Letter: Where on Earth are we going?

Some thoughts from a book by Maurice Strong, written back in 2000

To the Expositor:

On the eve of what is to be COP26, I thought I’d write a little something on where we stand relative to where on earth we are going.

‘Where On Earth Are We Going?’ is the title of the book Maurice Strong wrote back in the year 2000. I thought I’d begin by telling us all where Maurice Strong thought we’d be—10 years from now—in 2031.

For those who never heard of him, Maurice Strong was a Canadian businessman who, at age 29 was the president of Power Corporation and senior advisor to the World Bank who, in 1992, at age 40, went on to make possible and chair the  Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit as it came to be known.

It was the first World Summit at which 180 countries pledged to act in addressing the environmental issues before us.

That background established, here cited are the opening paragraphs of where Maurice, back in 2000 predicted we might be on January 1, 2031 “unless we’re very, very, very lucky, or very, very wise.”

Pretending it was January 1, 2031 and he was delivering an annual report to Planet Earth Inc., he wrote the following, “The best that can be said of the past year and the past tumultuous decade—the most devastating in human experience—is that it’s behind us. If this were a business, the board of directors would have recommended shutting  the doors and padlocking the gates, turning the workforce loose to pick up scraps where they may. But of course this is not a business; it is the ‘prison of life,’ and there is nothing behind the gates of planet Earth but the formless void. Since we cannot escape—we must endure—and since we cannot give up—we must continue to struggle. We must also grasp at what straws there are.

Perhaps the past decade has been so awful that it must get better. Perhaps in the chaos and degradation we have experienced, the seeds of a new order have finally been planted, and deep in the muck strong new wood is growing. 

Perhaps not. But life without hope is a living death.”

There is little to add to Mr. Strong’s words, save maybe that we have nine years before it is January 1, 2031. That we’ve just elected a new government and that during an election, political opportunists will say anything to win the environmental vote. And that includes nonsense

like “balancing the environment with the economy” is necessary, as if improving the economy always comes at the expense of creating environmental problems, or solving environmental problems always comes with an economic cost.

The truth is that solving environmental problems creates economic growth and new jobs. It comes at a much reduced and ever compounding cost than that today’s children will have to bear by our staying on our ecologically unsustainable course.

A healthy people is conditional upon a healthy planet.

Gary Champagne

Ottawa