Debates between mainstream scientists and silver-tongued opponents cannot be won by the side of truth no matter how obvious the fallacies may be to an expert.—Steven Sherwood, Director of Climate Change Research Centre, Sydney, Australia
The scientists’ dilemma
Environmental scientists understand the damage we humans are inflicting on our planet. Our endless devouring of limited resources accompanied by massive pollution and waste by an ever-increasing population has pushed us closer to the demise of our life support system. The experts know change is essential and have been spreading the warning for decades. Some of us, including a number of political leaders, are listening and trying to do something, but many still blithely ignore the inevitable consequences of inaction.
Can we explain this foolhardy disregard for our own protection? Can we explain our seeming lack of concern for future generations? Surely our apparently superior intelligence will come to the rescue. Or will it? If we are so clever why are we dragging our feet? We know what has to be done!
The Qualicum Institute has wrestled with this problem at length and has concluded we are not doing it because there are factors other than intelligence at work, factors we haven’t taken into account. Despite the remarkable capacity of the human mind, it still falls victim to emotions and attitudes far removed from intelligent thought. A few examples outlined in the following dialogue illustrate how certain tendencies that remain embedded in our human nature can lead to disastrous decisions. We are currently witnessing the power of these lingering tendencies in our battle to alter the unsustainable path we are following. Our conversation at a QI meeting describes some of the barriers to action. Continue reading
We have added a new page that discusses government borrowing from the Bank of Canada and the myth that this would cause inflation. You can find the essay here.
New QI Presentation
Although we had decided to stop giving our presentations, BC Nature sent us a request and, because they had previously adopted a position on economic growth, which makes a powerful statement in support of sustainability, we chose to acquiesce to their request. This Qualicum Institute presentation, along with accompanying notes, can be found here: BC Nature Presentation.
2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
Public consultation has just ended for the government’s draft 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. The draft’s “vision for a sustainable Canada includes a strong and growing economy, healthy ecosystems that are protected from pollution and degradation, and an excellent quality of life for Canadians.” That simple statement demonstrates a fatal flaw in the strategy, for you can’t have a strong and growing economy and healthy ecosystems. To find out why, have a look at the Qualicum Institute’s general comments on the strategy.
The Sustainability Conundrum
Note: This was first published on the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere blog
Science is telling us that our world is in trouble. We have too many people consuming too much stuff. There is hope however, as humanity is slowly demonstrating a spontaneous propensity towards developing the behavioral adaptations necessary to reach a sustainable population and a respect for nature that could enable human civilization to persist.
Of course failure to change humanity’s dominant behavior and adapt would result in an irreversible depletion of non-renewable resources and fouling of the biosphere with our waste. Even worse, population would continue to expand and consumption would continue to grow exponentially. The outlook is bleak if the forces of human population and consumption continue unchecked. Extinctions will increase to massive proportions, eliminating many of the creatures with whom we share this planet and by extension humanity itself.
We know that with sufficient, non-coercive incentives (e.g., education of women, contraception) that birthrates and thus population can be reduced; however, Continue reading
Since the QI’s inception, we’ve given many presentations to a wide range of audiences, spanning local governments and university and college classes, to political parties, rate payers associations and environmental organizations. The QI directors thank those who have invited us; we’ve enjoyed meeting you and the provocative discussions that the talks brought forward.
Judging by the reviews we received—some included on our Presentations page— it seems as though most organizations thought our presentations worthwhile. From our perspective, the effort of preparing and giving our thoughtful, science-based presentations was also well worthwhile in that we needed to go through that process to convince ourselves that an inspiring, well-researched, logical talk wasn’t anywhere near enough or even efficacious in moving towards a sustainable society—an important and difficult lesson to learn. Continue reading
Recently I came across a half page ad in a major newspaper on my morning ferry commute: “Rubber Bands Have Feelings Too – a screenplay by Helina Clarke.” From Advertising Standards Canada, the byline read “creativity is subjective, the truth isn’t.” I laughed out loud. Brilliant! Truth in advertising is a key challenge in the sustainability movement as the pressures for creative greenwashing are everywhere. If only it were as easy as the ad proclaimed. The struggle to represent sustainability honestly is one reason that I joined the Qualicum Institute (QI), which recently became a node of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB). These organizations, along with others, are working to demonstrate the clash between economic growth and ecological overshoot in order to prevent societal collapse. Continue reading
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein is not just one more of many books on environmental issues. It is a remarkable narrative that tells us an all-encompassing story of how humans have created a crisis that threatens their own survival. It also offers solutions available to us provided we have the will to act. She skillfully weaves together the political, social, cultural, and scientific fabrics that have brought us to the brink of environmental and economic collapse, yet still leaves us with hope for the future. Continue reading