by Peggy Miles
Over the last few months, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s adventures in space have touched individual communities around the world. This stream of photos has allowed us to see the Earth from his unique perspective and reframe the way we think about our planet.
These awe inspiring images give me the desire to protect this planet so beautifully mirrored back from space. While it is a daunting task to make a positive environmental impact on this big blue marble, I choose to start with my piece of it here at 46.4000° N, 63.7833° W (also known as Summerside, PEI, Planet Earth).
April is Earth Month, so I want to start a conversation with Summerside residents about being engaged in their neighbourhoods. Local efforts lead to global impact: change happens most successfully as a collective.
When I imagine a healthy, vibrant community that reflects environmental values, I see active and engaged citizens. Of course government and environmental advocates are a vital part of the equation; however citizens need to participate in the process of creating sustainable neighbourhoods. One of these initiatives is a community garden.
Community gardens promote active living and relationships with fellow citizens, provide fresh locally grown food, and can also help to address poverty issues. Last year the Summerside community had two shared green spaces for residents to grow vegetables for their own consumption.
The gardens are located behind the St. Eleanor’s Fire Hall and at Lefurgey Park in Wilmot. The latter was started by area residents just last year and offers plots for rent to any Summerside resident. Twenty-five percent of the land is used to produce food for the local food bank and soup kitchen.
For those who cultivate food and greenery on their own properties, the City of Summerside has been discussing a rain barrel program with a goal of conserving water. Nothing has been officially launched, but citizens should stay tuned for details on a future program.
In addition to our neighbourhoods, there are other important community spaces where meaningful environmental dialogues can take place. Conversations are already occurring at the Summerside Farmer’s Market, along the Baywalk, in our parks and at environmentally conscious businesses throughout the city. These discussions involve topics such as pollinator corridors, rooftop gardens, and carbon footprints, as well as issues like government policy and business practices that affect the environment.
For individuals seeking additional resources, the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA) is very active in the Summerside community. Working directly with local schools, seniors manors and organizers of public events, they are the go-to organization for Summerside citizens seeking environmental knowledge (www.bbema.ca).
We can promote environmental responsibility through active leadership and meaningful dialogue. This will help to sustain Summerside as a healthy place to live where families, friends and neighbours will flourish. When the International Space Station flies over us again we can give a big satisfying wave to the astronauts above.