The Greenbelt is not an abstract ideal. It is a working landscape of over 4,800 farms and 47 towns and hamlets. It is home to a rich array of plants and animals. It is a destination for tourists to enjoy Ontario food, beer and wine. It is where millions of Ontarians go to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, swimming and canoeing. It is also critical to Ontario’s health and well-being, providing fresh air, flood protection and clean water, and fresh fruit and vegetables to millions of people.
The entire Greater Golden Horseshoe region is being affected by a combination of climate change and population growth. It is now commonly accepted that current climatic changes and extreme weather impacts are just the beginning. The Greenbelt Foundation partnered with experts to better understand how climate change is affecting many aspects of our lives, and ways that we can individually and collectively respond to these challenges.
Their articles highlight how the Greenbelt supports climate action in a number of important and interconnected ways that affect our daily lives. It is important for people to understand that they have a relationship with the Greenbelt, and it’s not just a one-way street! It will help us and our communities adapt to climate change, but it is important we help it do the same.
On a personal level, I was struck by the profound changes that will happen in my life time. Taken in isolation it is easy to ignore or underestimate how climate change will affect us all. But taken together it really brings home the enormity of what is happening here and now in Ontario. What will it mean for our collective sense of identity as Ontarians and Canadians when much of what we take for granted changes? What is our responsibility to future generations in terms of protecting the natural and cultural heritage that so many of us enjoy today?
The authors of the articles in this series explain the need to act now and start planning for a new climate reality. They also offer a great deal of optimism by providing clear actions we can individually and collectively take - actions that make things better today and protect against an uncertain future.
I was proud to reflect that this series of articles reaffirms the essential role of the Greenbelt for the long-term health and prosperity of this region. In 50 years no one will regret the fact that we protected 2,000,000 acres of prime farmland, forests and wetlands. There will be no complaints that there is just too much clean water, too much fresh air, and too much nutritious local food. While some of the flora and fauna may have a different look and sound, the services the Greenbelt provides will be even more important than they are today.