The Depave Paradise project challenges the idea of ​​urbanization

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A Canada-wide initiative is showing people it’s not too late to return the concrete jungle to nature.

Depave Paradise, a multi-community project led by Green Communities Canada (GCC), a non-profit environmental organization, challenges the idea that urbanization is irreversible by ripping up asphalt surfaces and replacing them with gardens that can help absorb excess rainwater.

“Climate change is getting worse, and so is urbanization. Development is ongoing, and when we remove the natural landscape and replace it with asphalt and concrete, we prevent rainwater from having space to absorb in the landscape,” explained Emily Amon, 26, GCC Green Infrastructure Program Manager.

Due to urbanization, the conventional infrastructure still in place across the country is designed to quickly send stormwater to the nearest local body of water, Amon said, but it hasn’t changed to accommodate. the increased number of paved surfaces, which do not absorb water.

“We have bigger flooding issues because there is nowhere to go for that water,” Amon said. “Floods and flooding issues are the primary way urban Canadians experience climate change.

Depave Paradise was originally launched in Portland, Oregon, but GCC adopted a version of the program in 2012. Since then, it has attempted to bring people from communities across Canada to participate in green infrastructure.

“These are really attractive options,” Amon said, “They’re cheaper and a more accessible way to replace all storm sewers.”

One of 15 Depave Paradise projects that took place last year was with the Halton Environment Network at Palermo Public School in Oakville, Ontario, just before it closed for the summer.

Andrea Rowe, deputy director of the Halton Environment Network, hoped to help the community reconnect with nature. “By planting native species, we increase native biodiversity and habitat, create green space, and contribute to the health and well-being of residents,” Rowe said. The group kicked things off by hand-filling a dumpster with asphalt.

A depave in progress at Palermo Public School in Oakville in June. Photo provided by Halton Environment Network

“It’s amazing how much fun it is and people are shocked at how quickly (the demolition) happens, which is part of the philosophy of this project,” Rowe said. “To not just let a machine come and do it, but to reconnect with the earth from step 1.”

Depave Paradise, a multi-community project, challenges the idea of ​​irreversible urbanization by ripping up asphalt surfaces and replacing them with gardens that can help absorb excess rainwater.

The whole school came to help, including kindergartens, who formed an assembly line to create seed balls and mulch the new garden, said Iga Balazy, 26, volunteer and outreach coordinator at the Halton Environment Network . “They came about 20 times down the line; it was very collaborative.

Before the two-day process began, the Halton Environment Network decided to hold classroom education sessions. After presenting the project to the children of the primary school, Balazy sent them to the schoolyard asking them: “Where does the water go?

“We wanted to make those connections between the Depave project as they understand it and the importance of having green, permeable surfaces that absorb and filter rainwater, as opposed to the concrete and asphalt they have in their schoolyard, which retains heat and contributes water. pollution,” Balazy said.

Seeing their faces, Balazy thinks the most important part of involving young people and the community is taking care of the garden after the clearing is finished.

“It was remarkable to see that a community could come together to nurture this project that they witnessed from start to finish. Because they were present during the whole process, they have this feeling of collective belonging. A feeling (of), ‘It’s up to us to take care of it,'” Balazy said.

“There’s not a lot of good news when it comes to climate change, but being part of a project like this really helps people feel empowered and (gives them) a sense of hope because at the end of the day account, they see it’s not too late to go back,” Amon said.

Amon calls the idea of ​​unpaving spaces radical. “They open the imagination to say we don’t really have to keep it that way, it can change.”

Nairah Ahmed / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer

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