It was without intention, in 1976, when Plenty Canada first formed as the Plenty Relief Society to assist Mayan communities in Guatemala following a devastating earthquake, that it would eventually become an Indigenous organization. However, with the benefit of hindsight one can now more perceptively and clearly identify the elements that were taking form and the ideas that influenced and shaped the antecedents leading to what we are today. That we continue to work with our Mayan partners decades later is a testament to our commitment and loyalty to Indigenous peoples.
From that early endeavour the organization went on to develop significant projects in Lesotho centered around potable water supply and community forestry, in Sri Lanka focused on soya protein nutrition and related entrepreneurial development, and in a few locations in the Caribbean, including the Kalinago Territory, previously known as the Carib Reserve of Dominica, on traditional craft artistry. That first engagement in Guatemala combined with our work in Dominica created a palpable resonance that increasingly turned our attention toward the histories, plights, and needs of Indigenous peoples.
Things began to move ahead as an intellectual and conscious responsibility, however, when a brain trust began to coalesce at the organization in the early 1990s. Jose Barreiro, of Taino descent from Cuba, Sam Mercado, a Miskito leader from the Caribbean coast of northeastern Nicaragua, and Tim Johnson, Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River, through both serendipity and planning, all converged at Plenty Canada’s headquarters in Lanark around that time. Their presence engendered a wide range of discussions that examined the profound challenges that Indigenous peoples faced, not only abroad, but also within Canada.
This caused our organization to pivot its focus rather efficiently, resulting in the development of a program called the Indigenous Network Conference: Indigenous Non-Government Organizations and Practitioners Involved in International Development, held November 29 and 30, and December 1, 1991. Although it seems like just yesterday, that was nearly 31 years ago.
The conference included several significant thought leaders and professionals involved in Indigenous engagement activities within their communities and around the world. They included Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabek artist and scholar Simon Brascoupé, Ojibwe Elder Art Solomon, CIDA representative Ray Obomsawin, legal and policy specialist Lonny Bomberry, Joanne Barnaby from the Dene Cultural Institute, Joseph Garnet from the Carib Council of Dominica, Garifuna representative Walter Valerio from Belize, and many others.
Underpinning much of the foundation of this work was Seneca scholar John Mohawk, one of the primary authors along with Oren Lyons and Jose Barreiro, of Basic Call to Consciousness: The Haudenosaunee Address to the Western World, a book that provided background information and historical perspective on the struggle for self-determination by Indigenous peoples that suggested a global course correction and the identification of new directions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. It’s very important for our colleagues, partners, and donors to understand that Plenty Canada’s Indigenous emphasis is built upon a strong, and even prescient, intellectual foundation.
For one has to remember that a great deal has transpired over these past three decades since our organization moved in earnest toward what we thought at the time was a truly necessary societal advancement. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples emerged concurrently in 1991. It called for major changes to the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, but the RCAP report, which provided guidance for Canada’s Indigenous policies and relations, wasn’t released until 1996. The Kelowna Accord was established in 2005. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission launched in 2008, with its report released in 2015. And, although the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted internationally in 2007, Canada did not officially endorse UNDRIP until 2016, a stunning delay of responsibility.
Per our Mission Statement, Plenty Canada is a registered not-for-profit organization that facilitates access to and shares resources with Indigenous peoples and other community groups around the world in support of their environmental protection and sustainable development goals. This mission, along with our majority Indigenous Board of Directors, Indigenous senior management and advisory members, and close Indigenous partners, established upon decades of relationship building and work, constitute the bonafides of this organization.
Based upon these credentials, I welcome your friendship and sincerely appreciate your support.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere is where biological and cultural diversities should be celebrated and supported. The relationship with land, sky, and waters by peoples who have lived and continue to live in this region is significant for the well-being of all life.
In the fall of 2019, the Niagara Escarpment Transition Leadership Committee was put together to rethink the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere and reengage with partners, including, importantly, Indigenous peoples whose territories host the lands identified by the designation. Through an agreement between the Transition Leadership Committee and Plenty Canada, with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, work is underway to engage in a process consistent with recommendations from Pathway to Canada Target 1, including the reports One With Nature, Canada’s Conservation Vision, and We Rise Together.
On April 22nd, many gathered on a beautiful, sunny spring day at The Brown Homestead in St. Catharines, Ontario, to witness new grassroots, not-for-profit organization being unveiled and to honour Earth Day and the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages. The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is now the official entity working on the mandate and designation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere in consultation with UNESCO.
