The Right of Public Access to Nature: How do you care for something you cannot access?

  • February 14, 2023
  • Carissa Wong

People care about what they know and understand. People know and understand what they can see, engage with, and enjoy. 

It is not surprising then, in Sweden, where the popularity of outdoor recreation is so ubiquitous, that Scandinavians give nearly unanimous support for environmental protection.[1]

In 2007, a public opinion survey, the Eurobarometer, found that a staggering 98% of Swedish respondents – more than in any other country – declared that it is their responsibility to protect the environment even if it means putting limits on human development.

This is radically different than the values underlying the laws we have in Canada. Our federal environmental laws weigh the protection of nature against human development.  We do not hold the responsibility to protect nature as a priority before human development (in contrast with 98% of Swedish people).  Rather, Ministers have the discretion to decide not to list and protect an endangered species if doing so would affect development. So, it is development that is sacrosanct, and nature that is a consideration afterwards.