Humanity is wasting nature by designing society with economic growth as the primary motivation.
That is the message North Saanich’s Jim Kingham is delivering in his book Solutions for a Wounded Planet, which comes with a foreword by Vancouver Island MP Elizabeth May.
Kingham holds a PhD in biochemistry and has held a number of positions in environmental management, including the position of Canadian chairman of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board under the bilateral Canada-U.S. International Joint Commission for Boundary Water. He wrote the book because humanity faces a myriad of environmental problems, including but not inclusive of climate change. Other issues include the depletion of resources.
“I thought it was time to bring all of these ideas together from a lifetime of work and point to the way (to solutions),” he said. “We can do something about it — but we have to do something about it now. We can’t keep putting it off.
Kingham’s analysis of the reasons behind the current environmental problems broadly points to powerful corporate interests and their political allies, who make short-term economic growth their primary agenda.
“We are driven to do things that do nothing to benefit life on this planet in the future,” he said, pointing to the investment of public resources into the Artemis program to explore the moon.
“If that money were directed to things that would be done here to protect planet Earth, we would be in better condition. We are drawn by every means including the media to a life of more thrills and adventure and expenditure without having an idea of the costs.”
This critique of misused public funds and personal consumerism and self-aggrandizement as symbolized by billionaires flying themselves and a select few into space while millions in the developing world suffer runs throughout the book.
It instead calls for a shift toward more durable, higher-quality goods as part of a larger shift toward a life of more meaning and less consumption.
Many of his ideas are familiar while some may strike readers as controversial. When it comes to personal actions, Kingham says individuals can help solve the various environmental crises by eating less, travelling less, consuming less and breeding less. “I know that’s a touchy one for a lot of people,” he said. So what is wrong with having children?
“The problem is that there is a limit to the number of resources on this planet,” he said. “We have to recognize that the planet is finite and there is no other planet nearby that we can reasonably settle.”
Humanity, he added, faces two potential choices. “Sure, we could have a world with 10 billion people where half of them go to bed hungry, or we could have a world…with fewer people and a better quality of life.”
Ultimately, a lot of people do not think about the environment when it comes to their own personal pleasures.
“And if they don’t think about the environment, when they think about their personal pleasure, the environment will undoubtedly suffer,” he said.
When asked how Kingham might respond to the charge that the book is too preachy and interfering with personal choices (such as his appeal about having fewer children), he said humans are subject to rules toward each other and the environment.
“It (the environment) is everybody’s problem and that is what I want people to appreciate,” he said. “This planet is reaching its limit. I think it has passed its limits.”
This said, his book also has another important message. “Don’t despair,” he writes. “Whether you are aware of it, millions around the world, if not billions, are on your side in this battle.”
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