Who would imagine that within Waterville there is strong leadership in the domain of sustainable development? Local initiatives are flourishing in this town where the movie Demain (Tomorrow) has generated a citizen movement that has succeeded, in just a few months, in bringing together numerous partners and setting in motion various projects. Carried along by a momentum that promises much, this movement continues to develop.
The Film Demain/Tomorrow
The documentary film Demain/ Tomorrow appeared on the big screen in Quebec in the spring and summer of 2016. Made in France by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, the film opens with a study published in 2012 by 22 researchers from a number of international institutions, announcing the potential end of our human species. But “solutions exist everywhere” the filmmakers say. They decide to tell another version of the future of humanity. For this they visit 10 countries, from France to the Island of Réunion, with stops in Great Britain, Finland, Belgium, and India among others. The solutions we see, each more creative than the last, involve ecology and energy, of course, but also local economies, food and nutrition, participatory politics, and education.
The rest of the story takes place here in Waterville, and in Sherbrooke, among other places! Leaving la Maison du Cinéma in Sherbrooke one beautiful evening in June 2016 after seeing the film, Elyse Audet, a mother of three who made Waterville her adopted home almost ten years ago, said to herself “why not us?”
A few emails and phone calls later, thirty some people of all ages and backgrounds got together at the Café Les 3 Soeurs in the village to brainstorm. Their goal was to channel their energy towards concrete projects in the domains of food autonomy, sustainable development, and local economy. As a matter of fact, similar meetings were taking place in other cities in Québec, including Sherbrooke.
And so the Demain Waterville movement was born. After that 300 people joined the group on Facebook. “We started by creating a liaison committee so it would be easier to make connections and get initiatives going,” explains the movement’s initiator. This way, anybody sharing the values of the movement can join in and start up a project as part of Demain Waterville, and all who are interested by that project can then lend a hand. After all, in unity there is strength!
What to do the day after tomorrow? Among other suggestions, the film’s website proposes to “turn your village into a vegetable garden.” That’s all it took for Waterville resident Youri Pinard to initiate the movement’s first action this past summer. At his lead dozens of participants, young and old, built container gardens, planted them with vegetables, and set them up in different places in the village for the use of all. A movement known in the world as Incroyables Comestibles/ Incredible Edibles.
A dynamic village
But Waterville is not new to community initiatives or ones that support local and sustainable development. Already for years the village has been bubbling over with creativity! In fact the movement is compiling a list of all these sorts of initiatives that already exist in our area.
The movement has already had a positive effect and served to rally people together. Many new arrivals to Waterville are already taking part with enthusiasm. People of every generation are counted among its members. A youth committee is even being started, thanks to a 17 year old resident of Waterville.
In October, the movement organized two public showings of the film Demain in order to raise awareness and bring together not only residents but also businesses, local organizations, and elected officials. More than 200 people turned out. After the movie, many stayed to exchange ideas and come up with almost 150 proposals for future initiatives. Among the participants at these events were the mayor of Waterville and three town councillors.
On November 13th the movement gathered promising momentum when 100 people participated in the “Citizen Meetup” at the Waterville Community Center. Participants expressed support for the projects they wished to prioritize from among the ideas that had been put forth during the film screenings. They then formed small working groups in order to put in place a few of them. About ten committees were formed for the following projects: automotive repair workshops, a used clothing exchange, local currency, more community gardens, groups for sharing cooked food, and support circles. Other groups intend to focus on concrete solutions for improving air quality and preserving the magnificent site of Camp Val-Estrie.
“The success of Demain Waterville will be assured by the energy and engagement of all the stakeholders, one step at a time. Anyone who would like to join in, or participate in any of the different projects is always welcome,” says Elyse Audet.
By Karine Lamoureux
Liaison Committee member