Category Archives: Our Changing World

A green perspective

by Stan Hirst

Introduction

In a blog posted on this site earlier in the month, Elder Bob Worcester proposed a new view of the world, termed the ‘green perspective’. The prime purpose of this view is to provide a framework for mitigating the present worldwide vitriolic conflicts between the world’s “globalists” and “localists”.

“Globalists” are broadly considered to include the urban elites who support world-wide integration of communications, commerce and transportation, while “localists” are groups who are sceptical about moves from traditions, homes and families to so-called “new world orders” and their associated clash of cultures.

Between global and local perspectives are ‘ecological’ views which imply that everything has its role and place. While globalists see local perspectives as limited and narrow, they forget that the global is made up of a mosaic of local conditions, each of which emerged from the particular circumstances of that region. Locals, on the other hand, discount cosmopolitans as being out of touch with the day-to-day realities of lived experience.

The green perspective is not just the middle ground between two extremes, it can be a radical position beyond either extreme; something outside the lines of the conventional. The green perspective should dive deeper into the imagination to find things unseen. It can derive much from nature which provides a deep, rich model of how the world works, and from spiritual traditions which claim that by “seeing through the glass darkly” more depth may be revealed.

The conflict between the two viewpoints is exemplified by carbon extraction (in the form of oil, coal, natural gas, etc.) and its combustion, creating the very real possibility of local impacts from spills and contamination, and global threats to climate and planetary ecosystems from carbon dioxide and methane emissions. These impacts will affect virtually every person on the planet in some way, and the negative effects will be handed on to succeeding generations.

Locals are mollified by global capitalists who appear to value environmental quality (at least in their own backyards), who also have children and grandchildren who they want to see live happy and productive lives but who also seem quite ready to sidestep the obvious implications of negative global impacts and focus instead on the materialistic benefits – jobs and money.

Thus far the conceptualization of a ‘green perspective’ has been based only on consideration of the prevailing toxic dialogue around the environment and the extent of human exploitation of global resources and ecosystems. Missing from the discussion so far are ethics and spirituality, a deeper appreciation of global ecosystems, and concern for environmental rights and freedoms.

This post attempts to provide these additional perspectives.

Incorporation of ecological intelligence

Differences and/or shortcomings in perception have huge consequences for the way in which we manage the planet. It is suggested that the green perspective would be amplified by inclusion of liberal doses of ecological intelligence, described by its inventor Daniel Goleman as an understanding of ecosystems lending the capacity to learn from experience and to deal effectively with the environment.

Current human use and consumption of natural resources far exceeds Earth’s long-term carrying capacity. At the same time, modern society has lost touch with the sensibility crucial to our survival as a species. As Goleman expresses it – our collective mind harbours blind spots that disconnect our everyday activities from the crises those activities cause in natural systems.

Ecological intelligence supports the ability to categorize and recognize patterns in the natural world – ecological, geological and climatic. Humans have been doing this for centuries, but the global extent of human-induced change now requires that ecological intelligence be extended to the planetary level. Moreover, our other levels of intelligence – social and emotional – enable us to take other people’s perspectives, assimilate these and feel genuine empathy.

The sheer efficiency and widespread prevalence of modern technologies have severely blunted the survival skills of billions of individuals on the planet. Modern economies require and encourage specialized expertise, which in turn depends on other specialists for tasks in another field. However, while many excel in narrow specialized fields, we all depend on the skills of others – farmers, software engineers, nutritionists, mechanics – to make life work for us. Modern society now falls short in having the abilities, the attunement to the natural world, and the custom of passing on of local wisdom to new generations to find ways of living in harmony with our patch of the planet.

Our collective ability to perceive significant global issues has been rendered ineffective. Our attention has been drawn, slowly and reluctantly, to symptoms like the slow rising of global sea levels or the pesticide-induced demise of our bee populations. We have no sensors for other indicators and little insight into natural disruptions. Our otherwise impressive neural systems are ill-designed to warn us of the ways that our activities are impacting our own planetary niche. We have to acquire new sensitivities to a growing range of threats and learn what to do about them. In other words, we need to sharpen our ecological intelligence.

Adequate development of ecological intelligence requires a vast store of knowledge, too much for any one individual. While intelligence has traditionally been a characteristic of individuals, the environmental abilities we now need in order to survive must necessarily be collective.