Full and enthusiastic turnout for the launch of the NIAGARA ESCARPMENT BIOSPHERE NETWORK, which is now the official entity working on the mandate and designation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere in consultation with UNESCO. We can't say enough about the intelligence, energy, and commitment brought forward by our presenters and participating organizations. Andrew Humeniuk, Executive Director of The Brown Homestead; Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability at Brock University; Larry McDermott, Executive Director of Plenty Canada; Bradley May, Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network Board Member and Brock University Professor; Lynn Wells, Interim President of Brock University; Sean Kennedy, President of Niagara College Canada; Alyssa General, Kanien'kéha Language Educator; and Walter Sendzik, Mayor of St. Catharines all conveyed good words about working together to sustain the Biosphere. Organizations represented included the City of St. Catharines, Six Nations of the Grand River, Niagara Regional Native Centre, Town of Lincoln, Brock University, Niagara College Canada, Guelph University, Bruce Trail Conservancy, Niagara Parks Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Royal Botanical Gardens, Niagara Escarpment for Sustainable Tourism, Trout Unlimited Canada, Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, The Brown Homestead and Plenty Canada, of course, and many others.
The stage is set for serious engagement across the entire Niagara Escarpment Biosphere over the next several years. Supported by a three-year federal grant from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Plenty Canada, as an Indigenous non-governmental organization, will be partnering, nurturing, and assisting in the development of the emerging Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. Andrew Humeniuk, executive director of The Brown Homestead, welcomed guests and introduced Tim Johnson, senior advisor to Plenty Canada, who hosted the event.
Tim first introduced Alyssa M. General from Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan, who, as an artist, educator, and language revivalist welcomed guests in Kanien'kéha (Mohawk) language. The next to speak was Liette Vasseur, UNESCO chair on community sustainability at Brock University, and a professor in the department of biological sciences. Vasseur presented the history of the development of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network and spoke to guests about the vital importance of bringing forth a grassroots organization led by the guidance of the Indigenous organization, and connecting organizations and peoples associated with conservation and sharing responsibility for protecting the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere's precious ecosystems. Vasseur also provided information about some of the focus areas the network will concentrate on, including ecotourism and sustainable development.
“She (Alyssa General) said that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is a step toward reconciling with the earth.”
The next speaker was Larry McDermott, executive director of Plenty Canada. Larry expressed how the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has emerged at a crucial time when the world is dealing with biodiversity loss, soil loss, and the impacts of climate change.
Bradley May, adjunct professor with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre at Brock University, announced the incorporation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network and named its founding board members, of which he is included.
Next to address the full house was Lynn Wells, interim president and vice-chancellor provost and vice-president academic at Brock University, who expressed the importance of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network to Brock University and its appropriate emergence during this era of Truth and Reconciliation. She stated that Environment and Climate Change Canada supporting an Indigenous organization to conduct this universal work was of benefit to all peoples.
The next presenter, Sean Kennedy, president of Niagara College Canada, was thankful for the opportunity to attend the event, and discussed the significance of this new initiative to the College, including expressing its importance to protecting the natural world.
Walter Sendzik, mayor of St. Catherines, was also present. He spoke about the importance of the partnership, especially as the day was also the launch of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages. Mayor Sendzik expressed his excitement for the new initiative and offered support.
The last speaker for the afternoon was, again, Alyssa M. General. All eyes in the room turned to her as she translated the words she had spoken in Kanien'kéha, the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, at the beginning of the gathering. Alyssa thanked everyone gathered in the room, then thanked the birds, the trees, the grasses, the flowers, the sun, the air, and so on. She emphasized the importance of Indigenous languages in how they affirmed human connections to all living things. She spoke of language providing emotional connections to the environment, and it being essential for preserving human relations with nature. General concluded that people needed to remember to learn to love nature again, to love the earth’s ecosystems that provide for the people like a mother provides for their children. She said that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network is a step toward reconciling with the earth.
Tim Johnson concluded the event by thanking everyone for attending and encouraged audience members to stick around, ask questions, and mingle. The day ended with the room buzzing with excitement, with people talking and happily connecting to discuss the outcome of the day's proceedings.
