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Near and Far: Election comes against backdrop of interlocking crises

Millions of Canadians won’t vote on September 20, for a wide variety of reasons, including a total lack of faith in politics as usual. ~ John Young

Near and Far is a column about public issues and cultural affairs

And we’re off, on Justin Trudeau’s selfish summer election odyssey, as some are calling it.

With wildfires burning out of control, dire UN reports about the spiralling climate emergency and surging COVID-19 variants on most people’s minds, Justin Trudeau thinks it’s a good time for politics as usual and its partner in mass psychosis: business as usual. Both are increasingly lethal against a backdrop of interlocking crises that are indescribably badly served by the partisan skirmishes of political cycles.

Would you be grateful (and astonished) if politicians would have an honest, intelligent, informed, comprehensive, respectful, morally grounded adult conversation with us? I would and I’m sure many others would, too. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe it never did.

An honest conversation about our national and planetary moment would speak frankly to the dangerous pursuit of endless GDP growth on a finite planet. The conversation would acknowledge the grave error of living too long with a fossil fuel addiction that now truly threatens the future of life on Earth.

There would be contrition and admission that, despite mountains of evidence and difficult but doable solutions, we’ve missed the 30-year window we had to gradually re-engineer how we do pretty much everything. We didn’t. And the same people responsible for the planetary disaster are now asking for your vote.

Millions of Canadians won’t vote on September 20, for a wide variety of reasons, including a total lack of faith in politics as usual.

A recent comment on this column asked what the point of this column is and what my vision for the future of life on Earth is and, further, how we should get there. The point is to talk about vitally important things that many people would rather not talk about, always using facts and science as a foundation for discussion.

The point is also to encourage people to think and feel their way through the extraordinary challenges we face, individually and collectively. The point is also to encourage people to read, research, inform and discern for themselves how we got where we are and how we might continue on as a species with a chance at kind lives with enough for all.

In terms of vision and roadmap, yes, I have some ideas and not much space or time in a short column in a small town paper to explore either. For a vision of a remade economy and world, you may want to look for UBC professor William Rees’ August 10 article in The Tyee. The title of the piece is, To Save Ourselves, We’ll Need This Very Different Economy.

You may or may not agree with what he says, but he is thoughtful and honest about the existential moment we share and the kind of radical solutions that are required to survive in a wise, compassionate manner. None of it will be easy. We left easy behind a long time ago.

Snapshots and imperfect embodiments of my own vision: I have not eaten meat in 40 years. I grow all of the vegetables we eat. We pick all of the fruit we eat. I forage all the mushrooms we eat. I try to catch all the fish we eat.

We’ve stopped travelling to faraway places and may never again board an airplane. I’ve never bought anything at Walmart. I’ve never bought anything from Amazon.

There are values behind these choices. Some of them are choices that many people can’t make even if they wanted to. But they are emblematic of a way of life that I believe is a sane response to a dangerously insane situation, otherwise known as business as usual and politics as usual.

John Young has been an advisor to political leaders in Ottawa and Victoria. He was the founding executive director of ACORN Canada, a national advocacy organization working with and for low and moderate income Canadians. He has been a Buddhist monk in France and an organic farmer in Powell River. He lives in Wildwood.