Human Rights

Every bit counts–a narrow strip of plants and greenery in Toronto, Canada, 2010

I am fortunate to live in a neighbourhood with abundant trees, gardens, two large parks and small green areas within easy walking distance.  Others are less fortunate.  I notice that, in Toronto, areas where people live in poverty are often (though not always) devoid of green spaces.  In addition to the built environment often being sterile looking and rundown, there is often a lack of trees and parks.  This was also the case in Philadelphia where I grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s.

I realize that the nearness of trees and parks or whatever natural elements are part of your locale is not going to solve all human problems.  However, the lack of natural settings certainly creates a bleaker living experience.

I’ve begun thinking that depriving people of natural spaces near their homes or apartments is a human rights violation.  This does cut across income or class lines.  I’ve seen many flashy condo buildings in parts of Toronto that are not near any green space. Street level consists of concrete, stores and many cars.  However, the added problem for the poor or anyone struggling economically is that they do not have the cash to travel, say, to the countryside or to a national or provincial park to be near nature.

The right to live near natural areas in cities should not just be a perk for those who can afford it.  We need to start acknowledging the great benefits of living near nature and incorporate these into our neighbourhoods.

After the rain, reflection of trees on a ball court, Toronto, Canada, 2010

We know humanity is in crisis in large part because of our destruction of nature.  Our cities, where most of us now live, can become places where we foster people’s awareness of their place in nature.  One way this can start is by not stripping away every last tree or plant while building new living or work places.  It is also of utmost importance to restore natural areas to those neighbourhoods now devoid of them.  This will benefit all our health and that of nature from which we arise and to whom we owe our existence.

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