From the southern Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network gathering held at The Brown Homestead in St. Catharines, the next session was held in the north, at Cape Croker Park in Neyaashiinigmiing, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, near Wiarton, Ontario on May 12th. Present were environmental staff from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and other environmental and conservation representatives who were helping to preserve biodiversity in the northern region. The weather was again beautiful, another warm and sunny spring day, perfect for the occasion. Emily Martin, resources and infrastructure manager from the Environment Office of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, opened the session and then introduced Tim to begin the program.
Tim first introduced Victoria Serda, a board member of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. Victoria discussed the history surrounding the formation of the network. The next speaker was Larry McDermott, talking about networking within the context of the Biosphere to protect and preserve the natural environment for the next seven generations. Next to speak was, Deb Pella Keen, executive director for Maple Leaves Forever, volunteer advisor to Plenty Canada, and former director of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. Deb expressed her views on networking with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to help raise awareness that the biosphere is at risk, and sharing knowledge that is accessible to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. She talked about how important it was that the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network allowed grassroots people within communities to take back responsibility to ensure the biosphere's survival; a stepping away from government-led protocols whose priorities were not focused entirely on the Niagara Biosphere. In the new configuration, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has a focussed prioritization for conserving the biosphere.
The floor was then opened to questions about the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network. After questions were answered, the group went on a small hike along Cape Croker Park’s natural rocky shoreline, where everyone bonded, communicated and spoke with excitement about the network. Guests looked forward to continuing their communications and strengthening relations.
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network continues to make plans to meet communities and organizations interested in collaborating with the network. The organization has also launched a website that can be visited at www.nebnetwork.org.
To read more about the April 22nd launch event, click on the link for NiagaraThisWeek.com to read Paul Forsyth’s cover article “New grassroots Network Unveiled for Niagara Escarpment Biosphere,” which was also published in the St. Catharines Standard and The Toronto Star: https://bit.ly/3LGdxrl.
— Amanda Harwood
Plenty Canada has continued to reintroduce its in-person events to the local community, once again acting as an important hub for Indigenous perspectives and educational initiatives. On April 23rd, for instance, the organization hosted a “Country Foods Workshop” at the Plenty Canada CampUs. For this event, they gathered Indigenous knowledge-holders from a vast array of backgrounds to share information about traditional foods and medicines from their communities. Naturally, all participants were given samples of the food, making the workshop a valuable and informative knowledge-sharing experience as well as a fun food-tasting retreat.
Forty guests attended the workshop, a pleasingly high number given how recently in-person gatherings have been reinstated. It drizzled rain on the day of the event, but everyone was able to stay dry thanks to the large tent set up in Plenty Canada’s yard. When the second building of the CampUs is complete the weather will no longer be a concern. The combination of spoken lectures and communal meals worked perfectly, allowing the three presenters to share their unique cultural perspectives through the delicious food they prepared.
Plenty Canada’s Executive Director Larry McDermott showed up to present along with Sarah Craig, a staff member who has done fantastic work maintaining the organization's outdoor areas during the pandemic. For their shared presentation on Algonquin food, the two of them prepared raw maple syrup as well as wild rice salad and venison.
For an equally unique change of pace, Plenty Canada also invited Trudy Metcalfe-Coe, an award-winning Inuk chef. Having recently worked at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Center, Trudy's work focuses on combining traditional Inuk food with modern cuisine, for wholly unique flavours you can't find anywhere else. For this workshop, she chose to present Muktuk (whale blubber), Caribou tartar, and Arctic char chowder.
Finally, Kayla Sunday from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, along with her cousin Karhiiosta and husband Derek, shared some of their favourite recipes and spoke to the attendees from the perspective of a family that gets the majority of their food from subsistence hunting and gathering. The three presenters shared Three Sisters soup (made from white corn, beans, and squash), venison stew, and spicy venison pepperettes.
Overall, all three presentations were “wildly” successful, with the food being savoured and enjoyed by all participants. Plenty Canada facilitators are already thinking about ways to expand upon the event's success. They'd like to create workshops with a similar interactive component, so that the participants can more closely experience the culture being discussed, beyond attending as passive spectators. You can be sure, at least, that the organization will be rolling out frequent in-person events throughout 2022. After all, the Country Foods Workshop was only one of the events connected with a grant Plenty Canada received last year (others included Chuck Commanda's birch bark canoe workshop, as reported in a previous newsletter). Please keep an eye on Plenty Canada’s social media for any announcements of additional programs. Newcomers are always welcome!
