What is a greenbelt? In its most basic form, a greenbelt is a tract of land, green space, aside and apart from development and urban areas. Its purpose may be to protect and maintain valuable farmland and precious natural resources, like fresh water and trees.
Our GreenHero Wangari Maathai found a way to connect her community to its environment by recognizing the social, economic, and political issues they face in daily life.
She created the Green Belt Movement, a global organization that helps local communities by re-shaping and greening their environment through tree planting and building up green spaces.
Believe it or not, Ontario is home to the world’s largest greenbelt. Burkhard Mausberg, president of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation explains how Wangari’s Canadian equivalent has its own way of connecting with its civilians, and how vital it is to our everyday lives.
Just like Wangari’s tree-planting actions, the continued efforts to maintain and grow Ontario’s greenbelt are helping to build an environmental legacy of our own in Canada.
Gail Krantzberg, Professor and Director of the Centre for Engineering and Public Policy, The School of Engineering Practice, McMaster University
By Burkhard Mausberg
President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
Burkhard Mausberg hiking on the Bruce Trail
Working in the environmental field for over 22 years has taught me a few things. The most important is that awareness of solutions to green issues needs to grow amongst Canadians.
It really comes down to this: we live in a busy world – and many people juggle more balls in the air on a daily basis than ever before. There is this moment at the end of the day, when you sit down, take off your work clothes and think, “How is it already 7pm?”
So as environmentalists, we have to realize that people are busy and we shouldn’t be preaching to them. Instead we need to reach out on their level, their time, their values and what’s important to them.
Which brings us to what I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to over the last six years: Ontario’s Greenbelt. Simply said, the Greenbelt is a great thing for Ontario.
It’s a world-leading law that preserves prime farmland and green spaces around the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
It gives us clean water and healthy local food. It’s bigger than P.E.I. and. In fact, at 1.8 million acres it is the largest Greenbelt in the world.
From producing the Quilt of Possibilities with the Ontario Crafts Council, the Beyond Imaginings photo exhibition at the Harbourfront Centre, and Hockey Night in the Greenbelt events where we sponsor Ontario Hockey League games in the Greenbelt, we are able to connect with people on their turf.
By presenting people with tangible and memorable stories that incorporate into their daily lives in a way that is not heavy handed, awareness – raising is welcomed.
Among the great impact the Greenbelt makes environmentally and agriculturally, it also has some positive economic value. It saves Ontario Taxpayers $2.6 billion per year in environmental services like water filtration and waste treatment and it provides $5.4 billion to Ontario’s economy through farming and its food production.
Ninety per cent of Ontarians believe the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions to the future of our Province and 88% say that even in hard economic times, upholding environmental policy is important.
As a recognized policy model for the world, the Greenbelt is a critical part of the solution to our environmental concerns and it has the possibility to change the region, our country and the world.
And it’s becoming much more than a land use policy; it’s a legacy that will significantly contribute to a healthier Ontario and reduce our impact on climate change.
– Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
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