May 1, 2012
New report makes strong case for green infrastructureBY COLLEEN CIRILLO
Ontario faces many challenges — a struggling economy, aging and inefficient infrastructure, an obesity epidemic and associated health costs, and little-understood threats from climate change. A new report by the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition and Ecojustice proposes a new method to the way governments and communities approach these challenges. Health, Prosperity and Sustainability: The Case for Green Infrastructure in Ontario examines how other jurisdictions in North America are leveraging tangible benefits from public policies and investments in green infrastructure, and makes specific recommendations to the provincial government on how to realize similar benefits.
The coalition undertook extensive research and consultation to inform its policy and investment recommendations for the provincial government. More than 400 individuals with direct experience in green infrastructure participated in the consultation process, which consisted of workshops in five communities across the province and an online questionnaire.
The coalition defines green infrastructure as natural vegetation, vegetative systems, soil in volumes and qualities adequate to sustain vegetation and absorb water, and supportive green technologies that replicate ecosystem functions. While most people recognize that natural areas, gardens and parks improve our quality of life, few are able to articulate the why and how of this phenomenon. The coalition is attempting to do just that by amassing evidence that demonstrates the infrastructure and energy cost savings as well as the direct and indirect human health benefits — both physical and psychological — of green infrastructure.
Ontario is already reaping the benefits of green infrastructure, such as the economic impact created by the more than 140,000 people employed in the private sector horticultural industry and public sector parks departments; the tax dollars saved by effective stormwater management; and the health and quality of life benefits of cleaner air and more liveable cities. A coordinated strategy of policies and investments would allow the province to secure even more environmental, social and economic benefits of green infrastructure. With political will, Ontario can become a leader in this field.
Health, Prosperity and Sustainability: The Case for Green Infrastructure in Ontario is available for download at www.greeninfrastructureontario.org/report.
The Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition is an alliance of more than 80 environmental organizations, businesses, agencies and academic institutions that share a common vision for a healthy, prosperous and sustainable Ontario where the environmental, social and economic benefits of green infrastructure are fully realized. The coalition formed in 2010 with a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. More information can be found at www.greeninfrastructureontario.org.