Column: Vulnerability to global disasters is our own making

For many, needs of the moment take precedence over concerns about sustainability, notes columnist


Our future relationship with the pandemic is still unclear, as is the future of the global economy. What we do have is time to plan for change.

First, we have to get past the white noise of the Dunning Kruger effect: that those least equipped to understand our situation leap to misinform us, creating an informational fog that obscures what we really need to know.

We need to protect our small-scale farmers from corporate and political decision-makers who hope to return to the same policies which have made our lives so vulnerable to global disasters.

We can learn to cook all that can be grown locally, as our forebears did. And keep telling politicians to look after local producers. And go regularly to our farmers’ market and buy from them.

We can learn that, for example, all cattle get some time in fields before they go to be ‘finished’ with hormones and grain and that the Canadian flag only guarantees packed in Canada.

Most important, we can stay with our local food producers when the immediate threat is over. We are going to need those local farmers.

Dave Pollard’s article Needs of the Moment, quotes from John Gray that “The mass of mankind is ruled not by its own intermittent moral sensations, still less by self-interest, but by the needs of the moment. It seems fated to wreck the balance of life on Earth – and thereby to be the agent of its own destruction.” Pollard observes that we prioritize to “keep our jobs, manage our homes and savings, feed and clothe and educate our children, manage our relationships, protect our companies from fraud, theft and sabotage, worry about whether exploding inequality will lead to political destabilization, ‘domestic terrorism,’ or even insurrection thanks to incompetent and incendiary populist governments … who has time or energy,” he adds, “to worry about climate collapse, ecological collapse, economic collapse, earthquakes and other seemingly remote disasters?” Pollard reports that, at the Davos World Economic Forum in January, with COVID-19 already noticeable, participants rated pandemics as 30th out of a list of 30 choices.

COLUMN: COVID-19 pandemic is testing global food systems

I was disinclined to join the howls of fury from the big environmental NGOs over Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans because I largely agree that green techno-optimism for renewable energies is misguided. We cannot continue each using daily the equivalent of 22 billion (or more) human energy slaves, nor should we, because using that level of energy is rapidly destroying our planet.

What a relief to read William Rees supportingsupport the claims of the proponents of renewables. Rees, a credible commentator, says “we need an economy that fits on the planet, using a reasonable amount of energy from renewable sources and with processes that don’t destroy our ecosystems. Reducing energy use to that reasonable amount surely entails real (not just political) de-growth.”

What to do? Start by supporting those local farmers and protecting the land they need.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at


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