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Changing Northern expectations

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Northern communities are not, to steal a quote from the rich, like yours or mine.

For one thing, they are more Northern. And for the purposes of this blog Northern is defined as being in one of Canada's three territories.

In the spirit of full disclosure this particular blogger lives in Whitehorse. It is arguably one of the most southerly of Northern communities, both in geographic location and more importantly in on-site services and psychological outlook.

But being a community in the North usually means a degree of remoteness, and a lack of services, that other Canadians take for granted.

This could run the gauntlet of not having a community doctor to there being only one, or sometimes no, grocery store.

Of late it has been found that the North does have something that the rest of Canada, indeed the rest of the world, needs.

The North has metals, forests, fossil fuels -- basically everything that is is needed to fuel the consumer society it is our sorry lot to currently be a part of.

Now there seems to be an unwritten offer being tossed around by the so-called economic development types.

Permit unfettered resource extraction and all the southern benefits of essential and convenient services will be yours.

Just do not ask too many questions about what will happen to the existing northern environment, existing communities and existing lifestyles.

But these questions must not only be asked they must also be answered, and answered satisfactorily, before Northerners give permission, or not, for some of these resource extraction schemes.

As it currently stands the North cannot handle the scale of development, be it mines or logging or gas pipelines, such has occurred down south.

The northern ecosystems are extremely rugged, but at the same time extremely sensitive.

Trees no taller than a person can take hundreds of years to grow.

Ruts left on the tundra by all-terrain vehicles can take decades to recover.

Some species, such as caribou, can require ranges of hundreds of thousands of square kilometres.

Applying a southern industrial resource extraction model to the North is a recipe for environmental collapse.

And it will probably do something similar to the social fabric of existing northern communities.

By any definition, the existing southern concept of development is the antithesis of sustainable.

Chuck in the impacts of climate change and there are extremely big changes ahead for the Canadian North.

It is not enough to encourage continual non-stop economic growth and industrial development and reward Northerners with services similar to what Southerners get.

Uncontrollable growth is the logic of the cancer cell. And the end result is usually quite negative for the host.

Give the North a chance to avoid the southern economic development model.

Political parties of all stripes must put forward alternate ways for the North to develop, yet at the same time develop in such a manner that essential services such as health care, housing and basic consumer needs can be provided.

If the North can develop differently yet healthily compared with the south, maybe it could be the role model for the rest of Canada.

Some will say this is not a realistic vision for the North, but then neither is the economic development model currently being imposed.

Politicians, Northerners want to hear you articulate possible solutions to avoiding the southern development trap.

And the timing couldn't be better, what with there being a federal election on and all.

Thank you for reading this story…

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