How can we bring ecological and economic systems into balance without further damaging the environment and perpetuating injustices, asks columnist. (Stock photo)

How can we bring ecological and economic systems into balance without further damaging the environment and perpetuating injustices, asks columnist. (Stock photo)

Column: We can’t rely on governments for radical change

Our leaders don’t seem to be dealing with the wicked problems threatening our future, says columnist


More of the same appears to be the result of the provincial election.

Voters have opted for a government which does not seem to be dealing with the tangle of wicked problems threatening our future, whether economically or environmentally. ‘Don’t rock the boat’ politics is called pragmatism, but under the circumstances of social and planetary crises exacerbated by COVID-19 it feels more like death by a thousand cuts.

I think most of us agree with David Attenborough that radical change is essential, but at the same time we do not know whether we can rely on our leaders to act to stem the wickedness with wide-ranging policies.

Reading Jeff Ruben’s meticulous dissection of the failure of growth economics (The Expendables: How Globalization Screwed the Middle Class) I noticed a parallel between two chunks of the wicked problem leading towards collapse. It’s lack of balance. As we grow older, coming closer to personal ending, we appreciate the importance of balance more and more. It’s harder to maintain equilibrium at the top of a small ladder. Our limbs get clumsier and our perceptions are less reliable. We are less efficient without good balance. This is also the case with both social (economic) and ecological failures.

Ruben reminds us that balancing trade between autonomous nation states stabilizes international economic interactions, creating the level playing fields that provide relief from unfair profit and loss outcomes. This to some extent mirrors the ecological imbalances human interventions have created in the physical world. This is the eco-social dilemma: how to bring both ecological and economic systems into balance without either further damage to the physical world or perpetuating injustice between human groups.

In Green politics, it remains to be seen how party infrastructures will tackle the environmental issues without pie-in-the-sky assumptions that green technology will repair the natural world, let alone whether they will veer to the conservative socio-economic model which is crashing around our ears. At least, like us in the grip of pandemic, shambling towards a new normal, Greens have the opportunity to knit together social and ecological without the baggage of Victorian attitudes of dominance.

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There are many ways, as individuals, we can direct our energies to projects aiming for a better normal than the one before the pandemic, especially if we remember that the pandemic is a result of imbalances caused by us, incrementally.

I have been putting some time into the Nanaimo Age Friendly initiative, on the simple assumption that this will be one way to create some little cascades of change in the way we relate to each other here, where we live. A major challenge to older adults is social isolation. Food is often at the heart of social interaction.

Nanaimo Foodshare is one of the agencies supporting the city’s Age Friendly goals and is embarking on a project called Older Adults Eating Well Together, whose core goal is to bring pairs of senior citizens together to share information about improving and maintaining nutritional health.

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