Tami Rumsey, owner of Campfire Smokehouse, shows her wares at the Island Roots Farmers’ Market last month. CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin file

Food Matters: We need to elect politicians who share our values

People want to improve our communities by creating alternatives to ‘business as usual’

BY MARJORIE STEWART

The summer farmers’ markets are in full swing and catastrophic global warming looms ever closer. Our prime minister and his minister of environment say that economic growth is essential to help us limit climate change when any eighth grader could point out that it is the economic growth that is affecting the global climate. Some 12th graders might do the math on the costs of tar sand extraction and find out that what some people call growth is also what any taxpayer would call debt.

Social scientists tell us that nearly one-third of U.S. citizens are working for change and the same is likely true for Canada. Certainly, when we look around our region and see how much necessary work is being done by volunteer societies who have to regularly beg for funds, we can see the efforts being expended to improve our communities by people who want to create alternatives to ‘business as usual.’

I hear more and more agents of change saying that relying on senior governments is a waste of effort better expended at the local levels, where we live. On Oct. 20 we will elect our municipal representatives and many people will cast their votes without having done the most basic research on what promises to be a large number of candidates.

Some good work has been done locally on educating potential candidates, but it is just as important for voters to educate themselves. It is possible to elect people who have some skills and knowledge about moving the business while lacking the capacity to do big-picture thinking. Engineers have to master systems thinking, the kind of process which encompasses a vision along with the components necessary to achieve the goals leading to that vision. Philosophers and historians might talk about the importance of recognizing contexts as well as just unconnected issues. If we are to use our votes wisely we must find ways to take up reliable references and short-list the most suitable candidates, the ones with depth as well as technique.

In these post-truth days, when politicians talk of fake news, we have to do our own fact checking and that includes checking our own opinions and assumptions. When someone talks of their right to a belief, however outlandish, they are avoiding their responsibility to base that belief in reality rather than unwarranted assumptions. Check on whether candidates have been active in the community.

We need to be active learners on electronic media because the algorithms are reading what our interests are and if all we are interested in is celebrity trivia or crime, that’s what the electronic media will deliver. One of the best ways to effect change is to share good information, whether face-to-face or virtually.

If our farmers’ markets are to thrive and meet the demand for healthy food, we need effective elected officials who know how to work at the policy level. And if the 5 Acre Farm is to become an urban agriculture community asset, we need politicians with vision and commitment.

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

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