Urban Forests + Habitats
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
The second walk in the Learning from the Land, in the City series was all about urban habitats and forests. While walking through the West Broadway neighbourhood, attendees heard from a series of amazing speakers who shed light on diverse but interconnected aspects of habitats in our city.
The walk began at the West Broadway Learning Garden, where we heard from Audrey Logan, a knowledge keeper and permaculture gardener. Audrey shared her thoughts on the importance of connecting people to healthy foods and on Indigenous approaches to gardening. She shared talked about the importance of soil, how soils are created over time through a process of decomposition of organic material, and how soil is the basis of our food system and must be cared for as a living thing.
We then moved on to hear from Ella Rockar, the Housing Coordinator with the West Broadway Community Association. Ella raised the concept of human habitats in Winnipeg, and spoke to the importance of maintaining both affordable housing and greenspaces, and the need to negotiate for both in an urban context. She pointed out that both form aspects of healthy habitats, especially in neighbourhoods like West Broadway, where there is dense housing and a high percentage of renters. To learn more about Ella’s work, see the West Broadway Community Association.
The walk continued through the neighbourhood, with Marika Olynyk sharing some reflections on habitats for wild plants and animals in the city. She shared that while we often don’t think about cities as being part of “nature”, they are the place where most people regularly encounter the natural world and also the place where we can directly affect habitats for other living things.
Our next speaker was Veda Koncan who touched on the value of outdoor spaces to both physical and mental health and the importance of everyone being able to access and use these spaces. She explored the concept of hostile architecture, which prevents certain uses of outdoor spaces, limiting use and access to outdoor spaces by certain people, such as those struggling with homelessness or addictions. Veda encouraged attendees to consider ways in which public spaces can be made accessible and welcoming to all people in our communities, so that everyone can find the benefits these spaces offer. More information on harm reduction and Veda’s work can be found here.
We then heard from Kristiana Clemens, with End Homelessness Winnipeg. Kristiana discussed the use of urban land for temporary housing, and pointed to the role that colonization has had in exacerbating homelessness in Winnipeg.. She reflected on the community response when the City of Winnipeg initiated and then withdrew a proposal for removing items associated with temporary shelter. End Homelessness Winnipeg continues to work with the City and community to find new and better approaches to supporting unsheltered Winnipegers.
The final speaker on the walk was Ariel Gordon, an author who reflected on the importance of and challenges facing Winnipeg’s urban forest. Linking human and ecological health, she discussed how the maintenance of a healthy urban forest is a win-win, improving urban habitats for various forms of life. She pointed to the challenges facing our urban canopy originating with invasive pests and exacerbated by under-resourced responses. She left us with the reminder that human and ecological issues don’t have to have either-or solutions; rather we can find approaches that improve urban habitats for everyone and everything.
We thank all of the speakers, as well as the West Broadway Community Association for supporting this event!