February 12, 2014

Town Crier has talent for community service

As published in The Erin Advocate

Andrew Welch is a man of many green hats, not just the large ceremonial one he wears when playing the part of Erin’s Town Crier.

His interest in environmental issues has led to involvement with Transition Erin (even though he lives in Alton), using his experience as a corporate facilitator to help bring together a collection of working groups. They are focused on Sustainable Development, Wastewater Solutions, Local Food, Hands-on Skills and the Fast Forward Eco-Film Festival.

He does software maintenance too, but his main project for the past few years has been the writing of a book. It is in the late stages of the publishing process and is expected to be released in the next few months.

 It’s called The Value Crisis, An Exploration of the Un-Human Power of Numbers. He calls it “ecological economics”, an analysis of how our society has come to rely so heavily on numbers to measure its values and make crucial decisions.

“Numbers are inherently linear and limitless, whereas human values are not,” he says on the project website (www.thevaluecrisis.com).

“Number-based value systems therefore have no concept of ‘enough’ - more is always better. As numerical / monetary systems are adopted as increasingly exclusive measures of value, natural values (such as culture, health, social justice, well-being, biodiversity, etc.) are displaced. 

“This creates a conflict which has ultimately led to a Value Crisis. This is at the root of both our Environmental Crisis and our Financial Crisis.”

He looks at the role of money in the pursuit of happiness, and the compromises we make in trying to maintain a constantly growing economy – compromises that threaten our long-term survival.

Resilience is a key theme in the Transition Town movement, looking for ways to adapt intelligently to trends such as climate change and population growth. Welch has taken that interest to heart as a Dufferin volunteer with the Red Cross. 

They provide help in local emergencies such as house fires, but also mobilize during larger disasters such as the Christmas ice storm.

Welch was deployed to Toronto from December 23 to January 6, with many other volunteers from small-town Ontario. He worked at eight different emergency shelters, some accommodating up to 250 people per night.

“It was an amazing learning experience,” he said, noting that quite a few city dwellers either had no idea what to do in the face of a prolonged power outage, or lacked the means to take action.

“It seems that people in Erin were largely able to take care of themselves.”

He’s hoping that emergency officials and building owners will learn and share lessons from this ice storm, as part of preparing for the increase in severe weather events expected with climate change.

Welch has combined his community spirit with his experience as an actor to develop his skill as a Town Crier, filling that position for Caledon and Erin and helping out in Orangeville. He recently submitted his 2012-2013 report to Erin councillors.

Most of his appearances on behalf of the Town, such as making proclamations for service clubs and charities, are done at no charge. He does charge a fee for business events, such as store openings, but says that “covering my costs is increasingly challenging”.

He has performed at events like the Santa Claus Parade, the Green Legacy Tree Give-Away, the CVC Tree Planting, the Rhythm and Ribs Festival, the Celebrate Erin event and the Erin Spring Home and Lifestyle Show.

He placed 1st in the Marshville Heritage Festival Competition, and was awarded “Best Ambassador” for his community at the World Invitational Town Crier Competition last year.

“It has been an honour and a pleasure represent Erin, both within the community and throughout the province, and I look forward to more appearances in 2014 to laud the praises and promote the prosperity of our great community.”