New urbanism must embrace nature, not oppose it

Our cities are the sum of thousands of decisions absent foresight – each made with insufficient consideration of the next, much less the long term, the future. And most of us, I believe, live with some degree of regret about what’s been lost to build the kinds of cities we live in.

And yet, left well behind, oblivious to our regret and our sense of the possibilities if we did things differently – and, indeed, oblivious to all but the application before it – is our city and its planning process.

And so I found myself audience to a presentation proposing, absurdly, a seven-storey condominium – at 847 to 853 Kingston Rd. – to be built on and into our Glen Stewart Ravine.

Here in our community, we live over ravines that were years ago ploughed under. Much of what’s left of our ravines is fenced off, too fragile to serve as playgrounds for our kids or even as a place for the gentlest of walks. Below our feet flow rivers and streams, nearly all long ago buried and some simply lost.

But in this community there is an obvious awakening – an increasingly broad recognition of mistakes made and a desire to do differently. Our ravines have “Friends.” Our parks have farmers’ markets. We plant canoes above ground as markers of and memorials to the rivers and streams below. All of it reflects a desire for something more natural and local.

It’s not difficult to imagine how much healthier our lives would be had we preserved the ravines and cared for the rivers that flow(ed) through what are now our neighbourhoods.

We are searching for a new kind of urbanism – one that is not opposed to nature but embraces it. We need a city – and those who govern it – to not interrupt that search to consider condos in our ravines. We need them not to delay doing things differently.


Originally published in the Beach Metro, May 17, 2016.

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