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What we are suffering from today as the greatest sustainability challenge is not poverty, it is not greed, it is not climate change, it is not declining fisheries … or forests or biodiversity. None of those things, though they are very, very important. What we are suffering from today is the lack of competence in our leadership…

Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Founder of The Natural Step.


Do we really need to make changes for a sustainable future?

Deadlines, bills to pay, health issues—we all are struggling with something and its hard to find the time to look at the bigger issues affecting us. The news is depressing. Many of us feel a lack of power over our own lives. But The Qualicum Institute is seeing slow change happening. We are, more and more, seeing people come together with common understandings of the root causes of these stresses in our life. We are seeing people of all ages and backgrounds taking first steps to make change. Many are coming together to engage their governments in discussion about what we really need to do to become a sustainable society. New planning approaches are being used. But this change needs more action, more people. And according to scientists and doctors, participating in our communities, even just a little, can make a big difference in how we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The Qualicum Institute has summarized what we think are some key issues in our world that we need to deal with because they are currently making a sustainable future impossible. And we need to deal with them now! We’ve provided short, simple summaries that contain a few simple actions you can take to be a part of the change—a part of a new and revitalized future for our communities, our families, and ourselves.

The section serves two purposes: 1) it provides a synopsis of specific problems and offers solutions or, at least, first steps and 2) it contains some of the most up-to-date and significant references, such as scientific papers, reports and videos, that we could find. We plan on keeping the references as up-to-date as possible and look forward to hearing comments from readers who are aware of other current and important research we may have missed.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Limits to growth

The socio-economic and ecologic systems of the world are on a trajectory towards collapse. If nothing is done soon this collapse will be catastrophic.

The world’s industrial economies are wedded to a model of perpetual, exponential growth. This growth is fueled by the use of non-renewable resources, driven by technology and motivated by human desires for the accumulation of material possessions. Exponential growth

within the confines of a finite world is a formula guaranteed to collapse.

The only outstanding questions are:

  • When will collapse occur?
  • What will be the collateral damage to the planet?
  • Can civilization survive?
  • Will humans do anything soon enough, substantive enough, and wise enough to allow civilization to survive?


Find out more about limits to growth here.

Biodiversity loss

Humans can not survive without the planet’s biodiversity, the variety of plants, animals, ecosystems, and gene pools on the Earth. It is these plants and animals simply living out their daily lives that allows ecosystems to function providing us with the various ecosystem services that support all life on Earth. For free.

However, the level of biodiversity loss on our planet is now so high that the United Nations, ecologists, and biologists are concerned the planet may not be able to continue to support human life.

This isn’t just important for future generations. This is important now, because of the level and speed at which the loss is occurring. If we care about our futures, we all must act in our own communities and on a global front in order to protect what is left, restore much of what we’ve lost, and change those behaviours that created the biodiversity loss in the first place. This includes changing our economic system and moving away from the folly of ever-increasing economic growth on a finite planet.

Find out more about biodiversity loss here.

Climate change

All national science academies around the world, all major scientific institutions, and all university research centres agree there is overwhelming evidence that rising global temperatures are caused by greenhouse gas emissions

resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. They warn us that emissions must be reduced soon if we are to prevent the catastrophic impact of continued climate change.

Find out more about climate change here.

Economic growth

Contrary to what we hear from politicians, the business community, and most economists, economic growth is not the panacea to our economic and environmental problems. While economic growth—driven by our use of fossil fuels—has provided our high standard of living in the western world, it has been at the expense of the environment and billions of people in the Third World. We have lost sight of the fact that we can have

an increasingly better standard of living while, at the same time, depleting the very source that provide us with that standard of living: the ecosystems of the planet. We now know that there is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation, which ultimately affects us all. If we want to become a sustainable civilization, moving to a steady state economy is our only choice.

Find out more about economic growth here.

Money creation

The power to create money is, perhaps, the most important power of a sovereign nation. However, our government has abrogated its responsibility and has turned money creation—a resource for all the people of Canada—to the private banks who create the money out of thin air through loans to their customers, including the government.

This means all money in circulation is created through debt and is owed back to the banks with interest. But where does the interest come from, since it wasn’t created? Our current method of creating money is not sustainable because it requires economic growth to prevent the system from collapse.

Find out more about money creation here.

Federal debt

The Government of Canada borrows the monies it needs from the private banks and pays significant interest to these banks. However, the Government of Canada could borrow what monies it needs from the Bank of Canada—which is owned by the people of Canada—at essentially no interest. We did this prior to 1974, when our national debt had accumulated to

around $22 billion; in August 2013, that debt had increased to over $600 billion and is growing. Servicing this debt now costs the Canadian taxpayer over $30 billion each and every year, tax dollars that could be going towards improving services and infrastructure—or paying down the debt—rather than to the coffers of the private banks and their obscene profits.

Find out more about our federal debt here.


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