Benefits of community gardens to be highlighted at film screening and panel

Members of York’s Maloca Community Garden are hosting a free movie and panel discussion with a local politician, a business leader, a York professor and a York student, on Thursday, Feb. 21, to pique people’s interest in the benefits of community gardens.

Escape from Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream, written and directed by Gregory Greene and produced by Dara Rowland in association with the Documentary Channel, will screen at the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building, Keele campus, at 7pm. A discussion by Toronto City Councillor Gord Perks, president and CEO of CarbonZero Kate Holloway, York environmental studies Professor Gerda Wekerle and York student Lauren Baker, on the issues of sustainability and the GTA as raised in the film, will follow the screening. Perks and Holloway are both featured in the film, while Baker is the co-founder of Toronto’s first certified organic urban farm. Admission is free.

Two members of the Maloca Community Garden executive will talk about why they joined Maloca and how it differs from the way community gardening was portrayed in the film. The audience will then have an opportunity to ask questions.

The film examines how modern civilization is approaching the limits of growth and the end of cheap oil, the basis of North American life in the 21st century. It focuses on suburbs as both the symbol and cause of problems and examines several couples who have chosen to opt out of the so-called "American Dream" to live more responsible, meaningful lives. In addition, it examines citizen groups confronting what some see as civilization’s addiction to oil and explores viable alternatives for ensuring the survival of a sustainable civilization.

"The film itself is largely focused on peak oil [when oil production reaches its peak], but it also looks at how North America will soon have large problems with food security if plans are not made before oil is depleted. About 30 per cent of the film looks at community gardening in North America and environmental problems in the GTA," says York PhD candidate in history Eric Payseur.

Right: A production still of a community garden from the film Escape from Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream

Perks was elected in the Parkdale/High Park riding in 2006 and has worked on environmental initiatives with such organizations at Pollution Probe, Greenpeace Canada, the Better Transportation Coalition and the Toronto Environmental Alliance. He is the principal author of Pollutions Probe’s 1991 Canadian Green Consumer Guide, an environmental columnist for Eye Weekly and an adjunct environmental studies professor at the University of Toronto.

As for Holloway, she is the founder of Element Village Community Services, a not-for-profit organization helping communities reduce energy consumption and develop sustainable energy projects. She sits on the steering committee of Green Enterprise Toronto, is a founding member of the Women’s Environmental Alliance, a past delegate to the United Nations Environment Programme Sustainable Energy Finance Roundtable and she chaired the Ontario liberal government’s policy development team for climate change mitigation and adoption in 2007.

Right: A production still of wind generators from the film Escape from Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream

The Maloca Community Garden, Keele campus, features individual and communal plots for growing organic food. Now in its ninth year, the garden continues to attract experienced and novice gardeners from all walks of life. It is maintained by York staff, faculty, alumni, friends, family and local residents.

The event is organized by the Maloca Community Garden at York, a student run group, with support from the Graduate Environmental Studies Student Association.