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Ontario's Greenbelt transported to Toronto's harbourfront

Posted by Lauren / June 20, 2010

Beyond Imaginings ExhibitFrom now until June 2011 the Harbourfront Centre will be hosting a large-scale outdoor photo exhibit that explores the Greenbelt through the eyes of eight up-and-coming Ontario photographers. Beyond Imaginings: Eight artists encounter Ontario's Greenbelt examines the land through three thematic lenses: Natural Beauty, Working the Land and People of the Greenbelt.

Quick Greenbelt re-cap: In 2005, 1.8 million acres of Ontario countryside (including the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine and Rouge Park) was legally and permanently protected. The purpose was to "protect key environmentally sensitive land and farmlands from urban development and sprawl." Over 50% of the protected area is farmland, representing about 7,000 farms.

The exhibit has been commissioned and curated by the Harbourfront Centre, and I went to check it out on Friday morning.

Greenbelt Exhibit HarbourfrontIt is the first outdoor exhibit of its size and scale that I've seen in Toronto - 72 large-scale photographs in all. And I happened to be there on a gorgeous sunny day. Following the path of photos through the Harbourfront Centre grounds and down along the water made for quite the morning. I have little doubt that the exhibit will get lots of (well deserved) foot traffic this summer.

Beyond Imaginings ExhibitSome of the highlights for me were the "Natural Beauty" themed photos by Rob MacInnis. He focused exclusively on farm animals, and I thought his photos had the greatest initial visual impact of the bunch. He photographs "farm animals with the same intensity of a high fashion photo shoot."

Beyond Imaginings exhibit beyond imaginings exhibitAlso channeling the "Natural Beauty" of the Greenbelt was Keesic Douglas who offers up a great series that examines various locations along the Holland River from the perspective of a canoe.

Douglas KeesicFocusing on those "Working the Land" Meera Margaret Singh has a beautiful series of portraits. They have such an ethereal quality to them - like "George" taking a break by laying down in the apple orchard that he works in.

Beyond imaginings exhibitThe exhibit runs through June 2011, but will be updated later this year with new photographs taken during the summer and fall. To make the photos available to those who can't make the exhibit, select images and interviews with the authors can be found online at the Harbourfront blog and website. It's definitely worth spending some time checking out the exhibit next time you're by the harbourfront. And maybe it'll even inspire a day-trip or two this summer to see the land with your own eyes.

Lead photo by Becky Comber, others by the author.



steph / June 20, 2010 at 02:33 pm
Last summer, the Harbourfront hosted a pretty awesome photography exhibit on Canada's Boreal forests- over 80 pieces displayed in the same outdoor frames shown here. I think it went on for almost two months. So, not the first of its kind!
Adam / June 20, 2010 at 07:02 pm
So much hand-wringing over urban spraw, but everyone hides their heads in the sand when it comes to the single, preventable cause: population growth, most of which is caused by mass immigration. Toronto, alone, receives about 100,000 of Canada's annual roughly 250,000 permanent, 250,000 'temporary' (i.e., largely, for all intents and purposes, permanent) immigrants. No matter how New Urbanist housing developments are, more farmland and natural areas WILL be gobbled up. There are also the issues of escalating stress on freshwater supplies--already a serious problem in Southern Alberta--and garbage production. Yet 'environmentalists' are silent on this matter. Partly, political correctness is a factor. However, self-censorship resulting from corporate philanthropy is certainly at work. If you don't believe me, look at the donors' list for the David Suzuki Foundation, where you'll find banks, developers, real estate firms and other corporate beneficiaries of mass immigration.
JR replying to a comment from Adam / June 20, 2010 at 07:49 pm
Yeah, you know, those damn immigrants. Not like you or one of your ancestors were one at some point. You put your alarmist no-more-immigrants logic in a conveniently neat box which is a little inappropriate for a country of immigrants. But hey, you got here a little earlier, so feel free to close the door behind you.
Lauren replying to a comment from steph / June 20, 2010 at 08:04 pm
Thanks for pointing that out steph!
Adam replying to a comment from JR / June 21, 2010 at 02:01 am
Check out this article:

It's not where people come from, it's how many come here every year. You either want to keep immigration at the current 250,000+ annual level, or you want to stop urban sprawl, and increased freshwater use and garbage production--you can't have it both ways. The current quarter million a year 'target' only really started under Mulroney, but has continued to this day. The banks and real estate, construction and developers' lobbies want to nearly double the intake, to around 400,000 annually. That means roughly 160,000 more people per year (up from 100,000) settling in the GTA--just where do you think they'll go? Yes, Canada is a 'nation of immigrants,' but this rate of population growth has severe environmental consequences.
Nick / June 21, 2010 at 09:57 am
I take it the exhibit didn't go into how the Green Belt subverted property values and wiped out the accumulated life savings of hundreds of farmers.

But, then, it DID stop urban sprawl and Toronto condo developers began building 3-bedroom family units.

Oh, wait, no, that didn't happen. My bad.
O.K. replying to a comment from Adam / June 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm
Take away immigration, take away economic growth. *sigh* If western nations only admitted that there only real growth comes from immigration, majority are in negative growth territory, and *sigh* you don't want to even give these peoples credit, as most live in the least assessable, built up areas of outer Toronto. Bad policy is to blame not immigration, The GTA has had many opportunities to reign in its growth into a manageable size, but has failed time and time again in hammering out a viable long term plan. to much meddling,amalgamation.. De-amalgamation; and viola you have the sprawled mess we have now.

Canada is mostly barren land with nobody on it. The GTA is a mess, but majority of other Canadian cities have vast expanse of land yet to fill up. You don;t even consider that a majority of new immigrants venture else way because there is better prospects for jobs, securing a decent place to live etc.

Blaming immigrants is a stupid and tired argument, everybody here is one, and thus should keep there mouths shut. People continually discredit the impact and contributions immigrants give to the Canadian economy. I cant even imagine what Toronto would be life if it didn't have such a rich number of people from every nook of the globe, eeek This place would be a dump.

Marc / June 23, 2010 at 01:53 pm
Face the reality, it is the over-immigration that is a huge part of our problems. It is not blaming immigrants, but the immigration. 250,000 a year is ridiculous. Especially with economic/job growth clearly slowing year after year. And guess what, it's not a farm society anymore, 250,000 is too much for the majority of that number only going to Toronto or Vancouver, because of more "opportunity" and that mentality, but also because nowadays, the immigrants coming in are not as open and independent and do not have the will to venture out into other parts of the country rather than the major cities. Also, most likely they now have their ties in the major city, such as family and friends.
Marc / June 23, 2010 at 01:56 pm
Also, Canada may be huge, but a good part of the land is either uninhabitable or cannot grow food. That is why you have most of our population living within 100kms of the border, and why the richest farming lands are more south as well. We need to protect these lands (we need to eat!), our country and our sanity.
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