B.C. leaders must prioritize the environment

The Liberal and New Democratic parties are coming into the homestretch on their run to choose a new leader. The Libs will pick one this weekend, and B.C. will have a new premier. Seven weeks later the NDP will choose, and who knows how long before the new premier decides to call an election. Speculation is sometime before the 2013 mandated date.

The most important issue facing the province, in fact facing the world, is stabilization of the environment and the development and implementation of policies to insure a sustainable ecological system that can continue to support human society without a radical readjustment of that society. A readjustment that is certain to come if we continue to alter our ecosystem at to the degree and at the rate that we currently do.

Briefly, where do the leadership contenders stand on this? Mostly, they do not.

There is some support among Liberals for banning cosmetic pesticides, and some pay some attention to the carbon emission problem, but all seem to favour the economy over the environment, and an increase in resource extraction.

The NDP contenders pay more attention to environment. Again, banning pesticides is a favourite item. They are more circumspect in their approach to resource extraction than the Liberals and more concerned with the carbon problem. Of the NDP contenders John Horgan has the most detailed environment platform.

The NDP is officially committed to a sustainable society, and some of their leadership contenders at least pay lip service to the idea. However, there seems to be no mention of what really needs to be done to start putting society back on to a stable, sustainable basis. That is, there is no discussion of reducing consumption and reversing growth. The two most important things that we must do for the long term survival of our society.

It is no surprise that the Liberals do not admit to this, their corporate sponsors would revolt, but the NDP should be taking it more serious than they do.

Humans have evolved over millions of years to exist within a certain type of ecosystem, and the rate of change in that system has not been great until recently as the world has acquired about 10 times the number of people in the system than it had supported for ages.

It may be that the rate of change in the ecosystem will outrun the ability of humans to gradually adopt with the result that there will be a radical change in human society as it dies back to fit into the changed system.

At present we are taking more renewable resources from the system than can be sustained. In effect we have come to the point where we are eating our seed stock, or in investment jargon, consuming our principal.

The only question is: how do we choose to manage the transition to the new ecological reality. The more that we cut back on the human footprint by reducing total consumption (a factor of population and individual consumption) the more likely the system will stabilize at a more comfortable level for humans (and many other species, too bad about the ones already wiped out).

One should understand that how we live is affected by all other aspects of nature, and as we change one thing, we change everything, even if only to a small degree. After a while even the small changes can add up to a big one.

We can not stabilize the ecosystem by increasing the size of society and the size of our economy and the consumption required to support it. We have to face the fact that a growing society and economy is a cancer killing the future of our descendants as we consume resources faster than they can be replaced.

We would not have this problem if there were far fewer of us, but unfortunately we have used technological development to increase our numbers more than to increase the quality of life for everyone.

Becoming sustainable will be very painful for many of us, but not as much as it will if we defy nature and have it forced on us. Leaders must face this.

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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