Nova Scotia’s Greener Economy Strategy

A working group of the Kitchen Tablers has put together a response to the draft Greener Economy Strategy, now out for consultation in the province.  You can see the powerpoint presentation the group made to the Minister’s Round Table on October 3rd here: GES_Antigonish_KTGEpresentation_Oct3_2014  And the group’s review and submission on the draft strategy is here: GES – consultation KTGE.

KTGE member Rose Murphy, from the Townhouse Pub in Antigonish, responded to the consultation with a focus on local food, and how the province could help rural communities become more resilient and self-reliant.  See her ideas here:  Response to consultation on the NS Greener Economy Strategy from Rosemary Murphy

Advertisements

Sharing what we have learned

The Kitchen Table Green Economics group has been meeting throughout the summer of 2014 to explore ideas about the green economy and how the local economy of Antigonish could be “greened”. We’re not “experts”, just citizens who are concerned about the community and want to explore how the local economy could be more resilient and sustainable.

Our formal sessions have ended, and we are buzzing with ideas about ways forward. We welcome opportunities to widen the conversations with others in the community, and to link up with other communities interested in similar ideas.

In a public meeting under the auspices of Sustainable Antigonish on August 27th we shared some of what we learned this summer, and had a brief chance to talk about ideas for action. Over the next few months we’ll be working in three main areas:

  • Responding to the Nova Scotia government’s consultation on its draft Greener Economy Strategy.  We encourage everyone to read the draft and respond with your ideas about how the provincial government can support the greening of local economies like ours.  You can find the draft strategy on http://www.novascotia.ca/nse/dept/greener-economy-strategy-consultation.asp.  We especially want to ensure that transportation issues and sectors important to rural economies (like agriculture, fisheries and forestry) are addressed in the strategy.  We know from talking to people involved in these sectors that there are many opportunities for more sustainable development, and also barriers, some of which government could help dismantle.
  • Getting the town growing.  Inspired by the TED talk about Incredible Edible Todmorden we think that growing more vegetables in visible, public spaces around Antigonish can help us all shift our thinking about food and community.  It gives us a sense of abundance and of how much food we could grow locally.  It gives people a chance to try new vegetables that they can then buy from the Farmer’s Market or other market gardens.  More people could learn about growing food as part of the project.  And it could lead to more local food production.  There is lots that could be done to get the town growing, and we hope many more people will want to be part of the planning and doing.  Check out our new Facebook page and join in – https://www.facebook.com/groups/282115878641221/
  • Building the market for local food producers by encouraging institutional food buyers to buy local.  The Antigonish Food Security Coalition’s Food-Assessment-Final-Report pointed out how important this extension of the local food market could be to grow a more sustainable local food economy.  Much work needs to be done to research the needs of institutional food buyers, liaise with food producers, address requirements for storage and distribution systems.  We think it’s possible, but will need more people to get involved.

We’re planning a series of green economy articles in Highland Heart, so look out for those.  And we hope to run another KTGE course over the winter.

So if you’d like to be kept informed about all the follow-up activities to the Kitchen Table Green Economics project send us an email to ktgeantigonish@gmail.com and we’ll add you to our mailing list.

Session 6: Getting there from here – action plans

We’ve come to our last session of the series, and time to focus on what comes next.  We’ll be looking at how to broaden and extend the conversations about greening the economy in Antigonish.  Over the course of the last 3 months the Kitchen Table Green Economics group has identified many potential ways to green sectors of the economy — food, forestry, construction, healthcare and energy all offer opportunities for action, and the potential for allies to work with.  We can’t work on everything at once, so we’ll focus on 3 areas for our final session of action planning, selected by the group from the longer list of possible actions. Some action planning resources are listed under Things to Read and Watch.

Our final meeting will also be a chance for an evaluation of the project, and feedback on the process, resources and curriculum.  We hope to put together a curriculum plan, based on what we have done together, that other Nova Scotian communities could use to work through a similar process.

It’s not all over – we still have a field trip planned to the Berwick Volunteer Fire Department’s new green building, and we hope to have a picnic later in August.

 

Session 5: Digging Deeper, Healthcare and Energy

In this session we’re looking at the last two sectors: healthcare and energy.  Lisa Mullin from the GASHA Green Healthcare Team is talking about the wide range of actions they are working on, from hand soaps to surgical drapes, from IT to bottled water.  In the resources we also include some reports from the Canadian Green Healthcare Alliance about initiatives in energy efficiency and sourcing local food.

For the energy discussion we’re hearing from Wayne Groszko from the Ecology Action Centre about opportunities for individuals and communities to generate energy from renewable sources, and to increase the energy efficiency of buildings.  Some of the members of Responsible Energy Action in Antigonish are also joining us to talk about a range of activities in the wider energy picture, from fracking and natural gas pipelines, to new work to develop a community energy strategy for our area.

In the afternoon, Dave Maybee from Let’s Connect Antigonish is talking about reviving and re-visioning this alternative currency that connects the community in new ways.

Session 4. Digging deeper: Forestry and Construction

In Session 4 we’re going to look at two sectors that are not unconnected: forestry and construction.  What is already going on to make these sectors greener, what are the issues and the opportunities for reducing carbon, increasing the efficiency and sustainability of resources, and addressing social equity?

