Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Barriers with Benefits

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Barriers with Benefits

Article excerpt

I SPENT MOST of my adolescence within (sluggish) commuting range of Toronto. Before ever letting the words, "When I was a kid, none of this stuff was here," escape my lips, I hadn't really grasped that the Big Smoke's overflow was swallowing nature with sprawl. I also didn't yet know that entrenching greenspace would create a survival corridor, an elixir for the heart, lungs and health of our communities, and a barrier against the massive economic and ecological debts that accompany suburbia.

I've since wrapped my head around the talents and capabilities of Ontario's Greenbelt (and others like it). My palate has been schooled many times by the region's abundant winemakers and brewmasters. During great escapes from the city, I've gawked at Bruce Trail escarpment gems, gnarly old growth forest and red foxes, snapping turtles and wild turkeys. I've feasted on the bounty of fabulous small farms that thrive within spitting distance of the Golden Horseshoe's concrete. I've sipped, chugged and soaked up tap water, climbed trees for kicks and found space to breathe easier.

By sequestering and storing C[O.sub.2] and providing clean water, air and other essential benefits, greenbelts feed the wellbeing and wealth of the people, animals and plants that occupy them. Increasingly, their value as a land management tool is diversifying: they can be as applicable to combatting desertification in the Sahara as they are to shielding the coastal ecosystems that surround Victoria on Vancouver Island.

They also contribute to environmentalists staking stronger claims to natural capital. Last year, two enormous mining quarry proposals near Toronto were denied by effective campaigns to put nature ahead of unsustainable business, and agricultural land and headwaters preservation ahead of fattening a few corporate citizens' pockets. Obviously there are many struggles still to come, and this issue of A\J looks at how greenbelts are galvanizing and servicing the communities trying to build them. …

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