Monday, December 29, 2008

don't fix the economy - change it

The Star | Amid the discordant clash of solutions being served up to address the global financial crisis, a common refrain can be heard: Most global leaders and their economic advisers key their policy prescriptions to "sustained economic growth." The prevailing debate is how to get there most quickly. In Canada, how this debate plays out could bring down the government in a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately, it is the wrong debate. Neither the Conservative minority nor the opposition has proposed anything that will set Canada on a long-term path toward the kind of economy that will both provide for the well-being of Canadians and enhance and preserve the ecological community of which people are but one dependent part.

All eyes may now be on the kind of fiscal budget the Conservatives might produce next year, but a more essential budget also demands urgent attention: the global ecological budget. The financial crisis has brought into sharp focus the need to fundamentally change, not merely repair or rebuild, our economy. Because, quite simply, sticking with an economic model that is driving toward ecological catastrophe will kill us. So, it is essential to address the financial and ecological crises together.

The ecological budget, on which all life and, consequently, the human economy depends, is already in dramatic deficit. Why is this budget ultimately more important than the fiscal budget? Sept. 23, 2008, was Earth Overshoot Day. The period after Sept. 23 represents the time the human population causes an ecological deficit, using up the Earth faster than it can regenerate.

Every year, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier. This moving date tells the story of a global environment rapidly losing its ability to support life: accelerating climate change; the loss of species and habitats; declining fisheries; the proliferation of ocean dead zones; diminishing freshwater resources; and more. Ecological overshoot is climate change on steroids.