— Breton Campbell
Since its beta release in September 2019, The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map has emerged as a valuable online reference for information about Indigenous historic, cultural, and ecosystemic sites within and related to the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere. With more sites being continually identified and added each year, ensuring consistency of the map’s content becomes paramount. So too does the need to develop reference points that set the standards for style to provide that information featured at each map destination has the same appearance. When it comes to content, consistency is essential.
The Plenty Canada Style Guide identifies and documents how the organization intends to convey information on the Indigenous Cultural Map and, by extension, throughout its communications platforms. It is a practical and applied resource representing the organization’s commitment to formalizing intentional content. Consistency of grammar, punctuation, usage of terms, and formatting contribute to establishing the quality of content while making communications work for staff members more accessible and efficient. Cultural mapping is a land-based learning concept, and process, intended to identify, describe, and portray tangible and intangible cultural and language resources and assets, including those of distinct populations, within select landscapes.
Within the context of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, Plenty Canada works with Indigenous peoples who are interested in the Niagara Escarpment to help return Indigenous voice, knowledge, and stories to this 400-million-year-old geologic feature upon which Indigenous peoples have been active for thousands of years. With its network of Indigenous knowledge keepers, Plenty Canada seeks to document, celebrate, and safeguard crucial Indigenous heritage resources on and along the Niagara Escarpment.
This project, funded by Canadian Heritage Indigenous Languages Initiative, has created a holistic set of standards for the Map’s web content to ensure content meets a high level of editorial consistency. This guide serves as a reference source for all information presentation decisions, code standards, and Indigenous language terms used for the platform. This is critical as many researchers and Indigenous cultural experts continue to provide content for the site. It will help Plenty Canada maintain a consistent vision across all content management fields, pages, and components. With many people working on this complex project entering many iterations and changes, everyone must use the same stylistic standards and Indigenous language terms so that the result is cohesive.
Within the Map’s Content Management System are numerous fields into which information is uploaded. Technically, the Indigenous Cultural Map can feature an unlimited number of destinations. However, each field is populated with content as additional destinations are added. Depending on who adds that content, the applied styles may vary widely. This ranges from the usage of terms, punctuation, and spellings of Indigenous locations to summary information and detailed descriptions of identified historic and cultural sites, to photographic captions and video titles, quotes from Indigenous elders and scholars, to lists of reference materials. As a result, the development of this, The Great Niagara Escarpment Indigenous Cultural Map Editorial Style Guide, is essential to ensuring consistency of standards that assist content developers and digital specialists who become responsible for managing the platform. This Style Guide provides guidelines for content presentation, including hundreds of spellings and usage terms involving the languages represented in the Indigenous Cultural Map (English, Kanien’kéha, Anishinaabemowin, and Michif).
— Amanda Harwood
From left to right: Conservation Coordinator for the Fundy Biosphere Clarissa Hoffman, Special Advisor for the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak Anthony Johnston, UNESCO Chair in Biocultural Diversity, Sustainability, Reconciliation and Renewal Assistant Director at University of Saskatchewan Maureen Reed, Events and Logistics Coordinator for the Fundy Biosphere Raven Nixon, and Executive Director of Plenty Canada Larry McDermott at the Germany Biosphere Reserves Conference.
Plenty Canada is proud to have been given the opportunity to send a representative, Executive Director Larry McDermott, to the international conference entitled Scientific Research In, For, and With the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The conference was held in Eberswalde, Germany from May 16th to 20th, and was hosted by the Biosphere Reserve Institute (BRI), an institution of the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development. It was an honour for Plenty Canada to have been able to field a representative who testified to the importance of Indigenous knowledge when dealing with climate-related issues.
The Institute was established in 2019, and conducts research, trains staff, and educates students with the goal of “supporting biosphere reserves in their transition towards being model regions for sustainable development.” Specifically, this means ensuring that biospheres follow the measures laid out by the 2016 Lima Action Plan, such as responsible production and consumption, diverse land and water life, etc. (BRI).
Lofty goals such as these require careful consideration and research, of course, which is why the Eberswalde conference was created to be a dedicated forum for sharing strategies. The conference aimed to discuss the current research being conducted related to biosphere reserves and to lay out the best approaches for fostering research and innovation within biospheres. To summarize, this conference was an important session delving with the future direction of biosphere reserves, areas of diverse flora and fauna that will become even more valuable as climate change begins to take its course.