We’ll have help with understanding forestry issues from Matt Miller with the Ecology Action Centre.  Much has been done to promote sustainable forestry in Nova Scotia, but our forests are younger, trees are smaller, with a lot of low-grade stands of trees.  These forests are more susceptible to the stresses of climate change, less economically valuable and less able to perform the full range of ecosystem services.

Over the last 10-15 years the harvest from small privately-owned woodlots has been declining and that from industrial lands increasing. And while hardwood harvest is increasing and softwood decreasing, most of the increase is due to an increase in demand for hardwood chips for export. Are there opportunities for higher value wood products?  What about non-timber forest products?  How can forest recovery take place alongside diverse and prosperous forest communities?

In the construction sector, we’ll want to look at how the carbon footprint of constructing a building can be lowered — from new methods of making concrete to reducing waste and re-using materials.  In the UK for every 5 new houses built the equivalent of one house in waste materials is sent to landfills.  The “waste house” at Brighton University in contrast is built almost entirely from waste materials, including 20,000 toothbrushes, (though the triple-glazed windows are new) and aims to meet passivhaus standards for energy efficiency.

Nova Scotia outside the Halifax Metro area has a lot of older homes, many needing major or minor repairs.  There are opportunities for greener building methods, as well as increasing the energy efficiency of new and existing homes.

Session 3. Digging deeper — fisheries, farms and food

In Session 3 we’re going to look in more detail at the green economy of fisheries, farms and food in our part of Nova Scotia. What are the issues faced by these sectors, what are the challenges and opportunities? And how can Nova Scotia produce more of the food we eat while reducing our carbon footprints?

We’ll have Justin Cantafio from the Ecology Action Centre’s Marine Team to talk about their work in creating regional seafood value chains based on transparency, fairness and sustainability. This includes new market avenues for small-scale fishers, and optimising local seafood consumption in Antigonish County. And we’ll use our local knowledge, what we’ve learned from field visits and resource materials about farming and food services, to identify barriers and opportunities for increasing local food production and the initiatives underway that are aiming to address these.

The Antigonish Food Security Coalition’s Community Food Assessment for Northeastern Nova Scotia suggests there is a potential demand for more local food from individual consumers, institutional buyers and restaurants, cafes and other food vendors. But only in the supply managed industries (dairy and poultry) is a large proportion of what is consumed here actually produced in Nova Scotia. The report’s survey of farmers suggest many could expand production, but face challenges including the shortage of reliable labour, the need for investment in infrastructure and equipment, and their age or physical ability. Institutional food buyers are looking for reliable supplies of products in high quantities, that meet quality and safety standards and comply with government regulations. Many local farmers are unable at present to meet those needs, but projects like a local food hub offer potential solutions.

Lots of resources to review on the Things to read and watch page. It’s going to be another absorbing and exciting session.

Session 2. Starting where we’re at — mapping the local economy

We’re excited about beginning to dig deeper into the opportunities for greening the economy in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.  The green economy will be constructed from what’s already here.  So we need to get a good understanding of key sectors in the formal economy in terms of jobs and financial impact. And we want to think about the jobs that are ‘invisible’ (because they are submerged in the statistics – like energy efficiency workers, counted under construction) as well as the jobs that don’t yet exist but could in the future.

Beyond the stats of the formal economy, we also need to recognize the role of the ‘social economy’ (non-profit and voluntary groups, which may or may not have paid staff) and the ‘informal economy’ (characterized by barter and exchange, where money may or may not change hands).  And then there’s the ‘remittance economy’ — like some parts of the Global South, many Nova Scotia communities depend on the income earned by people who work ‘away’ (whether in the tar sands of Calgary or North Sea oilfields, or in other kinds of jobs in other places).  Perhaps greening the economy could provide opportunities to bring some of those skills back to the community?

In Session 2 we’re going to make sense of statistics, and use our local knowledge to map the Antigonish economy as it is now.  Then we’ll be learning about value chains as a way of systems thinking that can give us some tools for understanding the process of greening.  We’ll be guided by Yogesh Ghore from the Coady International Institute, who has worked with many communities in the Global South on value chain analysis.

The Action Planning Garden will continue to be planted and nurtured, and we’ll also be planning our field trips.  Busy day, lots to think about — it’s going to be fun.

Session 1. Learning about the green economy around the world

In our first session we are learning about green economy ideas from Denmark, the UK, USA, Canada and in international literature.  We want to understand key concepts and different approaches, and start to identify which seem most applicable to Antigonish, Nova Scotia.  With help from Mark Butler, policy director of the Ecology Action Centre, we’ll be getting a better understanding of the policy context in Nova Scotia, and where there are opportunities for communities to get engaged and make a difference.

The green economy is not a separate sector within the economy; it is the economy, remade as low-carbon, sustainable and equitable. No one place has yet achieved a full green economy, but we can learn from case studies of what’s happening to green the local economy in places from Pittsburgh to Totnes, British Columbia to New York City.

Starting with the big picture of international, Canadian and Nova Scoita we will start to focus on the local economy of Antigonish in Session 2.