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LETTER: We all live in the climate-change era, so why don’t local leaders act like it?

'All leaders need to check their presumption that what happens to the ecology in Innisfil or Bradford or Toronto doesn’t need to matter to the rest of us,' reader says
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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate came out only a few months ago, telling many of us what we already know, and what’s striking is how this reiteration of the intensification of ongoing and impending climate change impacts altered nothing as regards the provincial and municipal governments plans within Simcoe County.

Additionally, as the report was published, wildfires blaze across Canada, and other places, and elsewhere, droughts intensified, as did heat waves. The science on climate change is (and has always been) undeniable, but if anyone still has doubts, take a look at what’s happening, check out your air quality index for the day. Is it a bit smokey, perhaps? It’s right there in front of us. We are living this right now.

Astonishingly, there was no sudden government responsiveness to these realities. The IPCC report launched and nothing changed. For example, the plan for the Bradford bypass is to continue exactly as is, unrevised, with no new environmental assessments intended before construction begins, and the only environmental assessment on hand being from from 1997. A promise of ‘nature trails’ nearby does nothing to remedy the environmental impact of this proposed highway. Nothing has changed.

The bypass continues to be rightly called into question by local environmental groups and concerned citizens who want clarification on the impact of this development decision, wondering if this is truly the best way to manage perceived growth of communities, given our ecological pressures and climate realities in the year 2021.

This plan is decidedly car and concrete centric, imprinting itself on valuable wetlands. So it is indeed necessary to ask how well, if at all, does this design centre the health of our species, the wellness of our land, air and water systems, and the priority of reducing our carbon emissions? If this plan cannot be proven ecological advantageous, if its ecological consequences cannot be adequately addressed, how good is this plan, or any similar plan, for us, truly?

The onus is on our community leaders, both political and business, to propose plans that better align with ecological truths. Our community framework significantly needs to shift and widen to recognize that decisions made within human drawn municipal and provincial borders reach beyond those borders, because they impact our ecologies, which know no bounds, impacting our collective air and water and food building capacity, and our ability to exist on a planet with a livable temperature.

I’m not sure why developers and political leaders keep avoiding this. We are all living here, in the climate change era, coexisting with wildfires. If you keep perpetuating a business and community planning model that keeps contributing to climate change, and downplays our broad based ecological health, what will that do to your profit and quality of life, eventually?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to change this mode of operation, and choose, for example, to work with environmental groups, rather than always opposing or obstructing their messaging. We need business and planning models to change so it stops contributing to these negative ecological impacts. This is possible. There are other ways.

And so we can start with a serious rethink of the intended development plans in Simcoe County. All leaders need to check their presumption that what happens to the ecology in Innisfil or Bradford or Toronto doesn’t need to matter to the rest of us. In the year 2021, there can be no denying our ecological interconnection: it matters very much, indeed.

Julie Johnson
Citizen of Oro Medonte

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