Super-Developed British Columbia
Growing up in British Columbia we are constantly bombarded with how beautiful our province is. BC, we are constantly told, is the most beautiful place on Earth. Picture perfect post cards depict snow-capped mountains, the deep greens and rich browns of the temperate rain forest, rugged coastlines with crashing waves, the long winding rivers of the Interior. For decades our tourism slogan has been Super, Natural British Columbia. At one point BC saw it self as a diamond in the rough - a bit provincial, not so cosmopolitan - just in need of a bit of work get the right shine. But if I may say, we are no longer that diamond in the rough. Rather, British Columbia has become a diamond that is being overly roughed up.
I have hit on this theme before in this blog, over-development and the loss of natural spaces are a serious concern for me. Chalk some of it up to sentimentality if you will, but there was something to be said for the British Columbia and the Lower Mainland that I grew up in. My hometown of Port Coquitlam is a particular sore spot for me. It started as a farming community in 1859 and incorporated a little over 50 years later. As developed as PoCo was when I was growing up there, it was still easy to find a lot of natural beauty in the area - from tall, dense stands of trees to wetlands flourishing in the now fallow fields to the east by the Pitt River. The trees are disappearing and strip malls and townhouse complexes are taking their place. The fallow fields have been bought up and dug up and replaced with big box retailers, big brand coffee shops, fast food and suburban tailored eateries.
Some would argue that land unused is land wasted. But the bigger waste to my mind is to build the big expansive retail lots that provide a short lived boost for the local economy and then become concrete, asphalt, wood and aluminum sided ghost towns. Those fallow fields and stands of trees gave Port Coquitlam character, made it look like a desirable place to live - made it look like it was a part of "Super, Natural British Columbia". It gave wildlife someplace to be other than in our dumpsters and backyards.
I also don't think it is good for human beings to be so removed from the natural environment. The human environment is seldom designed for the preservation of mental health. It is designed to accommodate the concerns of revenue first and foremost. Pack in the people, pack in the services and damn the repercussions. Sure, cities and municipalities plug in some parks every once and a while, but there is nothing quit like natural space unattended and "uncrafted" by human beings. One of my complaints about Montreal is the lack of accessible natural space. I started to feel claustrophobic, trapped between the endless parade of human enterprise. Friends would tell me to hang out on the "mountain" - meaning Mount Royal, a very tall hill with a park in the middle of the city. It is a nice park, but not what I would call natural space. True urbanites don't comprehend this, having known nothing but designed space. (or have been out of touch with natural space for too long) Some are jaded when it comes to wilderness or natural space. I was referred to as a naturalist by some aspiring Montreal writers - it was a term of mild derision.They could not relate to natural space or the need to be in it. For some of these people, everything natural was alien.