Large organizations already make good use of distributed intelligence. Goleman cites the examples of hospitals where technicians, nurses, administrators and specialist physicians coordinate their skills to provide appropriate care to patients. Another example is that of modern commercial enterprises in which sales, marketing, finance, and strategic planning each represent unique expertise yet operate together to provide coordinated, shared understanding and implementation.

Incorporation of ethics

Nearly 70 years ago the conservationist Aldo Leopold published a series of essays under the title of A Sand County Almanac in which he proposed adoption of a land ethic. Leopold, a naturalist by choice and a forester by training, considered that Old Testament religion had played a major role in environmental deterioration in twentieth century America through its Abrahamic concept of land as a commodity. That meant that the non-aboriginal relationship to land was basically economic, entailing privileges but no obligations.

Leopold proposed a “Land Ethic” which expanded the definition of “community” to include not only humans, but all of the other parts of the Earth, as well – soils, water, plants, and animals. In the lexicon of the late 19th century all these ecosystem components were conventionally lumped under the term “land”. Leopold’s revolutionary concept of land was in fact “a community to which people belonged”, thus entailing use with love and respect.

The land ethic has been a significant contribution to conservation in North America, and the concepts are embedded in many state and federal resource management policies. One reason it is popular with mainstream environmentalism is that it does not require huge sacrifices of human interests, but instead seeks to strike a balance between human needs and interests and a healthy and biotically diverse natural environment. It also permits framing of global land as a commons, to be governed on a global scale based on international cooperation and conservation.

Incorporation of environmental rights

As fundamental as the right to food, shelter or freedom from discrimination is the right of all members of society to live in a safe physical environment in which the continued diversity of non-human life is also ensured. This can be promoted by promoting stronger environmental laws and better enforcement of existing laws through the framework of the green perspective.

The right to a healthy environment is widely recognized in international law and enjoyed as a constitutional protection in over 100 countries, but not in Canada (the Canadian Constitution makes no mention of the environment). Ironically, environmental rights and responsibilities have been a cornerstone of indigenous legal systems in Canada for millennia. The right is currently recognized in five provinces and territories (Quebec, Ontario, Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut), and has been tabled in draft legislative form in B.C.

The formulation of rights is a legal mechanism for creating or shifting the balance between competing interests. Such a right residing in each Canadian would provide the courts with direction in, for example, determining the strength of the individual Canadian’s claim for environmental health in cases where it competed with the right of another individual or corporation to develop property. An environmental bill of rights is also seen as a mechanism for removing obstacles which currently prevent individuals and public interest groups from participating in the environmental decision-making process and litigating issues of environmental degradation.

The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement is a national grassroots campaign seeking country-wide implementation of environmental rights. To date more than 110,000 people across Canada have participated at various levels, and 160 municipalities have passed resolutions in support of legislation. The end goal is the amendment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right to a healthy environment.

Characteristics of a green perspective

The characteristics of a green perspective can now be summarised as follows.

  • Seeking a broad picture that encompasses all viewpoints.
  • Open-ended.
  • Recognizing that positions affect people and there may be multiple sides to an issue.
  • Recognizing that being in the majority on an issue is not a reassurance that it is wise.
  • Knowing when an acceptable course of action can be a middle ground between two extremes, or possibly even a position outside the lines of the conventional.
  • Welcoming spiritual traditions being brought in to reveal depth to the perspective.
  • Defining a strong ethical framework for planning, approving and implementing.
  • Recognizing the right to a healthy environment as a cornerstone of any plans and actions involving individuals, communities and ecosystems.
  • Responsible understanding of ecosystems and their functioning lending the capacity to learn from experience and to be proactive in environmental management.

 

February Gloom

by Stan Hirst

Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest -J.D. Robb

From my perspective on a dark and gloomy Vancouver North Shore being assailed by interminable chilly rain February absolutely seems like the longest month. And the whole world seems dark and gloomy. Environment Canada says we have just had the fifth wettest January on record. The trend is set.

Its actually a most appropriate backdrop from which to consider the world situation right now.  Its depressing and made more so by the unfettered barrage of negative news delivered non-stop from a multitude of TV talking heads and contained within rain-sodden pages of the daily papers.

