Bob Ewing — This article is the first in a series of articles which will explore how economic restoration can be achieved through ecosystems restoration which includes, for example, rivers, streams, brownfields, wetlands and agriculture.
The opportunities are there and informed communities and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of them and restoring towns, villages and cities while creating jobs and healthy neighbourhoods.
Urban agriculture, renewable energy, neighbourhood revival all play a role. This first article provides an introduction to the twin concepts of economic and ecosystem restoration.
An ecosystem is defined as a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) existing along side the nonliving elements of their particular environment. Rocks, air, water, and soil, for example are all part of an ecosystem. The living and nonliving elements interact thus creating an interconnected system.
Restoration has two distinct definitions, in regular usage. The first is the ‘return of something to its former or normal state’. The second is an ‘act of renewal, revival, or reinvigoration’.
It is the second definition, restoration as an act of renewal, revival and reinvigoration, which I am using in this article. In particular, the focus is on economic and ecosystem restoration and their connection.
The unemployment rate in my region, Restigouche County, for the month of June is 15%. The government has limited resources that it can apply to resolve this reality; so, it is time for the people who live here to take appropriate action. I contend that actions that revive the land, air and water can revive the economy and reinvirograte the job market.
Ecological restoration is one way the job market can be renewed. The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) defines ecological restoration as:
“Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability. Frequently, the ecosystem that requires restoration has been degraded, damaged, transformed or entirely destroyed as the direct or indirect result of human activities.”
In municipalities across the province, and elsewhere in Canada, and the United States, have areas that were once industrials sites, factories or gas stations, for example, that are now abandoned. These sites are known as brownfields.
The United States Environmental and Protection Agency defines Brownfields as:
“Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands.”
Brownfield redevelopment is a specialized ecosystem restoration activity and there are a number of regulations that must be followed to ensure public safety. However, they do present an economic opportunity which must not be overlooked. There are many other possibilities, right in your community, just sitting there waiting for someone to notice them.
The first step, towards renewal, is to look at your neighbourhood as an ecosystem, what elements exist and how are they connected?
Public dialogue and community action, both, need to embrace the possibilities and opportunities that restoration presents.
Next article — getting to the specifics.