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The Weather Network
Dec. 16, 2018 | Sunday
Editorials and Opinions
Nature's Lens: Consider nature in this election
File photo.

Typically when I’m driving down Niagara’s back roads, I’m scanning all the visual inputs that I need to be aware of. Signs, other cars, and wildlife. As the weather begins to cool down and the daylight hours recede, I expect a barrage of every colour imaginable, with big letters, big smiles, and big promises.

A few years ago, I wasn’t enormously interested in politics. I certainly understood that politicians here are elected people (you’d hope) with jobs that shape many facets of our everyday lives. However, for the first time this year in my life as a NOTLer, I drive the back roads and find myself taking a really good look at the election signs. Are they signs of a more balanced, eco-friendly Niagara?

I dive into a deeper thought — what are these candidates' values, how up front are they about these values, and which demographic will empower them?  Like I said, I never used to take this too seriously. That is until some of these people hit something close to me — the scarce but significant remaining natural areas of Niagara.

In the past five years, Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Region as a whole have felt an undeniable wave of urban development. A couple of the many common denominators between these proposed developments is that they are all notably environmentally inconsiderate, and that they oddly received little concern or resistance from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and its current board. 

I can’t comment on the quality or grandeur of these developments, but I will say that the locations for all of them were ecologically insensitive. When any of these municipalities has their elected officials vote on these projects, those politicians ultimately have the last say on what happens to that land.

How could their decisions be so ill informed? It happens when the people we elect aren’t aware of our environmental sensitivities. Perhaps we missed an opportunity on the world stage to bring forward large, unique developments while protecting a remaining green space. Maybe, we could have had both with some modifications. The outcomes are not entirely, but largely, trickle down effects of the candidates we elect.

So now I realize local politics is connected to the health of the natural world more directly than I thought. My involvement in Niagara Falls’ Riverfront Community had me standing in front of city council many times, trying to remain poised and professional, but feeling humanly desperate on the inside — because I knew the huge influence these people could have. 

With the election sneaking up, I encourage you to discuss environmental thoughts and policies with potential candidates. How can our vote on election day indirectly or directly lead to these positive outcomes? 

bjorgan.owen@gmail.com

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