next article was about how we are plowing under our farmland and turning it into urban sprawl. It speculates that by 2105 the land between Edmonton and Calgary will be one continuous ribbon of industry and residential development. Only 5 percent of Canada is capable of producing food and only 0.5 percent of that is class one soil. What we do here in Alberta does have an effect on the rest of the country, according to Stats Can ¾'s of the dependable (class 1-3) agricultural land is concentrated between AB, SK & ON. In 2001, 6.5 percent of AB's class one land was occupied by urban development and you can bet that number has grown since then. It points out that when the grain trade is removed from the picture, Canada is a net importer of agricultural products. For example: we import 85 percent of our vegetables here in Alberta. That is just sick!

The last article in the magazine talks about farmers markets. I love farmers markets, you can get anything there and the veggies are the best. The author talks about her own experience running a stall at a farmers market and how since the boom has hit, they (she & a partner) are no longer making a profit. Nor are a lot of other folks at the markets, simply because they can't afford to hire help and still keep their prices low enough that people will buy. People are accustomed to buying produce at the grocery store, never mind that it comes from California and was picked before it was fresh and artificially induced to grow in the first place – it's cheaper! Yes, but it has no taste! Um, by the time it gets here anyway.

My cousin Leah (The Goat's Lunch Pail) pointed out in her blog yesterday that we are throwing away tons of food in this country. If we continue in this manner we will develop ourselves right out of existence!

Have a thoughtful day everyone.

P.S. I probably stole some direct lines from the articles mentioned - don't tell anyone.


Crabby McSlacker said...

I SO agree with you about buiding up, rather than out.

Not only does it make sense environmentally, but I've found that living in more densely populated areas is more fun! Lots of stores within walking distance and a each neighborhood develops it's own character--something you can't do as easily with suburban sprawl and shopping malls.

Leah J.Utas said...

We have wide-open spaces here and an honest belief that we have to use 'em.
You make excellent points, Reb. If you go out Manning Dr. (97th St.) you'll see land developed that encompasses a farm. Look for two large spires marking the entrance to a development. Said farm is just beyond these gates and belonged to my great-grandparents Horricks. Bits of the farm are still there and still occupied by family, or were seven years ago, but city is built up all around it.
Thanks for the link.

the Bag Lady said...

Reb - a very thoughtful post, indeed. You haven't been here in many years, but would be astonished at the sprawl that has occurred. Some of the best, most productive farm-land has been encompassed by the city. Google and have a look-see - the city limits are now almost at the correction line, btw. (Sorry, everyone else - she'll be the only one who knows what I'm talking about.)

If we aren't careful and don't start paying more attention, we will become the "third-world country" of the future.

Geosomin said...

It makes me wish that we'd take the initiative here, like in other countries like Egypt where plantable land is a premium. We limit where housing can be - period. WE feed a large part of the world with what we grow here...I think if we could change over our society to buying from local farmers and growers we wouldn't have this sort of issues...we can't just buy things off of a truck. With fuel costs rising we need to looka t being more local and not putting money and comfort first.
I see my home city of Saskatoon hitting a growth spurt and it's scary...we're growing quickly and people are getting greedy...I hope we can grow at a rate that is reasonable and keep the productive farms around us workign and supporting us.

Reb said...

Crabby, thank you. I love the neighbourhood that I am in, but I could wish for a few things to be closer.

Leah, I will go have a look when I get a chance.

Sis, thanks. Yes, I have googled and "seen", but even when I was there it was out of hand.

Geosomin, you are correct in that you are going to experience a boom there. You should get all your friends to start a group or join one and get the gov't to plan ahead.

Emily said...

I didn't realize that Canada was having such a problem with population expansion but it seems to be happening a lot of places. I've lived near Atlanta Georgia my whole life and something I can't believe how much has changed. I have always lived in the suburbs but the suburbs have extended over an hour from Atlanta now!

Reb said...

Emily, it is growing so rapidly here, we had a tent city last summer, there were no vacancies in apartments or hotels. We have ppl living in the complex from Mexico, India, Philippines and Taiwan that were brought here just to fill jobs, mostly in restaurants.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Thanks for this eye opener. As a life time New Yorker, I assume that other geographies are so much more manageable. I guess greed is the same the world over!


Jo said...

That was so interesting, Reb. Whenever I think of Canada, I imagine so much of it as largely undeveloped...very vast spaces between the bustling cities.

Urban sprawl is the way of things here in So. CA. We're fortunate to live in charming little pocket where you can walk to shops & cafes, but still most things require driving. My son's school is 10 miles from home & the commute takes 45 minutes.

the Bag Lady said...

Jo - there are still huge tracts of undeveloped land in Canada, but the oil industry and the logging industry has made them a lot smaller in recent years. (Sorry Reb, couldn't help myself from sticking my nose into your comment section...)

Reb said...

Terrie, parts of that were an eye opener for me too! It is very hard to not assume there is plenty of land when it takes 4.5 hours to drive to visit my sister - in the same province.

Jo, there are vast spaces between the cities, but as Sis pointed out oil & logging are taking their toll and the article about plowing under the farms talks about the power plants needing more coal and strip mining.

Sis, go ahead and stick your nose in, I don't mind at all.