Learning from the Third World?

 “The bog wetlands vision” (just below this post) mentions John ter Borg’s work with Engineers Without Borders, which is making a difference in impoverished parts of rural Africa. Factors like clean water and food security, which we take for granted, have huge value there. John responded to “The bog wetlands vision” by sending a sort of executive summary of his thinking about the Garden City Lands, and it strikes me that his avocation has brought a unique perspective. In any case, here’s what he thinks.

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Bogs, along with forests, rivers, and other wetlands, are like giant utilities. They provide ecosystem services for local communities as well as regional and global processes that we all benefit from. Benefits include:

  • The storage of floodwaters by wetlands
  • Water capture and filtration
  • Climate stabilization through carbon storage and sequestration
  • Waste treatment
  • Habitat for pollinators and wildlife
  • Recreational use

Restoring, preserving and enhancing the naturally productive bog ecosystem of an area like the Garden City Lands fits within regional climate change planning (mitigation and adaptation) and the multi-sector vision for sustainability presented by the Metro Vancouver Regional Ecological Health Plan. Even though they are recognized to be important, ecosystem services are usually not paid for directly and, as a result, are currently undervalued in the market economy. It is necessary to find ways to value effects on the presence or loss of:

  • Community health
  • Food production potential
  • Climate stability
  • Clean water
  • Clean air

In that context, it is important to measure the natural capital and ecosystem services contributed by the Garden City Lands.

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Note: What John is working on is a concept, not a plan. The aim is to provide support to a community vision for the lands that recognizes and incorporates the values described in the Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog.  It would in turn require the support and active participation of the Garden City Lands Coalition and other stakeholders.

At this point, I just want to encourage proactive, innovative, community-spirited thinking about the future of the Garden City Lands.

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