News commentators view the US presidential decision to transfer the American embassy to Jerusalem as a strategic and political move. However, to many Christian evangelicals (who make up 26% of the U.S population) Jerusalem is of special significance. It is tied into the concept of the rapture — a time when, according to evangelical tradition, believing Christians will be suddenly and unexpectedly “raptured” up to heaven before the events that presage the end of the world. In most accounts of the rapture, believers go straight to heaven while nonbelievers are left behind to undergo a period of political chaos and personal torment.

Are we living in some kind of “end time” now?  Theatrics aside, we are definitely living in a highly altered world of rapidly and visibly changing climate, massive disruption of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, and burgeoning  and shifting human populations. Its not just that so many of the basic physical, ecological, social and political parameters have changed and now approach breaking points.  The thought that we are at some kind of breaking point has now become a point of focus.

Its hugely ironic that we now sit in this situation while at the same time being in possession of more scientific knowledge and technology than at any point in the whole history of our Earth.  There is more computing power in the laptop in front of me than there was in the whole IBM mainframe computer I timidly used just a half-century ago.  We know what is on the other side of the moon, we have closeup imagery of the surface of Mars, we can dissect and manipulate strands of DNA to produce new forms of life.  But we can’t stop ourselves from destroying the very foundations of the global ecological system that gave us life in the first place.  The ridiculousness is all too much for an eldering brain to embrace.

In his book Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas addresses this very question.  He believes that we are fundamentally unable to comprehend the greater perspective.  As a global society we suffer from a profound metaphysical disorientation and groundlessness.  Something essential is  missing, and it is tempting for many to think it might be on the spiritual level.

Pope Francis, 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, took a brave chance at responding to this type of global challenge back in 2015 and produced his 2nd encyclical Laudato Si. This emphasized connectedness and the need for global action, both socially and politically. The document has been read by millions worldwide but seems to have become more of a polemic than a mode of genuine transition to something better.

Ken Wilber, the creator of Integral Theory (or The Theory of Everything), provides another type of framework for (the attempt at) the understanding of what is going on with our planet and ourselves.  Often difficult to understand, at least to this Elder brain, the theory postulates four levels of universal consciousness, coded ‘red’, ‘amber’, ‘orange’ and ‘green’.

The world was once at the red level (egocentric, self-referential, instinctual), followed by amber (ethnocentric, authoritarian, pre-modern) and lately at the orange level (world-centric, rational, individualistic, modern). Apparently back in the sixties we started to move onto the green level (world centered, pluralistic, post-modern)

Wilber postulates that, somewhere along the way, Green  began to wander off course, increasingly caught in some internal contradictions that were inherent in its worldview from the start (e.g. maybe there are no such things as the widely supposed universal truth and universal values in the first place).

This brings me to the point I feared when I started penning this piece in the first place. I really don’t know how to end on a positive note.

Certainly, the world will continue to unravel the complexities of our existence, from the very, very large (think deep space and black holes) to the very small (snippets of DNA being coerced to do magical things). New ideas will come and go, hopefully some will leave a residue behind. The kids will grow up and hopefully be much better at this existence business than we Elders.

But I fear the wars, greed, interminable bickering, and upsurges of horrible diseases and ecological afflictions will also go on.  Why will the search for the magic bullet not continue to be an utterly futile quest?

It has stopped raining. I’m going out to clean the gutters.

 

Of Priuses and pick-up trucks

By Bob Worcester

The world seems caught in a conflict between “globalists”, the urban elites who welcome and support the world-wide integration of communications, commerce and transportation, and “localists” who view with suspicion the move from traditions, home and family to the “new world order” and its chaotic clash of cultures.

One is tempted to call this a conflict between the hillbillies and the city slickers, but perhaps a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ viewpoint is a less loaded classification. Jim Hoggan’s timely book I’m Right and You’re an Idiot identifies the toxic quality of these conflicts and recommends that understanding is a prerequisite for constructive conversations.

I would like to suggest that between the red and the blue view of the world is a green perspective that, like old 3-D glasses, provides more depth and clarity than that found in most current discussion of this new world we are moving into.

Polarization is not new to politics since often one is either “with us” or “against us” on any number of issues such as Peace Site C, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, or trophy hunting. Of course there are always grey areas but that spectrum still often ranges from black to white. ‘Green’ adds colour to the discourse.

Between the global and the local perspective is an ‘ecological’ view which implies that everything has its role and place. This may sound like a wishy-washy perspective but it is not. Globalists see local perspectives as too limited and narrow yet the global is made up of a mosaic of local conditions, each of which emerged from the particular circumstances of that region. Locals discount the cosmopolitans as out of touch with the day-to-day realities of lived experience.

