Over the next couple of weeks, council will be debating the proposed OurWinnipeg bylaw 2045.
OurWinnipeg is the City’s development document, which sets a vision for the next 25 years. An important component of these documents is land use, including greenspace and major open spaces, and the City’s plans for land as our population grows steadily toward one million people.
Why is greenspace and the consideration of biodiversity so important to our city? Biodiversity is the rich variety of life on earth. There is variety in genes, variety in species and variety in ecosystems. Much like a spider’s web, everything is interconnected.
Winnipeg’s local ecosystem requires a healthy balance of living things to thrive and build resiliency. As an example, plants require plenty of sunlight and rain as well as healthy soil full of nutrients. Bees and other insects feed on the plants, helping pollinate and make seeds. Local wildlife animal such as deer, rabbits, and grasshoppers eat the plants as well and return nutrients to the soil making it a healthy place for plants to grow and thrive.
Increasing habitat loss through over exploitation and poorly planned development is driven by our rapid population growth and unsustainable consumption habits. This contributes to the primary cause of biodiversity loss, which is occurring at a rate 10,000 times faster than in the previous millions of years. We must be mindful of the impacts of development and how we can develop sustainably, while meeting the needs associated with the growth of our city.
Recognizing the need that development must happen, greenspace is one commodity that cannot be produced. Once greenspace is gone, the effect on climate change is almost immediately measurable. Greenspace allows for pollution absorption and temperature cooling. Greenspace assists in improving air quality while moving us toward the City’s positive climate action goals.
Winnipeg dedicates only six per cent of its land to urban greenspace, which by definition includes land that is partly or completely covered by grass, trees, shrubs or other vegetation and includes parks, community gardens and cemeteries. In comparison, the following cities have dedicated percentages towards greenspace: London, U.K. (33 per cent); Rome (34 per cent); Madrid (35 per cent); and Stockholm (40 per cent). Additional comparison of Canadian cities Toronto and Montreal represent 13 per cent and 14.8 per cent Greenspace, respectively.
OurWinnipeg 2045 must be both responsible and visionary. Development is inevitable, but with the growth of our population, we must also maintain existing and increase Greenspace that enhances esthetics, while supporting our mental health and well-being. If the last year has taught us one thing, it’s the value of the great outdoors.