Of the many things that make animals' lives difficult is the loss of their habitats. Although often large corporations are guilty of taking away the homes of several species by destroying forests and contaminating lakes and rivers, some folks – like you and I – are just as guilty (although unwillingly). Whenever we purchase homes or encourage businesses that are far from city centers, difficult to reach so need to be driven to because no bus drives there, and are created with the idea of taking up large amounts of space, we are contributing to what is known as urban sprawl.
This phenomenon is one of the main reasons why several species become instinct in many of the world's countries as well as the explanation as to why there is currently a shortage of land where to grow food, especially in nations like Canada, where actual farming land is scarce to begin with due to the large quantity of areas lying on solid rock. To be more specific, the Ottawa Valley, the area that surrounds the capital city – and my birthplace – of my country used to be a wetland filled with marshes, small rivers and many species, some extinct today. The loss of habitat and animals is partially due to the building of the Rideau Canal – North America's longest man-made waterway. Although it was very useful at the time, it is now easy to see how this greatly affected the area and some of Canada's cherished wildlife. And, the damage was not limited to the canal per se; as a matter of fact, the construction of the world renowned canal encouraged the development of the city and its surroundings, which means that more space, needed for food or that once housed species, was further destroyed.
The David Suzuki Foundation did a research on the devastation of urban sprawling and the reasons behind it. The results are startling, to say the least. Not only are we damaging large areas of animal habitat, this also is a major cause of global warming, the obvious reason being the quantity of gas emitted by the plethora of vehicles travelling on the roads. But, have you ever wondered why prices are so much higher in the city than in rural areas or, at least, around the outskirts of cities? Most people will say that location is what drives prices up – the closer you are to the city center, the closer you are to everything, and therefore the prices are higher. However, there is quite a large percentage of people who prefer the quiet of the suburbs, and will tell you in a heartbeat that they would chose it over the noise and hustle of downtown areas. Then, what is it that makes these houses, which are often much larger, newer, more luxurious and even have more land and backyard area than those downtown, much less expensive? The answer is this: oil and gas companies subsidize housing where there is no public transport and is at a certain distance from the city center. They offer a certain sum of money to construction companies to sell the houses at a lower price, making them more attractive to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them.
Yes, we live in a world where corporations even decide where you will live. In the future, this could play into the equation of where you will choose to live and, if you wish, make walking, cycling and busing the way to go to help save the environment, the wildlife and the farming land that we need.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)