It is not surprising that groups polarize around their particular issues – jobs, growth or limits. What is unfortunate is that environmentalists often contribute to that polarization unnecessarily. As Hoggan suggests, “you’re wrong” quickly degenerates into “you’re evil!” The ‘green’ viewpoint steps back to find the bigger picture that puts both red and blue in perspective.

That, of course, is more easily said than done. Construction of the Peace Site C dam may very well bring jobs and prosperity to many people in the region while displacing others. It may allow Albertans to close down their fossil fueled electrical utilities but still encourage fracking. First Nations do not always agree among themselves on what is in their best interests and may resent that “city slickers” get to call the shots. It is easy to see how anger and resentment emerge regardless of the outcome. The green perspective may not avoid conflict but it can, at least, appreciate that their positions affect people and there may be three or more sides to an issue.

There are legitimate concerns to be addressed and not papered over as “deplorable.” The green perspective will recognize that being in the majority on an issue is not a reassurance that it is wise. Popular causes are notoriously fickle and “all movements go too far” according to Bertrand Russell. The green perspective is not just the middle ground between two extremes, it can be a radical position beyond either extreme – something outside the lines of the conventional. The green perspective dives deeper into the imagination to find things unseen – “your young people shall see visions, and your old people shall dream dreams.” Here is where a ‘green’ vision can go further. If egotists can become tribalists and globalists can become ecologically-minded, then what can ‘green’ become?

Nature provides a deep, rich model of how the world works, but perhaps that view too is limited. Spiritual traditions claim that now we “see through the glass darkly” and that more depth may be revealed. If the old movie goggles with red and blue lenses converted hazy images on the screen into three dimensions then maybe ‘green’ with ultraviolet lenses can give us even more dimensions. Our ‘cosmological’ understanding keeps astonishing us with quantum possibilities of multi-verses and dark matter. Ecological understanding may yet give way to something cosmological that we have yet to imagine.

For now, it would seem that the “wisdom of the elders” is to see the world with new eyes, perhaps even the eyes of a child. Biologists tell us that evolution is random, chaotic and no particular outcome is more natural than another, yet we feel that some outcomes are better, truer, more beautiful than others. Let us trust that feeling and look into the greening future with hope, imagination and grit.

 

 

Embracing cultural diversity in Canada

By Cynthia Lam

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada, established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as the cornerstone of the Canadian Honours System to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order of Canada’s motto is Desiderantes meliorem patriam (They desire a better country). Some 6000 Canadians have been recipients of the award over the years; all have enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country.

This year has also been my 50th anniversary of being here in Canada. I came to work at EXPO 67 in Montreal, 50 years ago, and then returned later to pursue my studies in social work. I spent my first 37 years of my Canadian life in Montreal.

[Blogmaster’s note – Cynthia Lam was honoured as a recipient of the Order of Canada in Montreal, Quebec, in 2002 for being one of the first women in Quebec and Canada to give voice and visibility to Asian communities. In 2004 she moved to Vancouver with her husband.]

The first wave of Chinese laborers who immigrated to Canada experienced state-imposed discriminatory laws and racial prejudices, specifically targeting the Chinese and the Aboriginal people, and bringing generations of untold suffering to the two communities. A deep bond between the two communities as well as intermarriage between them has grown out of their shared history of living with oppressive racism.

The city of Vancouver was incorporated in 1886, and until 1947, a period of some 60 years, Chinese were barred from many civil rights, including burials in cemeteries, ownership of property, right to join a profession, and the right to access regular medical care.

Waves of Chinese immigration followed the repeal of racist immigration laws in the 1960s, the handover of Hong Kong back to China in the 1990s, and the onset of the current economic boom in China. Each of these migrations came to Canada with different motivations, and they have had vastly different and diverse experiences here.

Canada has been a country of immigrants ever since the 16th century, beginning with the influxes of French and English immigrants. Having many important qualities as a nation, we continue to attract more and more immigrants whose skills, talents, and investments are vital to making Canada competitive and strong in the world. The multi-cultural diversity they bring along with them enriches our society.

The government of Canada has recently announced the raising of the immigration level to 1 million over the next three years, the most ambitious level in recent history. Four in every 5 of these immigrants will be from visible minority. It has been projected that within two decades, 7 in 10 of Metro Vancouver residents will be non-white.

