Melancthon: our greatest success of 2011
It’s been a while. I haven’t been busy writing my own blog, but I have been busy writing others’. And lots more besides.
Our greatest success this past year was for a non-client. It was a place. If you’re from the Toronto area you might have heard about a mega-quarry being proposed north of Orangeville, just north of Shelburne. Publicizing what a bad idea that is kept me pretty busy, especially in October.
Resultswise, Outwrite worked to create awareness of the issue and preference for our point of view: that the proposed mega-quarry shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t just us driving the media engine: We worked with a bunch of other publicity enablers, including two social media experts, a PR veteran with incredible lists, a filmmaker, a former CBC personality and reporter and a government relations guy.
The outcome was incredible. Granted, we had a media darling of an issue. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better David-and-Goliath story. But still, I think we did rather well. August through November we had fairly constant coverage of the issue on Goldhawk Live, CBC radio and TV, CTV, City TV, the Star, the Globe and other majors, ultimately culminating in the incredible press coverage surrounding an event called FOODSTOCK. We had a hand in getting 28,000+ people out to that event (the somewhat outlandish goal was 20,000 people) and had something to do with write-ups by Canadian Geographic, Atlantic Monthly, Reader’s Digest (Canada) and all major media in central Canada. In all, close to a million dollars’ worth of publicity, had it been paid work.
A David and Goliath fight
You’re wondering. What’s it about? It’s a shocking thing, really: in 2006 Highland Companies, a Nova Scotia corporation created by Boston-based hedge fund Baupost Group, started buying farmland in the Melancthon Highlands, mostly from older farmers, with the stated intention of becoming Ontario’s largest potato farmer—a goal that it has now accomplished. In March 2011, Highland submitted an application for a limestone mega-quarry of 2,316 acres on the 7,000+ acres that it owns.
So why would this bother me enough to get me involved? Why am I more ticked about this than about Japanese whaling in the Antarctic, the hollowing out of America by powerful corporations, or Harper shredding Kyoto? Well, first of all there’s the bait and switch with the old farmers. Pretty unethical if you ask…anybody. There’s more than one old potato grower out there thinking he’s betrayed his heritage. Then there’s the fact that it’s an American company trying to grab 8 billion tons ($1 billion) of our stone for a pittance. Then there’s the soil. This is Class 1 farmland, the best in Ontario. The earth here is so damn special it’s even got its own name: Honeywood silt loam. Half of Toronto’s spuds come from here.
And there’s the water. The area is a high point, which in Ontario means water. Under this fertile farmland lie 20 stories of Amabel dolostone, a coveted variety of limestone. It’s fissured like crazy and permeated throughout with water. Unlike with sand and other substructures, water doesn’t seep here; it gushes. It goes from A to B very quickly, and B happens to include feeding the Saugeen, Pine, Grand, Nottawasaga and Mad rivers, among others. Highland’s plans call for the extraction of 600,000,000 litres of water per day from this giant hole—once it’s been contaminated with blasting debris (likely ammonium nitrate-fuel oil), alkaline limestone dust, bird droppings and whatever else finds its way to the bottom of a 200+ foot deep pit—just to keep it from becoming a lake. The effect on the local water table? Not likely a positive one, as the pit is planned to descend 180 feet below the water table.
Then there are ancillary things, like 7,200+ trucks per day on local roads, blasting 24/7, dust pollution, destruction of nearby farmland due to a nose-diving water table, eradication of 1800s homesteads and a way of life that might have continued for thousands of years. But the biggest reason for me to get involved is that I think I can stop it. I think that a concerted effort by a few hundred people, over years, will stop this giant financial corporation from disemboweling our land. Corporate America may be running ragged in the U.S. but this is not America and we are not a banana republic.
Whew! A bit of a rant, but it feels good to get it out there. Hope you enjoyed it. If you want to learn more, visit nomegaquarry.ca.