March 18, 2011
I, and many others, are concerned about the most pressing problem of our time and are looking for leaders who will put this problem foremost in their policy. It is a core problem that many of our other problems are connected to, and if we do not solve it first it will prevent any lasting solution for the other issues that are being addressed.
The pre-eminent issue that must be dealt with now, ahead of all others, is the issue of environmental sustainability. On a scientific level, the problem is not difficult; we know why we have it, and we know what it takes to repair it. On a political level, however, it is a nightmare, which is probably why no one wants to directly confront it and make it a leading plank in their policy. What we need at this time are leaders brave enough to tackle this issue and say the uncomfortable truths that many do not want to hear.
Many of you have addressed sustainability in your platforms, and put forward many of the usual ideas for environmental policy. All of these, however, miss the root of the problem and avoid the necessary solution.
The problem of sustainability is that we are consuming renewable resources faster than they can be renewed. To put it in the jargon of economists, we are consuming our principal. The only solution to this problem is to consume less.
The reason why we have become unsustainable is that we have not controlled consumption; rather, we have done much worse — we have developed an economic system based on growth, and have tended to see expansion of the economy and more consumption as the answer to many of our social problems.
This economy has to shrink, and consumption has to drop if we are to avoid a natural catastrophe that will alter our social system radically. We need policies that reduce consumption and reverse growth until we can reach a relatively stable state within our ecosystem. Finding the resources to fix social problems will have to come from redistribution of wealth directly by fiat rather than indirectly through expanding the economy.
The growth of human activity has become a cancer that is killing society. We must face that fact and change our political dialogue to make that our biggest issue. Everything that we do should be filtered through a sustainable lens that weeds out any action that encourages growth or increased consumption.
My question to you is: how do you propose to address this problem?
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Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada’s West Coast.