Last week the Campbell River Mirror on Vancouver Island reported that Catalyst Paper, the owner of the Elk Falls mill, is changing its CEO and its chief financial officer. The CEO is being handed a severance package of $4.8 million, the chief financial officer a paltry one of $1.6 million.

What ismore remarkable is that this multimillion dollar farewellgift comes from a company that makes no bones aboutgoing before the local government and pleadingfinancial hardship and asking for tax breaks. Andwhat is even more remarkable than that is the factthat according to Catalyst the severance package isconsidered moderate by today’s standards.

One has to wonder what some people’s idea of moderate is. Two relatively affluent people received almost as much for losing their jobs as the Village of Gold River did to stabilize a community of about 2,000 when its mill went down.

What Tahsis and Port Alicereceived for their troubles looks like chump changein comparison. One must seriously question thesocial consciousness and possibly the moralfoundation of any who think such a severance ismoderate.

There is a great inequality in the distribution ofwealth in the world, a problem that a number ofstudies indicate is getting worse. One recentstudy by the Helsinki-based World Institute forDevelopment Economics Research, for example, showedthat only one per cent of the world’s people owned40 per cent of its wealth, while the top ten per cent owned85 per cent.

The bottom 50 per cent of the world’sadults share only one per cent of its wealth amongthem. The lack of wealth by so many people on onehand with a culture of greed that defines today’sstandards on the other is a recipe for socialdisaster. Combine it with global overpopulationand you add serious environmental destruction tothe equation.

Today, one of the more prominent issues on thepublic mind is global warming, or climate change.This is something that is always occurring ofcourse, at least in geologic time frames, but it isbecoming apparent that the current episode is beinginfluenced by human activity. On a geologic scalethis is of no concern as everything that we seewill be gone sooner or later.

On a human scale,however, it is considerably more important. One ofthose sooner-or-later-gone items undoubtedly willbe humans as we either evolve into something elseor get squashed into extinction. The speed bywhich we do that could mean the difference betweengradual evolution and the dust bin of zoology.

The problem with the climate change issue, aswith so many of the other issues concerning theenvironment, is that there is a lot of money andother things invested in what causes the problem.So much money in fact that those profiting off the problem can hire scientists and publicrelations flacks to muddy the waters about whetherthere is a problem or not. They can also use theircontrol of that money to bribe entire communitiesand to manage troublesome people when need be.

Wealth distribution is also a problem for theenvironment because people desperate to live willengage in environmentally unsound practices tosurvive.

Overpopulation also helps cause environmentaldegradation. The more people on the planet, themore demand on its finite resources. Some wouldargue that wealth is infinite and in a sense theywould be right. The universe is infinite.

Unfortunately at this time we are, for practicalpurposes, restricted to only that which lies on ornear the surface of the planet. Aside from a fewvolcanic eruptions and meteor impacts, availableresources do not increase, they are merely movedaround. So, for every new person added to the netpopulation the amount of resources per capitadecreases.

Our lives are being restricted and changed becausethere are so many of us in total on one hand, and somany poor on the other. If the population were toreturn to where it was a century or more ago wewould have less impact, even at our current percapita rate of consumption, and many of the issuesthat confront us now would be manageable if nottotally non-existent.

And, if wealth were moreevenly distributed there would be less reason toresort to environmentally destructive pursuits inorder to live.

Some see climate change as the great issue of ourday. It is a problem to be sure, but it is alsoonly a symptom of something more serious.Resolving our environmental problems will entailaddressing the issues of overpopulation and wealthdistribution.


Jerry West

Gold River, Vancouver Island Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada’s West Coast. This...