Friday, September 7, 2007

Only on PEI...

... could a potato farmer be made Minister of the Environment. Just heard the Hon. George Webster being interviewed by Chef Michael Smith on CBC. Webster warned that "going organic" might not be doable on PEI, reminding us in his closing remarks that the Potato Famine is the reason that PEI is populated now. Thank you, Mr. Webster, for doing absolutely nothing to dispel impressions that PEIslanders and farmers are quaint rubes, with this sophisticated analysis of history and agriculture.

If there's a lesson to be learned from the Great Hunger, which was caused by economics as much as it was by blight, it's that reliance on--addiction to--a monoculture is FUCKING STUPID. Particularly when that monocultural product is low in nutritional value and hard on the soil, never mind more modern worries about pesticides killing fish and causing cancer and other diseases in humans. Potato farmers do massive damage to PEI, ploughing their fields too close to streams and cliff edges (contributing greatly to the rapid shrinking of the Island's total surface area) and too late in the year, leaving the potato-impoverished topsoil to blow off in a fine cinammon dust you can see garnishing snowbanks all around fields ploughed in the fall. (The argument for fall ploughing tends to boil down to "my father did it and his father before him and it didn't do no harm then"--which also tends to be the rationale for how many Islanders vote.) All in the name of keeping Bud the Spud rollin' down the highway smilin', dimwits like George Webster in office and the Cavendish Farms plant belching out those yummy-yummy french fry exhaust fumes.

UPDATE: This just in from my ma:

You didn't mention this directly, but we had two huge fish kills this summer, wiping out the Dunk and the Wilmot Rivers - all the breeding population of trout and salmon gone, and of course most of the other organisms that constitute riparian ecology. The biologists surveying the dead fish said they didn't even know there were fish that big in the system. One of the farmers charged - the brother (and business partner) of our George Webster. You're a bit wrong though on the nutritional value of potatoes - they are pretty good food (grown organically of course) - with protein, vitamin C and minerals.


John W. MacDonald said...

I love potatoes, but I grow my own spuds in the backyard. The foliage is lovely, the flowers are pretty, and they tend to self-seed from year to year if I don't get around to dig all of them up by the end of season. In fact, I think I'll dig some up for lunch now.

I listened to the CBC Radio interview last week about the fish kills on the Island. It's dreadful that this is still happening, especially since (according to the interviewee) one can tell *exactly* where and who was responsible.

Shane Neilson said...

I'm not sure you can beat up the Hon. based on his occupation. For example, Finance Ministers are often businessmen, and Health Ministers are often physicians. Whether that's a good idea or not is debateable.
I also heard that interview, and I was frankly astounded by the argument he put forth. Thankfully he was cut off as things got really ridiculous, but one wonders just how far out on that silly limb he would have went.
But back to my original idea: Zach, as someone who has familiarity with trains, would it be folly to select you as a minister for Via/CN etc? It seems to me like you'd be a good choice, you'd have experience. The trick is preventing this experience from being distorting, ie. in the spud case, having the minister do more than just coddle the industry. Is that what YOU'D do in your hypothetical responsibility for Via? I doubt it.

Zachariah Wells said...

Shane, I'd agree with you wholeheartedly--if Webster was Minister of Agriculture. My point was that the only relationship that non-organic potato farmers have with the environment in PEI is to damage it severely. As my mother points out, Webster and his brother have been implicated in the complete wipeout of the riparian ecology of a PEI river.

This isn't of course to say that no potato farmer could ever be a credible Enviro Minister. But there's something of a conflict of interest at play here. And, as you say, in the particular case of Webster, he ain't exactly the sharpest blade on the plough.

mikaN said...

beautiful potato picture!