Partly because of the proximity of being neighbours across the Pacific, and partly because of their increasing wealth, immigrants from China have become a major minority group. There are now 1.2 million people of Chinese origin in Canada, about 4% of the total population and 21% of all visible minorities. In Metro Vancouver 1 out of 5 new arrivals since 2006 is Chinese-speaking, comprising about 25% of the total population, and with more than 50% settling in Richmond. Percentage-wise there are now more Chinese professionals and managerial personnel than other immigrant groups within the Canadian population in general.

As we see in the daily news, immigration and diversity can bring about problems that need to be addressed. A case in point is the explosive growth of real estate values in Vancouver. However, such problems are not unique to Vancouver, nor to Canada, nor to the Chinese community either. It’s indeed a global issue. London, England, for example, is struggling to curb real estate speculation by buyers from Russia and Malaysia. Substantial purchase of American properties by the Japanese in the 1980’s was another example. The Arab language has now become the third most-spoken language in Montreal, after French and English, and that has engendered some anti-immigrant sentiment and some controversial legislation.

Yes, immigration brings opportunities as well as problems, but in this shrinking world with its global economy increasing population movements are inevitable. This complex problem must be addressed. If we can start by moving from a position of being afraid and of rejecting differences to one of tolerating differences and then eventually to appreciating the benefits of such differences, the door will be opened for embracing cultural differences and the celebration of diversity.

In my opinion there is a parallel between addressing the human diversity issue, and adapting to climate change. They both are global in nature, and both are confronting us at an unprecedented speed. Therefore, they must both be addressed with the importance and urgency they each deserve.

As we know, Vancouver is aiming to become the greenest city by 2020 . We should strive to take up the challenge to successfully embrace diversity and to set an example for other multicultural cities around the world to look up to and to learn from! And, to make Vancouver truly the most livable city in the world.

Back to the future, kids

by Stan Hirst

Permit me to introduce the apples of my eye – my grandkids.

They’re Canadians, so naturally there is one boy and one girl. I use the term ‘Canadians’ somewhat collectively, since a quick review of their family trees shows ancestors from 10 known genetic ancestries. Plus, there is a bit of Neanderthal in there as well, according to DNA analysis.

They do well at school. They can play the piano, ride bicycles, swim, cross-country ski, play soccer, fiddle with anything that has dials, knobs and switches or goes beep, and they frequently aggravate their parents. Totally normal, well-balanced kids. Take after their grandfather in every respect, except for the piano bit. I’m proud of them.

But I am deeply concerned for them. Not as kids, mind you. They’re well supervised, guided and taught. No, my concerns are for them as the grown-ups which they one day will be, and for the situation in which they will find themselves in as they enter maturity and have to fend for their own children in this rapidly changing world of ours.

What will their world look like? I don’t own a crystal ball, but Big Think, an internet portal set up in 2007 to cogitate and debate on such things, has ventured a variety of prognostications which at least give me a good impression of whither goest my kith and kin.

By mid-century there will likely be 9 billion people on our planet, consuming ever more resources and leading ever more technologically complex lives. According to the futurists the majority of these people will live in urban areas and will have a significantly higher average age than people of today. My unfortunate middle-aged grand-kids and their offspring will, figuratively speaking, be immersed in a great sea of cranky old elders like me. Nothing new for them then, just more of the same. I’m betting that medical science, despite its ever-accelerating rate of discovery and innovation, will not have eliminated ageing and its unwanted attendant afflictions such as mental illness.

The kids are tech savvy now (8-year-olds with their own e-mail addresses!?), so as adults they will merge seamlessly with the pervasive and highly interconnected networks of the future. They and their children will spend their whole existence immersed in overlain and interacting smart grids running every detail of their lives. Their homes and they themselves, via their Apple 1105’s, will be multi-linked to energy, information and resource distribution systems which will provide their every need and requirement. Well, almost every need – they’ll still have to open their own boxes of Choco Pops.

Their work environments will be similarly completely multi-linked. There are drones zooming around the countryside now delivering parcels, so a few decades hence will almost certainly see offices and industrial plants linked worldwide on a real-time basis. Grandson engineer in Calgary, he of Lego renown, will design a supermod skyscraper, transmit a few million specs to a company in Guangzhou who will set up the production contract and eventually build the modular monstrosity in Kyrgyzstan.

