There are planetary constraints on feeding a world population predicted to reach 11 billion by 2100, says columnist. Stock PHOTO

Column: World’s weighty problems need hope, not despair

Climate change, food security and population issues must reach the top of all agendas

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Last month the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust co-hosted a world-class symposium on water stewardship in a changing climate. Bob Sandford, Canadian water expert and professor at the UN University, spoke on The Hard Work of Hope, the title of his recent book, to an audience composed mainly of municipal-level water managers and noted that this event had attracted worldwide attention because local community is where we live and where the actions to prevent the worst climate chaos must be taken.

The information Sandford delivered was grim: the global water cycle is disrupted, the polar jet stream is de-stabilizing, floods and droughts are increasing, the Paris agreement on holding to a 2 C temperature rise is no longer attainable, we have frittered away the time we could have spent on futile optimism and business as usual. Hope is hard to maintain but we can still stem much coming disaster one property, one community at a time. Sandford hopes the UN decade for water begun this year and local actions to support the sustainable development goals will provide the leadership we need to halt the juggernaut of destruction.

Also last month, Paul Ehrlich of Stanford and John Harte of Berkeley published a piece called Pessimism on the Food Front listing the planetary constraints on feeding the 11 billion people predicted by 2100: unavailability of arable land; declining soil quantity and quality; the assault on biodiversity, especially of pollinators; climate disruption leading to water scarcity, including loss of snow melt on which one third of crop production depends; over-harvesting on land and sea; and the list goes on. They also pointed out that we are failing to feed the current population, since more than 10 per cent of the current 7.5 billion are malnourished.

Ehrlich and Harte name the greatest barrier to hope as “a combination of ignorance, politics, and the stresses on the world order from human overpopulation.” Unless climate change and food security and population issues reach the top of all agendas the risk of social breakdown and mass suffering faces all of humanity. They urge us to “move the world toward population reduction, the sine qua non of sustainability, and without which none of the other environmental goals are likely to be reached.”

Hope is hard work in the face of stubborn avoidance of responsibility at every level. The worst reaction to the litany of woes presented above is to refuse to face reality by wallowing in the luxury of despair.

We don’t have to descend into despair.

Rohinton Mistry wrote the great Anglo-Canadian novel about India by describing seemingly intolerable misery transmuted into hopefulness and joy and he advises us to “maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.” John Keats, who died poverty-stricken in Italy at the age of 25 said he had to choose between hope and despair and chose hope.

Sandford did not say that we can solve our problems with new technology. He said the only way to move towards real solutions is to stop working against nature and start working with natural forces and resources.

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

Just Posted

Student tells Nanaimo courtroom she wasn’t allowed to leave indigenous smudging ceremony

Girl cross-examined Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo

Nanaimo woman seeks knitters to make blankets for cats

Dale Burke inspired by creator of Comfort for Critters

City of Nanaimo’s budget talks start with 5.2-per cent tax increase

Series of special finance and audit meetings start Wednesday, Nov. 20

Lantzville seeks changes to policing cost model for small towns

Policing costs significantly increase once a municipality’s population exceeds 5,000

Headlocks for Hunger pro wrestling show making its return

Vancouver Island Pro Wrestling holding card Saturday, Nov. 23 at Centennial Building

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Agassiz bus driver collects 124,000 signatures in support

Nanaimo service station first in B.C. to be part of Petro-Canada’s ‘electric highway’

EV charge stations started operating last month at service station at Terminal and Princess Royal

Nanaimo school district starting from scratch on testing water for lead

Health Canada changed acceptable levels to 0.005 mg/L in March, prompting re-testing at schools

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Most Read