Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
Being around natural environments have positive impacts for mental health, including reducing stress.
Quebec would have everything to gain by expanding its network of protected areas, as these natural areas have a positive impact on public health. This is what concludes a new report released Tuesday by the aggregation ” The World invites health “. But for the moment, the province is still lagging behind its commitments in terms of preservation of natural environments, terrestrial and marine.
Reduction of obesity and hypertension, the fight against various chronic diseases, including diabetes and coronary heart disease, clean air and water… At a time when Quebecers are more likely than ever to spend their summer holidays enjoying the nature, the report led by professionals in the health environment, and based on numerous studies, demonstrates that the positive effects of protected areas on the health of populations are multiple.
“The benefits on the mental health and well-being are also significant, particularly with respect to the reduction of anxiety, depression and irritability,” says the document, titled ‘ protected areas are essential for the health “. The benefits to mental health are both direct, ” and exposed in the protected areas “, and indirect, ” through activities occurring in the protected areas “, such as hiking or camping.
“During a crisis-provoking as the one we’ve lived, we’ve noticed that people feel a strong need to be with nature. Providing better access to nature through protected areas is a public health measure that will allow us to strengthen our resilience, ” adds the director general of Nature Québec, Alice-Anne Simard.
The protection of the territory is also a way to combat climate change. “However, it has already been demonstrated in many researches that the effect of climate change on the health of Quebecers risk to be an adult,” the report says, mentioning the expected increase in the number of heat waves, forest fires and floods.
For the Dr. Sarah Bergeron, specialist in family medicine and responsible for the report, driven by The Planet invites health, the fact that better protect the natural environment is to invest in ” prevention “, which also has the effect of reducing costs to the health system.
“Health care is an expenditure item that is important for the government of quebec. The increase in the surface area of protected areas could help to reduce costs because of co-benefits on health, ” says Ms. Bergeron. “The government of Quebec has therefore every interest to increase the area of protected areas on its territory because of the many human benefits associated with it. “
The director-general of the Society for nature and parks in Québec, Alain Branchaud, however, emphasises that it is essential that the population can have better access to protected territories, which means, in particular, to preserve more natural areas located in the south of Quebec.
Mr. Branchaud cites the example of seven territories in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, who were identified in 2013 for the creation of protected areas, following a regional consultation. “These territories, totalling 700 km2. And if the protected areas were first a purpose of preservation, this usually is not incompatible with the access to the territory. So this would be a great opportunity to increase the supply of nature to canadians “, he says.
However, the government still has not introduced measures of protection for these natural environments, since companies have since several years of exploration permits for oil and gas. A situation that could reproduce in several regions, as 45 846 km2 of exploration permits on the territory of quebec (256 enabled), according to data from the ministry of Energy and natural Resources. Only in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, there are 8509 km2 of the licence, but there are also in the Gaspé peninsula and in the lowlands of the St. Lawrence.
Quebec acknowledges a significant delay regarding the protection of natural environments, terrestrial and marine. Under the Convention on biological diversity, united Nations, Québec is committed in 2010 to protect 10 % of its marine areas and 17 per cent of terrestrial environments by the end of 2020. The rate is currently 1.9% for marine environments, and 10.7% for terrestrial habitats.
In the case of marine areas, protection projects identified in the estuary and gulf of St. Lawrence, however, could see the light of day in the next few months, according to what was revealed recently The Duty. They would 12 000 km2 of protected territories. In the case of terrestrial environments, several projects are also on the table, but some are blocked by the presence of exploration permits and oil and gas, or mining titles.
The government Legault believes it can achieve to meet the commitments taken by the government of Quebec. “We continue to redouble its effort to catch up to liberals, and achieve our targets for the protection of the territory “, stated the cabinet of the minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, by e-mail.