Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Power of a Few

On Friday, the Mayor of Pelham announced that the controversial berm in Fenwick will be removed. A group of concerned citizens has been tireless in their efforts to get this result. Their success is a testament to the power of a few and the importance of citizen engagement to our democracy.

The group organized as the truckloads of paper fibre biosolids (PFBs) and mineral soil began unloading on a Church Street site in the Spring of 2006. They began meeting and talking. They started monitoring the situation by taking photographs and tracking the number of trucks dumping the material on the site. They began sending letters to the Ministry of Environment. They requested meetings with all levels of government. Most importantly, the group exercised a stance that is critical to this kind of grassroots activism: they were open to meeting with anyone from any organization or political stripe.

I toured the berm and asked if I could help by involving the expertise of environmental consultants and university professors, Dr. Mohammed Dore, Dr. Andrew Laursen, Dr. Lynda McCarthy, and Dr. Sophia Dore. We met with the citizens group in an open meeting in Fenwick on February 1, 2007. After the meeting, the four scientists guided the group in the requests for testing and finally, in the compilation of a comprehensive report that was sent to all parties involved.

The ups and downs of the group were many. After two years and a fight that never stopped, the group was successful in getting their message across. According to the Press Release issued January 25, the berm will begin dismantling as early as this week.

I wish to extend my greatest congratulations to Carolyn Botari who championed the cause. My thanks to the group of scientists who led the group through the process and provided technical expertise and guidance. Thanks to the Town Council and Mayor of Pelham, Dave Augustyn, the Mayor of Thorold, Henry D’Angelo, Abitibi Consolidated, Greenland Greenhouses Inc. and the Ministry of the Environment. Most importantly, thank you to all the citizens who took part in this grassroots movement. You are proof positive that your voice matters.

It was a privilege for me to work with this group of engaged citizens prepared to fight to the end for a cause in which they believed. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it;s the only thing that ever does." (Margaret Mead, anthropologist)