Staff outside Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (File photo)

Column: Sustainable society based on foundational services

Services tied to local populations puts sustainability above growth, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

We are easily distracted by needs of the moment and no good at planning to avoid future disasters. Polls show that a majority of people are in favour of scrapping ‘the old normal.’ But will we abandon cheapness and convenience in exchange for the true costs of sustainable life?

I’d like to see a good poster listing the 10 looming crises identified by the Australian Commission for the Human Future – ecological collapse and extinction, global warming, weapons of mass destruction, resource scarcity, global poisoning, food insecurity, pandemic disease, overpoppulation, uncontrolled technology, and self-delusion – to post where we’d see it daily.

We can only reform global trade by paying true costs of goods and services. The Canadian foreign worker program is set up to exploit people who receive no benefits while sending their paltry earnings home.

Did you know that bees are shipped to California to pollinate almond trees and are poisoned by pesticides used by almond growers? Are we incapable of seeing the idiocy of sacrificing priceless pollinators to perpetuate a monoculture for non-essential ersatz milk?

Michael Pollan, in a recent article in the New York Review of Books, writes of the follies of over-specialization by selling basic foodstuffs in two completely separate streams: retail and what we call HRI (hotel restaurant institution). During this pandemic, farmers producing for HRI could not transfer to retail when their market share collapsed because they use different processing equipment. Pollan describes workers in meat-packing plants standing shoulder-to-shoulder working at line speeds which permit no breaks. Meanwhile, local production is hampered by federal and provincial regulations geared more to food quantity than quality.

The University of Toronto has a research program called PROOF which studies food insecurity and releases regular reports. They report that: one-sixth of Canadian children are growing up in food insecure households, food insecurity in Canada is steadily increasing, there is no indication that increasing food skills or budgeting skills will reduce food insecurity, no indication that gardening for food protects households from food insecurity, and there is no evidence that food charity is able to move households out of food insecurity. PROOF research shows that the most reliable way to prevent food insecurity is to “improve the financial circumstances of low-income households.”

READ ALSO: Vulnerability to global disasters is our own making

A recent Tyee article introduced “foundational economy” suggesting that local money is wasted on wooing a high-income high tech sector because all that does is drive up local prices, especially of housing.

Foundational activities would include sectors that “provide universal services (water, sewer, energy, health care, education, etc.) that are tied tightly to local populations and not ‘vagrants’ like high-tech. People like nurses, hairdressers, waiters, public works employees, yoga teachers, bus drivers, food service workers, carpenters, etc.”

The Commission for the Human Future brought together a small student group which reported out that “it is fundamental we shift progress measures from a growth-focused narrative, to one that values a more sustainable approach and challenges the systemic consumer culture that perpetuates social disengagement with existential crises.”

The choices are clear. What are our chances?

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of Nanaimo Foodshare. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A jail cell at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman reports she was injured by Nanaimo RCMP while being jailed

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. looking into Oct. 1 incident

B.C. Ferries has a mandatory mask policy on vessels and at terminals. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: No tickets for anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

West Van Police say their intention was to ‘keep the peace’ after being called to terminal

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Greater Victoria in high-demand on website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan poses with members of the public during a ‘mainstreeting’ campaign stop Sunday, Oct. 18, at Parksville Community Park. (Peter McCully/Black Press)
‘Buy a boat,’ premier advises anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation, cancer centre, long-term care with News Bulletin

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read