Our vision for a sustainable region
Some men see things as they are and ask why.
Others dream things that never were and ask why not.
—George Bernard Shaw
Imagine you live in a place where …
- all citizens recognize that the foundation for a healthy economy and their social well-being is the environment—the ecosystems within their region and around the world. All wastes generated within this region are returned to the environment within the region yet water pollution and air pollution are things of the past. Citizens recognize that it’s the choices they make that ultimately affect their place, so they choose to make their region more diverse, complex, dynamic, and without degrading the local environment and this gives real sense of security. Crime is reduced to a minimum because a feeling of community pervades the region.
- the booms, busts, and predations of the global economy have little or no effect on the local well-being of this place. Citizens presuppose that the economy works for them rather than the other way around; it improves their well-being without degrading the source of their well-being—the biosphere. The region participates in the global economy much as John Maynard Keynes suggested, observing that domestic policies might be more effective if “the phenomenon known as ‘the flight of capital’ could be ruled out… Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel—these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible; and, above all, let finance be national.” The region recognizes that a local dollar is always worth a dollar. The region’s economic success comes primarily from the strengths and diversity of its people and products they produce and consume from local resources. There is regional self-sufficiency; for the most part, the needs of the people are met from local sources; their economy is sustainable—in balance with the regenerative and assimilative capacity of the ecosystems.
- the people of this region understand that they cannot become sustainable alone and especially if the rest of the world continues its incessant demand for continuous growth. The region works together, forcefully and effectively, with other communities and jurisdictions at the local, regional, provincial and federal levels, encouraging an understanding of the prerequisites for a sustainable economy and is successful in changing the current neoclassical economic paradigm to the sustainable paradigm provided by ecological economics.
- the region has full employment for all who wish to work; the children of this place can enter the local work force when they are old enough should they wish, rather than having to look for employment elsewhere. Apprenticeship programs ensure that local skills and knowledge are passed from generation to generation. Employment and stability are provided to individuals and families primarily by local businesses through the manufacture and sale of local products from local resources; they are not subject to the needs or whims of corporate power from another place. Local businesses are fully supported by the community.
- corporations in the region work to better the well-being of the region and the well-being of each and every person living in the region. However, because corporations are not people that tend to gain wisdom and conservatism with age, their corporate charter is considered a privilege with accompanying responsibilities and is rescindable by the region through a fair, just, and efficient process when necessary. Imported goods and products are recognized as luxuries that can affect the well-being of the community when they are over-indulged. Those living in this place always ask the question: is it good for our region? and understand that if the local region can’t produce it, perhaps they don’t need it.
- natural resource use, including land use, is planned and managed at a level that can be sustained in perpetuity without artificial or non-renewable inputs. Ecosystem and adaptive management concepts are applied, rather than managing for a single commodity, such as fish or trees. Ecosystems are managed as a sustainable source of the commodities and services they naturally and freely provide and are recognized as the foundation of a healthy economy and social well-being.
- health care in the region is proactive rather than reactive. Citizens subscribe to the philosophy that their health is the result of the way they live, not something that is sold to them to repair the damage caused by the way they live. What little reactive health care is needed is provided locally, quickly, and inexpensively. Death is neither feared nor glorified but rather considered a natural part of life.
- education and employment are a voluntary response to regional needs and personal interest and ability and are not limited by gender, age, or social status. The education system teaches core courses that focus not only on how to do things but also on how to live and make morally sound decisions. Because the region recognizes that an understanding of ecology and ecological economics are important to long-term decision-making that affects the region’s environment, they are taught in schools, from K through 12 and beyond, as core courses along with reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.
- true democracy is the basis of government in this place and the electoral process is based on some form of proportional representation so that all citizens’ voices are heard. Those who wish to serve the public good are not deterred by lack of funds and all bona fide candidates have access to government-provided campaign funds that are unfettered by obligation to anyone or any corporation. To reduce the possibility of losing effective, democratic government of, by and for the people, it is illegal in this place for any candidate or party to accept monies (other than reasonable membership dues) from any individual, society, or corporate body and it is just as illegal for any individual, society or corporate body to offer a candidate monies. Lobbying government at any level is not allowed.
- there are no parks, sanctuaries, reserves, or other protected areas in this place, simply because the citizens value all ecosystems, their biodiversity and functions. Thus, parks or sanctuaries are not needed. The people of this place recognize that any healthy economy and social well-being and, indeed, the personal health they enjoy, are dependent upon the health of the ecosystems in their community and around the world. The people of this region have a good understanding of the macroallocation problem and rely on a conservative estimate of the amount of their local ecosystems they need to leave in a natural state for the provision of the life-support services that resilient ecosystems provide. As a result, they also have an idea of how much of the local ecosystems they can use as low entropy input to their economy. Thus, the region develops only within the carrying capacity of its ecosystems.
Imagine living in such a place. Can such a place exist? Undoubtedly, yes. At least the potential for such a place exists, for the Earth gives us all we need to achieve this vision. Everything, perhaps, save the will to make the necessary changes in our behaviour. It is those changes that we need to put into practice should we choose to be a sustainable society.