The conference included the voices of Indigenous peoples, whose historical understandings of their natural environments and proposed solutions for environmental degradation act as perfect compliments to the Western science practices of the Institute.
At the beginning of the conference Larry, was invited to host a smudge ceremony, opening the ceremony with a spirit of gratitude and mindfulness. He was also given the opportunity to speak on a few key subjects, specifically the importance of Indigenous knowledge with regard to sustainable development, and how this knowledge can complement rather than compete with Western modes of thought — in other words, the concept of “Two-Eyed Seeing” that has been promoted a number of times within Plenty Canada Contact newsletters.
The attendees of the conference were quite receptive to these ideas, and overall, Larry found the conference to be productive. Indigenous perspectives are becoming more common in professional conversations about the climate crisis. As a policy-maker with decades of experience, Larry consistently advocates for the practice of Two Eyed-Seeing. Despite the apathy of many of the world's governments, scientists and Indigenous peoples all around the world are taking the fight against climate change into their own hands, with the hope and expectation that damaging trends can be mitigated.
— Breton Campbell
Like in all of Cuba, the people of La Rancheria, in the eastern mountains, are suffering from many privations. But in the Cuba of today, in this particular season, this Native clan, along with many other guajiro settlements, are among the more fortunate ones.
Manufactured items, including medicines and tools, are scarce in these mountains but in the cities, it is food that is seriously scarce, with inflation compounding the problem. There is a lurking state of hunger and constant anxiety about food, particularly among the majority of everyday people limited by the regular Cuban economy, living in the large urban areas, on monthly pensions or salaries that barely cover a week’s expenses, translating to actual value of 15 to 30 U.S. dollars.
At la Rancheria and other agricultural settlements of the Gran Familia, the elders, particularly through the cacique, old Panchito, persisted in convincing many in their new generations to stay on the land, and to maintain those traditional and practical skills that have allowed Indigenous peoples to survive, even in the hardest times.
The old cacique, who turned 88 on June 4th, has led a forty-year campaign for his people to be recognized, as a kinship group, the Gran Familia India de Cuba. He has sustained and firmly established his “Macuyo” (tobacco) Ceremony, which he has taken across the island to ceremonies and to many formal meetings. This transcending effort by Panchito, and now the new generation leaders, continues. Many families have rewoven into the larger tribal kinship. (“A tejer la gran familia,” said Panchito in 1995, “to reweave the grand family.”) The reality of a consistent Indigenous, Taino Indian, history is now well established in Cuba. Most importantly, the largest communities are reinvigorated to find each other in both celebratory and practical ways.
We saw some results at a symposium on Eastern Cuba Indigeneity, sponsored by the Casa de Iberoamerica, in Holguin. A full-day of panel presentations by the new generation of Gran Familia leadership won the audience, and garnered widespread and very positive coverage in Cuban media.
A visit to the mountain settlements in late May provided opportunity to review the range of coordination in agriculture and other projects among communities that is spearheading their project now. Forming into a mutual-help collective, called the Sun and Moon Brigade, a working group of younger leaders is now conducting self-sufficiency, community-building missions. The group has led projects in three communities, with three to four-day sojourns to help each other as farmer-relatives, to plant and harvest, to rebuild and teach each other.
At the Fray Benito community, near Holguin, the group rebuilt a casabe-producing complex that has been in the family for generations. Local elder Regino Rojas officiated the very successful and appreciated effort. The useful and durable casaba tort, product of the yuca or manioc, is presently more in demand. We visited Fray Benito for a celebration of the elder knowledge of this ancient Taino culinary complex.
In the planting and harvesting, most recently the various bean crops have been ripening. The working groups travel by foot or horseback, to spend several days assisting each other in this type of useful work. This tradition of multi-family work parties, originally known as “guateque,” (which refers more now to the accompanying joyous feast) was diminishing but is now growing again. Larger, more productive fields are made possible within a tradition of reciprocity.
While many Cubans understandably bemoan the current situation, it is good to see the Gran Familia India moving forward with its projects. Plenty Canada and the Caribbean Indigeneity Project are thankful to generous funders who enhance this work and make good things possible.
— Jose Barreiro
Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” (Bear Inn) multipurpose workshop space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
Across Canada there are many communities, many indigenous communities, that are experiencing a crises of contaminated drinking water. Neighbouring industry, farmlands, or municipalities are evacuating their wastes unsafely into environments and toxic levels of pollutants end up in ground water supplies and other water sources. In many rural environments far from open water, groundwater is the only accepted source of potable water.
