On the Games and growth

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The ancient Romans were fond of games. So fond that a politician's popularity could hinge on the games that he organized during his tenure as a Curile Aedile, one of the career steps for a man rising in the Roman political establishment. To be known for putting on outstanding games earned a man votes for future positions in government.


Roman games served the purpose of diverting the attention of the common Romans away from many of their problems, and helped to keep them pacified while the elite Romans squeezed the system for all that they could get. Of course this political tool was not unique to Ancient Rome. Entertainment is still commonly used as a means for distracting the population from serious matters.


In British Columbia this month we have the Winter Olympics, a prime example not only of distracting the public from pressing issues and government corruption, but also a convenient tool for the government to transfer yet more public funds into the hands of their backers in the private sector.


Much ado is being made about the games, a constant barrage of hype in the media infecting all areas of society. Meanwhile, more serious matters slip by with hardly any notice at all. There is more short term profit to be made from the hype than getting serious about fixing problems.


This year is the UN International Year of Biodiversity, and the Canadian government has paid lip service, issuing a statement about how much it is doing to preserve biodiversity. Too bad it is not enough.


The planet that we live on has evolved an intricate web of life forms that make existence as we know it possible. That web depends on a wide diversity of biological organisms to function the way that it does. As the mix of flora and fauna that comprises the web changes, every thing is affected, including humans. There is nothing more important to us than protecting that web, yet we constantly fail to do it.


The reason that we fail is exemplified in a report recently issued by the Lincoln Institute titled "Planning For Climate Change In The West." In the announcement of the report it says: "Local officials engaged in planning for climate change must focus on the economic savings of mitigating and adapting to climate change..." Everyone nods their head and says that sounds right. But is it?


It makes as much sense as saying: "Local officials engaged in planning for a hostile invasion and take over of their country must focus on the economic savings of mitigating and adapting to that invasion." Or, "Local officials engaged in planning for a killer pandemic must focus on the economic savings of mitigating and adapting to the pandemic."


Does it make sense to consider economic savings over the defence of one's country, or over stopping a killer pandemic? Certainly not, nor does it make sense to consider economic issues when dealing with biodiversity. We can rearrange our economics and still survive, there is no guarantee that we can radically alter the diversity of our ecosystem and still maintain our society.


Today there is no question about whether or not we need to alter our economics. We have to if we are going to protect the environment and the future of our descendants. Our economic system is built on growth, capitalism is a growth system, and growth is killing us because it is taking more from our ecosystem than can be sustainably replaced, and biodiversity is being radically altered.


In a recent report the New Economics Foundation hit the nail on the head when they said "economic growth no longer possible for rich countries." Corollary to that is that it isn't possible for poor countries, either, unless it comes at the expense of rich countries. No wonder those in charge who get rich off of the current system prefer to give us entertainment instead of real solutions to our problem.


Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.


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