Granddaughter neurosurgeon, who as a 6-year old once expressed the concern that “people don’t have very good brains” will sit in her plush (pink?) workspace in Vancouver, surrounded by consoles and sensors which watch her hands and eyes. On the monitor she will see, in crystal-clear resolution, the shaved head of her tranquilized patient in Mombasa, Kenya, 15,000km away. She will also see the many electronic instruments and strobes positioned around her patient, all of which are controlled by the switches, buttons and mice on the console in Vancouver. In 6 minutes she will scan the patient’s brain, detect the lesion, analyze it, transmit the diagnosis to the resident surgeon in the Mombasa hospital, bombard it remotely with iomega waves, check the patient’s responses, transmit a report to the printer in the hospital admin office in Mombasa, wave goodbye to the theatre staff, and sign off. All in a day’s work.

My grandkids might be well equipped for the future, but I can’t say the same for the country I’m leaving behind for them. The Canada we know now is already a land of extremes, from freezing cold to searing heat, from drenching rain to parched drought. We all know what climate variation is like now, but the change forecasts from climate scientists suggest that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

It will certainly be warmer by mid-century – a country summer average of about 20C higher. Wetter too, by an average about 5%. However, averages are statistical devices to summarize large amounts of data and can be misleading. Climate change will feed into Canada’s already considerable natural variability and won’t do anything to smooth the fluctuations out. In effect, the likelihood of droughts or more wet periods in whatever region my kids choose to live will certainly be quite different to what they now know.

The additional rain is unlikely to fall as gentle spring showers, much more likely as great flooding downpours or winter rains that drain away before they can nourish crops. In Saskatchewan where the other grandparents in the family tree once resided and farmed, the amount of water that falls as snow has already declined by 50 per cent. The number of multi-day rains has increased by the same amount. These trends will very likely continue, but ironically prairie crops will not benefit from the longer growing seasons because the precipitation gains will be offset by higher temperatures and higher evaporation.

The mild winters will allow mountain pine beetles to survive and infest forests in western Canada, killing trees and turning parched and overheated trees into tinder boxes. Wildfire seasons already begin weeks before they used to. In the Northwest Territories, where temperatures are climbing at a rate faster than almost anywhere on earth, the 2014 fire season set a record of 3.4 million hectares of scorched forest. In the earlier part of 2017, B.C. experienced its worst-ever wildfire season, with 894,491 hectares burned by 1029 recorded fires at a cost of $316 million. It’s a tad mind-numbing to project such figures to the time when the next generations have to deal with, and pay for, the ongoing consequences of climate change caused by their grandparents.

This is a dynamic that will be seen more frequently across the country in coming decades – financial benefits for some and devastating losses for others. A warmer climate and longer growing season may benefit crops such as corn, soybeans, forage and horticultural crops in eastern Canada, but the same climatic pattern could be calamitous for southern regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where food production already takes place in a semi-arid climate.

Western Canada may still look a lot like the country that the kids’ pioneering forefathers called home, but the ecological boundaries will shift. By 2050 extensive areas of the boreal forest’s southern fringe will have converted to prairie. Drought-prone spruce will be lost first, followed by pines and then aspen, to be replaced by prairie grassland. There will no more glaciers in the Rocky Mountains and in the coastal ranges.

Along the Pacific coast fishery catches will decline by an estimated 4 – 10% by 2050. Wild Pacific salmon hauls are calculated to drop by an estimated 20-30%. Not all the prognostications are negative – west coast fishermen can expect more pacific sardines and clams. Over on the Atlantic side catches are expected to increase, but fishermen will have to sail further north to find them. Commercial fisheries could also open in an ice-free Arctic Ocean with catches of turbot, Arctic cod and Arctic char. It has yet to be estimated if these fisheries will be sustainable in the long-term.

Some climate change forecasters see many positives in Canada’s future. Melting ice in the Arctic will open up shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean, significantly reducing the time and cost of international trade. Changing ecological conditions could bring more fish into the Arctic Ocean and into the northern reaches of the Pacific and Atlantic. The implications are that global trade in and out of Canada could triple, while the economic value of the planet’s oceans could to trillions of dollars.

Canada currently has access to more than 20 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves – a resource that will be more valuable than gold over coming decades. Climate change will impact those reserves by eliminating glaciers and altering precipitation but, compared to the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and the southwestern USA, we’ll still have an advantage. The challenge will be defending our fresh water from others, especially the Americans.

