page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog
click to zoom in click to zoom in  
page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog

The Ca of I d wan

It is customary to base long-term planning on forecasts of socio-economic changes made by projecting current trends into the future.

It appears, however, that we have now reached a crossroads in the history of human affairs, for globally, well established trends in agriculture, fishing, settlement patterns and basic life-styles are suddenly being reversed along with corresponding changes in basic attitudes to the most general principles governing man's relationship with his physical and social environment.

Is Canada, with its relatively small population, huge land area and apparently limitless resources likely to be affected by such discontinuities? The answer is yes. Canada is not the cornucopia it is supposed to be. Only 6% of its land area is fit for cultivation. Its usable oil reserves are running out, and urbanisation and immigration are beginning to cause problems in the cities.

The object of this report, commissioned by the Advanced Concepts Centre of Environment Canada, is to suggest how Canada, in the forthcoming decades, can reduce its vulnerability to global discontinuities.

If such a report has been commissioned, it is presumably because the possibility of the occurrence of major discontinuities capable of causing large-scale social upheavals in the next decades, is taken very seriously by many people in Environment Canada, as evidenced among other things by this Department's Perspective on the next decade published in October 1974.

If I , personally, was asked to do this report, it is that I have been examining, for some years, those biospheric and technospheric processes in which discontinuities are most likely to occur; that I edit a journal, The Ecologist, which is predominantly concerned with global problems; and that I was co-author of one of the first studies, A Blueprint for Survival, which pointed out the probable occurrence of such discontinuities, while suggesting a programme of change designed to adapt an industrial society to the con160

ditions they would be likely to give rise to.

If the view of the future reflected in this and similar studies, such as the Club of Rome's very influential The Limits to Growth — is correct (and events in the five years since they appeared tend to confirm it) , then the discontinuities we must expect are of a nature to justify a fundamental change in the course upon which an industrial society such as Canada is set.

At the same time, it must be realised that the implementation of a programme designed to move Canadian society along this course would undoubtedly be slow and difficult. Among other things, it would require a radical change in the values with which people are imbued; in the conventional wisdom imparted in Canadian schools and universities, which very much reflects these values; in the way your society is organised, in its physical infrastructure and in the institutions whose influence increasingly pervades more of its activities. For this reason it should not be adopted in extremis, when all else has failed and catastrophe looms ahead, but should be decided upon in time so that it may be carefully orchestrated over a of Canada Goldsmith

The principle that Canada must move away from a consumer society to a 'Conserver society', first put forward by the Science Council, is now accepted by the majority of those working within Environment Canada and a great deal of work is being done to determine what would be the implications of shifting Canadian society into this new direction.

The author of this report tries to show that this must be regarded as but a first step towards the achievement of an 'Ecological Society' — one in which political and economic activities are considerably reduced in scale, in which local self-sufficiency is encouraged, and mobility is radically reduced. Such a society is, among other things, the one that can make the most rational use of increasingly limited and expensive resources, and that must minimize social and ecological disruption. It is probably also the one that best satisfies real human needs and aspirations.

sufficient period of time.

Unfortunately, these considerations do not appear to have affected the way the Federal Government is looking to the future, nor, a fortiori, the nature of the policies it continues to pursue, which can only be regarded as being based on the implicit assumption that the future will be like the past. Indeed, the accepted methodology for making predictions remains uncritically to project the trends of the last decades into the future, without taking into account the implications cf significant global changes that have already occurred, are now visibly occurring and that can logically be expected to occur in the none too distant future.

I shall devote the first part of this report to examining the nature of these probable discontinuities. Population and Food Production

A basic assumption underlying the recent discussions at the Habitat Conference in Vancouver was that, by the end of this century, world population would be somewhere between six and a half and seven billion.

Ecologist Vol. 7. No. 5.

This assumes that the present rate of population growth of about 2% will be maintained, or will taper off but very slightly, during this period.

I t is indeed the case that the present very appreciable reduction in fertility in many industrial countries, including Canada, will not have significantly affected population levels by the end of the century because of the age-distribution of the population today. (The parents of the children who will be born during this period are to a large extent already here, and, because of previous population growth, they constitute an important segment of the population. See Table 1.) However, the rate of population growth is not determined exclusively by the birth rate, but also by the death rate; and this we assume, will continue to fall, as it has done since the introduction of modern sanitation, modern medicine, and more recently with our apparent conquest of major infectious diseases. However, it is in this latter field that we are beginning to witness a major discontinuity. These diseases are staging a comeback. Pathogens are developing resistance to antibiotics, their vectors to pesticides, and logistical prob-

161