carrying capacity and biodiversity

here’s a copy of what i sent to the town. actually, i don’t think i have any illusions about this council. most of them seem all paved over and impervious to what’s at stake–but it’s been fun! just maybe i’ll reach somebody, make’m think twice when they order fries. ‘sides, that’s the first thing our pm wants, my silence! i’d rather go kicking and screaming

councilors and staff,

trees save money and generate revenues. the more trees, the more money. they save at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. they clean for free, beautify, and bring in tourists. they can even put food on your table and heat in your home. what more can you want?

i’m focused on the next budget, the next decade, and the next century. that’s how long a person might live. i’m focused on the economic and social benefits as well as the environmental ones–i’m not just some tree-hugger.

but there are two terms you gotta know, because they affect us all. they come from population ecology–carrying capacity and biodiversity. carrying capacity describes our limits, and biodiversity describes our limitless potential.

(carrying capacity, for those who don’t know, is ‘the maximum population size …that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available…. Below carrying capacity, populations typically increase, while above, they typically decrease…. A recent review finds the first use of the term in an 1845 report by the US Secretary of State to the Senate.’

biodiversity means the variety of life ‘within a given species, ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of health.’)

since we’re talking growth and vision, we gotta know our limits as well as our potential. everything has a carrying capacity–what’s ours?

in some ways, it’s pretty simple to know our limits. everything comes from the sun, starting as energy, which plants turn into food. animals eat the plants and turn the plants into meat. that hamburger started out as corn or grass–no, it started out as energy from the sun, then plants, then hamburger–the food chain. when you cut down a tree, you remove a link.

even fossil fuels–oil, coal, natural gas–started out as energy from the sun. they were once living plants, trapping solar energy. we use that energy to  heat our homes and freeze our food and power our trips to toronto and barrie. we clear our driveways of snow and our lawns of fallen leaves with them. pretty good deal, eh? where would be without fossil fuels? because they’re finite, we’re going to find out in a few years.

but why wait to run into a brick wall? why not do something now for tomorrow?

so, my vision of midland is less reliance on fossil fuels. that means more green things. like trees.

it doesn’t have to be trees, it can be sod, or flowers, but–

  • while trees capture solar energy, they also capture a lot of carbon.
  • they make food and oxygen, things we need.
  • trees purify the air and water, which we poison with our cars and trucks–for free!
  • trees build soil and prevent erosion. trees also trap rain, so our over-taxed sewers don’t have to.
  • trees are home to birds and animals.
  • trees beautify the town, close up and far away, attracting tourists, young families, and retirees.
  • trees provide natural cooling in the summer and wind breaks in the winter.
  • the mental health benefits of trees cannot be overstated.
  • kids love trees–planting them, climbing them, reading beneath them.

but trees don’t grow overnight–you gotta act today to have trees next year–that takes foresight.

the problem with asphalt is that it doesn’t do any of these things. in fact, it exacerbates rain runoff, poisons our water supply, adds greenhouse gases, and eventually you gotta pave it again.

what you see is only half the picture. if you could see trees or grass underground, you’d see root systems that mirror above-ground branches and twigs. these roots trap water, make food, hold soil, break down rocks, soften the earth, and generally make things not only habitable but actually a nice place to live.

in nature, nothing is wasted; everything is recycled. both zero waste simcoe and toyota know this. this is what makes zero waste simcoe and toyota survivors of today with a future tomorrow. trees take our waste and give back food, water, and air. we and trees recycle, together.

since we’re surrounded by water–we’re like half an island–we should be pretty familiar with limits.
trees and other living things increase our carrying capacity and biodiversity. malls and other things don’t. they DEcrease our carrying capacity and biodiversity. contrary to popular belief, population growth is economically BAD, because you have to build and support more services and infrastructure, which, like a car or a sewer, get old, requiring more money and time, not less. you’ve just gone through a budget process–were there enough tax dollars to meet services and infrastructure demands? other living things don’t grow forever–they are subject to carrying capacity and biodiversity. why should humans be any different?

yours sincerely,

peter ladage.


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