Letter to the editor 3, May 2, 2019

Work with, instead of against, the land

Dear Editor,

Bravo to Benjamin Poirier for his letter on high density housing in Hudson (The Journal, April 18). In land-use planning, we need to learn how to work with nature instead of destroying ecosystems that could, for example, limit flooding along our rivers.

Wetlands such as marshes reduce destructive flooding. They serve cost-free as natural sponges, absorbing excess runoff from rain and snowmelt. Jack Layton Park is currently an example of how this works; the problem is that most of our riverbanks are not covered in native vegetation. Whenever we build on wetlands, we reduce the ability of our watersheds to absorb more rain and snowfall. We not only get damaged buildings, we get damaged river systems that more easily run out of control.

Woodlands and forests also contribute by holding rain and snow in place, slowing runoff. Trees aerate and stabilize the soil, enabling it to absorb more rain and snowmelt. Trees also act like big pumps, drawing water out of the ground and back into the air. The impact of heavy precipitation is extended over time and space, making it less destructive.

Living trees absorb carbon dioxide, the most worrisome greenhouse gas. While we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with our cars and trucks, trees absorb this gas and turn it into wood and other living tissue. Canadian forests make a significant contribution to slowing the buildup of global greenhouse gases. Our trees provide breathing room while we work to reduce greenhouse emissions. As noted in National Geographic (April 26):

The Nature Conservancy estimates that ‘natural climate solutions,’ like restoring degraded soils, safeguarding wetlands, and planting new forests, could account for almost 40 per cent of the carbon savings needed to keep the world on the two-degree Celsius path generally seen as necessary to keep climate chaos to survivable levels.

For all the hype on new technologies to sequester carbon, forests are still the only large-scale technology that makes a difference. Mature trees do all this for free – though we must also marshal resources for global reforestation. (This may not be as costly as it sounds, given the positive results obtained by community forestry projects in some degraded landscapes.)

As Mr. Poirier says, “The woodlands of Hudson are part of the community that we love and cherish.”

It’s clear that we need a better system of land-use planning than what we’ve inherited.

Since the floods of 2017, the province has taken on the mapping of flood zones. Our cities and towns need to follow up with sustainable local planning.

Let’s set a good example.

Donald Attwood


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