Countries that are already struggling economically are going to be severely pummeled in the next decades. Drought may set off more civil wars in Africa. Entire cities and regions of the Middle East might become too physically hot to survive in. National income declines of 80 to 90% compared to growth scenarios without climate change could become common across the developing world.

Canada – the true North strong and free – has always been an open country in all senses of the word. It has been especially welcoming to immigrants, as the kids’ own family trees attest. It will become even more attractive to outsiders a few decades from now. A lot of these immigrants will come from south of the border as Americans are driven from their homes by flooded coasts, storm-ravaged cities and deluged or drought-stricken prairies. Some U.S. immigrants may seek alternatives to an increasingly violent and erratic governmental system in their own country.

Other waves of immigrants will show up in Canadian cities from Asia, Africa and the middle East as the internecine strife and wars so prevalent now in those areas becomes worse with burgeoning populations and diminishing water and agricultural land resources. Huge waves of future immigrants and refugees will certainly strain the tolerance for which Canada is so famous. As regions and countries across the planet collapse, millions of refugees and other migrants will head north. Future governments will inevitably attempt to admit only the most skilled or in-need migrants; the country’s population could swell to 100 million people as a result. The most likely situation is that many migrants will be turned away, and Canada’s land borders could become militarized with drones and gunboats patrolling our shores.

I frankly doubt my grandkids will wind up as fishermen, foresters or firefighters, so will heavy rains, severe droughts, burgeoning bark beetles and burning forests make any difference to them? Without any doubt – a resounding yes. Everything is connected, especially when the ecosystem components and resources undergoing the changes are the lifeblood and economic underpinnings of their society. There are very few items in the list of resources they will need or seek out in their future that will not, in some way, be impacted by climate and population changes. Just as now, and even if they’re living in some super condo in some or other supercity, their essential food supplies derived from land-based agricultural crops and farmed livestock, or from marine-based fisheries and seafood sources, or from freshwater-sourced crops and fisheries, will always be totally dependent on favourable climates and on adequate supplies of fresh water.

Am I justified in being concerned for my grandkids as they go into the future? Its hard not to be concerned, that’s what you sign up for when you become a grandfather. Need I be concerned? Surprisingly, I don’t really think so. They are being given love, support, encouragement, education and motivation in spades now. I think they will be as prepared as any for the changed world they will inherit.

There is one more factor in their favour – those 10 ancestries buried in their DNA. In the murky entwining of their genetic heritage are Dutch, English and Asian ancestors who journeyed centuries ago in rickety sailboats from the far reaches of the world to Africa to establish homes, farm the land, and dig for diamonds. Their ancestry includes grannies and granddads from central Europe and Scandinavia who hauled themselves halfway around the world to establish farms and entrench their families on pristine Canadian prairies.

So will the kids make it in the new world coming?

Hell, yes.

Calling Mom

by Stan Hirst

Oh, hello Mom.  How are you? Is dad still doing fine?

Yes, we’re OK, no colds or ‘flu, that’s always a good sign.

Jody wears the dung’rees you sent, just about worn them through,

Billy’s now playing junior league, he joined the Boy Scouts too.

Oh, Tom’s O.K., working hard, keeping the herd close by.

The crops are in, what there is, prices aren’t too high.

Actually, Mom, that’s why I called. We won’t come by this fall.

Tom’s got a job. Yes, at the mill. Same work he did before.

Rains never came as usual here, things haven’t been that great,

We lost the soy crop on the bench, just couldn’t irrigate.

Extension guy says its all true – our rainfall’s changed for good.

Longer drought spells, lots more dry wells, ain’t doing what they should.

Oh yes Mom, I remember what Dad said back way when,

“In ’32 the rains failed too, the storms showed up and then?”

The extension guy was by last week and had a word with Tom,

Said folks like us had it good, but now we got to change, Mom.

Rains might come, so might droughts, we’ll never know for certain.

Making out that it’ll all pan out is just setting it up for hurtin’.

How is who?  Oh, Maxine Roux. She moved back to the city.

Sold her land to Pete’s Gravel & Sand, I think that’s such a pity.

So that’s my news. Life goes on. Que sera sera.

You told me once that resilience will take a person far

Prairie life’s not easy life, we’ll just keep standing tall.

Got to go now. I’ll call again. Love to Dad and all.

 

 

 

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