By Candy Venning

Nature is not somewhere we go – it’s where we all live.

It’s so easy to get disconnected – we walk along pavements and are tuned to the architecture, people, cars, music, shops and other human-centric aspects of our surroundings. It’s absolutely normal, but for anyone who has spotted a huge hawk in a tree above the street, watched a mushroom grow out of an old stump in the yard, or marveled at the carpenter bees doing a territorial dance mid air, we are, in fact, inside nature.

Hamilton has such an amazing diversity of wildlife, sure there are squirrels and raccoons, sparrows and seagulls, even skunks and coyotes, all creatures who have learned to live amongst us despite all our efforts to discourage them. Should I ever have occasion to see a snake in my urban yard, I would be thrilled – the mice roam the streets with few predators aside from stray cats.

But …

Hamilton also has 386 species of birds that have occurred within a 25-mile (40.2 km) radius of Dundurn Castle. (Who among us can name more than 6 bird species?) We have stunning waterfalls and wetlands, escarpments and greenspaces. There are native plants and trees, all around us through the escarpment and in our yards but also so many invasive species. Hamilton could insist that garden centres no longer sell the invasive plant materials that escape from yards to take over protected habitat. With no natural predators, non-native species are not part of our ecosystem and cannot support native insects and birds while decimating our native woodland plant species. Hamilton could insist that contractors/landscapers and residents must plant native trees and try keep them alive, that the city insist on rainwater fees for the vast acreages of parking lots that dump heated, pollutant filled water into the bay we drink and play in (see Environment Hamilton’s ‘Fair Fees For Stormwater’ campaign).  Hamilton could become a champion for this incredible garden we live within, a real ‘stickler’ for insisting that developers’ fees go towards the green spaces and living infrastructure we all (regardless of financial, physical, mental or social ability) so desperately need to breathe, drink and escape to for keeping up morale during any crisis. (even escaping the heat of the sun under a big shady street tree)

My fervent hope is that the City of Hamilton will finally get on board with promoting, protecting and stewarding our most valuable resources, our stunning Bay and surrounding water and waterfalls, our magical escarpments filled with incredible trees, our birds and plants, our street trees (and adding in tree protection by-laws with teeth) our location where humanity has existed for thousands of years.

We are nature – it’s not outside us, we are part of a complete ecosystem whether you want to embrace that or not – personally I want to embrace it with all of my being.

We can and should be stewards for all the things that are interlinked with this place and the creatures whose space we share.