Chronicles

Let's Not Count our Blessings Let's Live With Them

        From time to time, I have had to confront a problem in understanding which has proven almost too difficult for me to solve by myself. If there is someone out there who can explain this one to me, I will be most appreciative.

        For years, almost as far back as I can remember in fact, we have been hearing dire threats concerning the future of humankind due to the chronic and increasing problem of over population. The world is using its resources far too quickly, massive starvation looms, and epidemics, encouraged by rampant expansion, threaten people in overcrowded and overstressed environments. Worldwide campaigns, sponsored by the United Nations, have been mounted to curb this growth with some effect, but even the most positive projections suggest that it will continue for at least the next fifty to one hundred years before levelling off at around sixteen billion, or somewhere around two-and-one-half times the current numbers. Even the most optimistic demographers suggest that political turmoil, as well as the problems that I have indicated above, will continue to be a fact of the human experience until, at the very least, the population stabilizes.

        Fifty years ago, the total human population was less than two billion people. Since then growth has been explosive, so much so that many demographers liken it, in all seriousness, to a particularly virulent form of cancer in the world body. No one argues that continued growth is good, for the very simple reason that the globe cannot continue to sustain it.

        How is it then (and here is my problem) that we, here on the North Shore and, indeed, throughout Atlantic Canada, are lamenting the fact that our population is not exploding as it is in other parts of the world? To listen to our politicians and members of the business community, one would have to conclude that we are in a desperate situation because we are not over-crowded, or threatened with the same dire consequences faced elsewhere. According to them, we have to find ways to stimulate growth, or we are doomed to financial and social extinction.

        I thought that continued growth was bad. How can it be bad on a global basis but good on a local one? Is it a question that a certain amount of growth is good, but too much is bad? If that is so, and if there is some argument that that is the case, how do we know when we have had enough? Why is growth necessarily good? The assumption which has driven the economy of the Western World for the past several hundred years is that, if one does not have growth, stagnation sets in that leads inevitably to decline and death. Only within the past few decades have we begun to see the inherent fallicy of this argument. Unfortunately, on the North Shore, many people have yet to see it.

        I have argued for years now that we need a new collective vision for this part of the world. This vision does not include continued expansion with its factories, industry, or other "growth" components. Rather it is one which emphasizes the quality of life founded on what we have in fact, rather than on some fanciful, and increasingly outmoded, view of industrial paradise.I have asked several questions in this essay which are reflective of my own confusion. I want to conclude (for now) by asking yet another one: isn't it time that we all started to look at the whole situation positively rather than negatively? We have open spaces, and an increasingly clean environment. We have (and must maintain) an essential infastructure of essential services. We are removed from large urban areas but within easy reach of them. We have the amenities of comfortable modern life. Most importantly, we have peace, security, and a strong sense of community. Surely we should be considering ways of enhancing and promoting these qualities rather than continuing to chase the chimera of the industrialized, over popupulated and increasingly dangerous world that so many others would be only too willing to escape.

        Let's not only begin to count our blessings; let's begin to live with them.

        This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column. It is reproduced with Mike's permission.

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