In many urban environments we have built our cities water infrastructure to combine both sewage lines and stormwater into the same system, which gets sent to centralized treatment plants. In heavy rainfall events these systems can get overwhelmed and will either dump untreated sewage directly into open watercourses or will cause major damage to the system (such as in Merritt, BC, 2021 - when the entire city had to be evacuated because the wastewater treatment plant was flooded).
Increasing urban populations, poorly thought-out design considerations, as well as an increasing area of land covered by “hardscapes” such as concrete, accelerate the effects of heavy rains by shedding water quickly and leading to increased flows.
In Australia, more than three million people rely on rainwater for all their primary potable water needs, not only in rural environments but also urban environments. Many of these systems are very simple. There have been multiple studies done by multiple sources (Heyworth et al. 1999, Heyworth 2001, Rodrigo et al. 2010) comparing rates of gastrointestinal illness on populations relying on municipal mains water vs. potable rainwater harvesting and it was found that there was no discernable difference between the two. In fact, people drinking rainwater fared slightly better.
The creation of rain is a natural treatment process which results from evaporating water into the air – and leaving contaminants behind. The result is an inherently safe and potable water source which, if handled correctly, can easily provide a safe and clean supply of water to any home.
The creation of a new Canadian Standard (CSA B805) in 2018 seeks to encourage the proliferation of rainwater harvesting for a wider variety of uses than is currently common, including potable drinking water. A major bonus for homes in urban environments that switch to using rainwater as a primary water source is not only a reduction of utility bills, self-reliance, and less demand on municipal treatment plants, but also a potential for major reduction in the negative effects of heavy rainfall events which can overwhelm infrastructure. Taken en masse, thousands of roofs that once served as a “hardscape” now retain water and drastically reduce the potential of overwhelming storm infrastructure.
The potential positive effects of rainwater harvesting on rural populations with contaminated groundwater is obvious – bypass the polluted water entirely. Plenty Canada will be incorporating a potable rainwater harvesting system as a primary water source in its “Makwa Inn.”
— Garrett Johnson
There are many motivations behind what we do at Plenty Canada. Some of these are driven by the urgent need to preserve biodiversity. Our plant and animal relatives have as much right to live and thrive as we do. The current rates of biodiversity loss exceed the historical past by several orders of magnitude. This must not continue. We are also driven by matters of equity and justice, particularly those involving Indigenous peoples. Health, education, language retention, these are all subjects that are critically important to us as evidenced by the projects we undertake. And we try our level best to embrace and advance our motivations within a social and institutional culture that nurtures and supports the growth and development of youth, of our precious resource, our current and future generations.
I’ll soon be seventy-four years old. At this age I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things. None of us are as perfect as we’d like to be, and I’m certainly no exception. But one of the attributes I and others have tried hard to imbed within our organization is the concept of respect, based upon longstanding ethical standards and intergenerational principles of affirmation, cooperation, and partnership. During our regular organizational meetings, when I look at our staff, contractors, advisors, and volunteers, I mostly see people who are young enough to be my children or grandchildren. I make this observation not to diminish their standing or stature in any way, but to the contrary, to marvel at their capacity, their intelligence and energy, their embrace of decency, their support of each other, and their clear thinking about the challenges that lie ahead.
As a modest not-for-profit charitable organization in its 46th year, Plenty Canada has experienced both highs and lows and witnessed hundreds of remarkable people, from all over the world, come through its doors. I’m struck by the commonalities shared among members of the human race. Within the “zone of consciousness” that our organization operates, I’ve come to realize how much community-based peoples seek the same things in their lives, not just for themselves, but for the environment that supports them and for making decisions that achieve sustainable development goals for their children and future generations.
So, it often seems discordant that while our circle possesses a firm intellectual and evidence-based comprehension of causes and solutions to certain problems, and a value system that contains empathy, many others in the world do not. Power seeking, self-aggrandizement, greed, these are not the values we embrace or in any way honour. For us moving forward and for the world to move beyond its current spate of existential threats, we need to evolve a global culture that places an emphasis on taking care of each other and the environment.
We are but one humble organization that partners with other like-minded organizations to conduct works we believe correspond to these values. In this regard, I encourage you to read the articles in this newsletter and to peruse our archives found on Plenty Canada website’s News and Blog page. And I thank you for your interest and support of our work.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.