Saturday, June 2, 2012
Making Space For Nature in Oak Bay
Developers make money by building and selling homes, and for economic reasons (not necessarily good economic reasons) municipalities are always cheering them on and paving the way -- literally and metaphorically. Homes sell when people want to live in a desirable area. If you ask what makes it desirable, you always hear words like "quiet, green and attractive, well-treed, civilized ..." But as people flock in, it becomes crowded, and ever-less quiet, green, well-treed and civilized ... Large houses are squeezed into every space, gardens are destroyed and trees felled. Where you once had a view, you now have a wall to look out on. Where you once had privacy you now have someone else's windows overlooking your bathroom. You have their security lights shining into your bedroom at night, their barbecue wafting smoke over your patio, their pumps humming day and night outside your study.
People don't react well to overcrowding. Studies have shown that what psychologists Rachel and S. Kaplan call the "reasonable person" cannot exist in an overcrowded urban ecosystem. Behaviour becomes aggressive, nerves frayed, neighbours embattled. That is beginning to happen in Oak Bay. It is up to municipal governments to facilitate not only "development" (which is actually degradation of natural landscape) but also an ideal human social environment as science has identified it. That means it is up to citizens to educate themsleves on these principles and to elect councillors who support a sane and healthy social as well as natural ecosystem - and who understand how these are holistically linked. We need to decide, before every square foot of land is under concrete, whether we want to "make space for nature" in Greater Victoria. In Oak Bay, a new group of overcrowded homeowners is trying to start the conversation (while the mayor tires to brush them off); see their well-organized informative website www.oakbaywatch.weebly.com.