A mosaic of leaves crunch beneath my feet. Trees tower above me. Birds chirp, while dogs sprint ahead of their owners and disturb the tranquility of the forest and fields.
It’s autumn in L’Anse-à-l’Orme in the western part of the Island of Montreal. Cyclists, dog walkers, photographers, bird watchers, cross-country skiiers, and wildlife all use the area. But in 2015, the city of Montreal announced a plan to develop 6000 new housing units on 185 hectares of L’Anse-à-l’Orme.
Though it is an important wildlife corridor, this land is not protected because it is not part of the L’Anse-à-l’Orme Nature Park. If developed, it would disturb the entire ecosystem, including the park and the rest of the land that the corridor joins together. Apart from housing a vast amount of biodiversity, this green space protects air and water quality and reduces soil erosion.
It is one of the last remaining green spaces on the island of Montreal: 50% of the island’s forests were built over between 1986 and 1994. And while Toronto provides 3.24 hectares of green space per 1000 residents —and Ottawa even more, at 8 hectares —Montreal only provides 1.2 hectares.
I talked with Sue Stacho, who in 2015 helped form Sauvons L’Anse-à-l’Orme, a group dedicated to saving the corridor from development.
“It’s just a really great place to go to have quiet,” she said. In her opinion, too many people have lost access to nature and the serenity that comes with it.
After all, humans don’t just rely on nature for food, materials, and energy. It has been proven that more time spent in nature can reduce depression, improve psychological well-being, and increase productivity. Humans really are hard-wired to need nature.It’s no surprise that many of us have scenic natural images —perhaps a beach sunset, mountain range, or enchanted forest —as our computer backgrounds.
A simple 5-minute walk outside is a welcome change from the hours spent inside a classroom.
Painters, poets, and songwriters all take inspiration from nature. The environment has shaped religions, civilizations, and cultures over thousands of years—and yet, humans are slowly destroying it.
We frack, drill, deforest, pollute, and harm the intricate equilibrium that is our environment. It’s true, a lot of this can be attributed to the greed and economic hunger of corporations. But individuals must also realize that they can make a difference, and that changing their habits can be powerful modes of change. If we lose this mentality, there really isn’t much hope.
People tend to lose sight of the small fights that are part of the larger battle.
Protecting valuable natural areas like L’Anse-à-l’Orme is a good example of one of those fights.
But how do we get people to value nature more?
For Stacho, it’s as simple as giving them the chance to experience it.
“I bring them [to L’Anse- à -l’Orme], and they’re [pretty much] sold,” she said.
HOW CAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS/STUDENTS HELP?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Sauvons L'Anse-à-L'Orme on Facebook. The area will get developed if it doesn't have enough public support!