Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable land reform by democratic means, brought about by people and groups working together. That is what Dogwood Initiative is about.

If our goal is not a democratic, sustainable society, what the heck is it? An undemocratic, unsustainable one? Ludicrous.

But the task of creating a sustainable society gets more difficult daily. Most of us are aware of the litany of abuses we impose on our environment-pollution of the water, soil, and air; over-consumption of renewable resources; over-harvesting of the ocean fisheries; destruction of wetlands; and, most ominously, the pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases and the resultant global warming.

Since Christmas, the nightmarish spectre of global warming has spawned much concern, even panic, in the scientific community as new data from Greenland indicates a rise in the sea level is more imminent and drastic than earlier projected.

The journal Science has concluded that “accelerated glacial melting and larger changes in sea level (for example) should be looked at as probable events, not as hypothetical possibilities.” Recent scientific research suggests that warming this century is more likely to be at the high end of the scale, over 5 degrees Celsius, than the lower 1 degree projected in 2001. This could mean sea levels rising by 25 metres or 82 feet threatening significant parts of the Fraser Valley and coastal BC. 

Rising temperatures are already affecting British Columbia. The devastation of Lodgepole Pine forests by the Mountain Pine Beetle has been induced by climate change.

And worldwide the consequences will be extinctions and reduced biodiversity, droughts, floods, increased frequency and intensity of storms, new pests and diseases, and the economic and social chaos these events will bring.

Not surprisingly, the world is scrambling for technological solutions. Since the early 1700s, an incredible succession of new technologies have permitted many of us to live in luxury relative to those of previous generations. Progress, the ever-accelerating consumption of material resources, has become so ingrained that each generation expects to be better off than the previous one. Indeed, this expectation has caused any real concern for future generations to evaporate from public policy, except as an assumption that economic growth will continue to make those expectations possible. Economic growth has become the be all and end all of social policy-a goal that mainstream politicians can’t contemplate debating.

The driving force of the economic growth ideology is technology. Advances in technology increase our ability to transform the planet, but do not give us the wisdom to respect and protect our life support systems. We fool ourselves if we think technology is the source of a sustainable future. The solutions do involve technology, but they are not about technology. The best technological solutions will do is give us time. But with exponential economic growth, and consequent environmental harm, the time will be short, and the next hill to climb will be higher and steeper.

Real, long-term solutions are about attitude: Our relationship to the planet we live on must change. Exploitation must give way to stewardship based upon respect. Respect for our life support systems of clean air, clean water, healthy soils, biodiversity, and healthy, functioning ecosystems. We must come to respect the other living species we share this planet with. Not only is this appropriate morally; our lives and communities depend upon it. There are no jobs, economies or communities on a dead planet. It is up to us to avert such a catastrophe.

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