THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Opening comments: More at the end.
Therese Taylor has become the Conservation Chair for the Peel Region Group - Sierra Club of Canada.
There is more about her efforts to - Save Mississauga Forests - and stop the - Highway 401 Expansion In Mississauga.
Mississauga News - Guest Column - May 18, 2005, By Therese Taylor.
Preserving nature benefits all of us
How far do we have to go before we realize how much we are losing?
More and more, people complain about nail-biting, time-wasting, gas-guzzling, raging gridlock. Plans to alleviate the problem in Mississauga include widening Britannia Rd. to seven lanes from Creditview Rd. to Hurontario St. and widening Hwy. 401 to 12 lanes from Hwy. 410 to the Credit
As a long-time Mississauga resident, I'm aware of the frustration of sitting in traffic. Looking at the bigger picture, however, this "solution" exposes the tip of the melting iceberg. Global warming, health effects and warnings from scientists are key reasons why widening roads is a deficient solution.
In the short-term, the construction will increase gridlock. In the mid-term, it encourages more drivers to continue to pollute in single occupied vehicles, adding to the bad air in the Golden Horseshoe, which we will pay for in taxes for health care and asphalt repairs, in perpetuity. Down the road, encouraging more vehicles will drive us to the same gridlock situation. What then? Widen again?
The time is now to wake up and smell the toxins and think outside the box in our driveway. The Ontario Medical Association says that bad air costs the provincial economy $1 billion and causes 2000 premature deaths each year. Cancer rates are on the rise. More vehicles on the road will only aggravate these problems. With one in five innocent children now acquiring asthma, is it really fair to continue to use them as our canaries?
The planned 401 widening is particularly pernicious, as it will wipe out nearly eight acres of scarce Mississauga woodlands. That's why more than 1,400 GTA residents, about half from Mississauga, have signed a petition (sustainmississauga.com) to persuade the provincial government to preserve the woodland north of the Hershey Centre and Meadowvale Station Woods, west of Second Line. Both woodlands are home to rare shagbark hickory trees. Meadowvale Station Woods, already designated an environmentally sensitive area, is home to white-tailed deer and Fletcher's Creek, a tributary to the Credit River which contains one of two threatened species in the area.
In light of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (millenniumassessment.org), released March 30, and largely ignored by mainstream media, planned widenings and new highways should be abandoned by all levels of government. According to the alarm by nearly 1,400 scientists in 95 countries around the world, "60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem services are currently being degraded by human activities." Two of these are polluting the atmosphere with excess greenhouse gases and deforestation, just what the 401 widening will exacerbate.
Clearly, we have been sleeping in on alternatives for too long. Our hesitation to embrace sustainable transportation solutions, ones that are being implemented in cities like London, England, Portland, Oregon and closer to home in York Region, is mind-boggling. That we doggedly drive down the same degraded path and ignore the stark warnings of scientists, whose findings are based on studies and fact, as if they came from soothsayers, is disturbing.
We don't need to reinvent the wheel. The Region of Peel has already studied Transportation Demand Management. The best option, a press release from the Mississauga Board of Trade this past February concurs is "to manage the travel demand by developing programs and services to encourage people to use more sustainable modes of transportation such as car pool, van pool, public transit, walk, bicycle and telecommute." That's just what the 401 petition calls for, as well as using the projected $180 million cost of the project to invest in mass transportation and incentives for people to work closer to home. After all, why do individuals drive from one end of the GTA and back again each day? Can't similar jobs be found closer to home?
A paradigm shift toward sustainability is essential for the 21st century and is outlined in Dr. David Suzuki's bestseller, Good News For A Change, as well as other books. One billion wasted dollars each year in Ontario alone. Two thousand premature deaths each year in our province. Asthmatic canaries, global warming, the future of our planet -- aren't these problems critical enough for us to forge a new path today?
Employers, employees and leaders must ask themselves, "What can I do to implement sustainable solutions?" Preserving urban natural areas along with sustainable transportation alternatives are two keys to health prevention, a better quality of life and saving the planet. Sustainability offers us the opportunity to "have our cake and eat it too," says Suzuki. A healthy sized slice will leave more than just crumbs for our children.
Therese Taylor is a writer and Mississauga tree advocate.
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