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Another Voice: Niagara River Greenway may be key to our resilient future

By Jay Burney

The Niagara River Greenway from Lake Ontario to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is a brilliant designation that can continue to be a very important part of the future of our international region. Today the Greenway has significant protections and designations including the Niagara River Globally Significant Important Bird Area and a whole lot of clean, fresh water which is on the fast track to becoming the most valuable asset on Earth.

Climate change brings with it both unstable and somewhat unpredictable weather patterns and consequences. Natural areas – areas that promote biodiversity, clean water and clean air – are critical resources when it comes to helping to stabilize the atmosphere, and help this beautiful planet to sustain life, including our own.

We have to have a plan, and not just a small plan. Our region has become great because we dare to dream big. What is our plan?

The Greenway is a substantial natural and cultural place. Waters of the Great Lakes (20% of Earth’s fresh surface water) pass through here. This increasingly rare asset supports plant and animal biodiversity that is fundamental to the way our region affects and contributes to hemispheric and global health.

There is talk these days of establishing colonies in space so that the future of the human race is secured. Although there is no doubt that our species benefits greatly from the science that comes from exploration, let’s not forget that we can, and perhaps we must, apply that technology and data, and all the money that is being talked about, on creating protected Earth sites such as the Niagara River Corridor.

There is still plenty of time to save our Earth. A few years back, E.O. Wilson, the famed Harvard scientist wrote a book called “Half-Earth” in which he postulated that it would take a concentrated effort to protect fully one-half of the earth’s natural resources, including habitats such as forests, lakes, grasslands and shorelines by putting them off limits to anarchistic human development.

This is the plan we should be investing in. This can help to ensure that future generations have a quality of life that will support them. How we design plans to protect this will make all of the difference to the next generations.

I propose that we create a declaration that the Niagara River Greenway and its associated watersheds become the first North American Resiliency Zone. Protecting ecology and people is a peaceful, just and verdant goal that we can attain.

Earth is a rare paradise. We can create a place here that is responsible, resilient and regenerative. We can plan for a brilliant future. The good news is that we have already started.

Jay Burney is a social and environmental activist based in Buffalo.

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