Viewpoint: Turn a corner on the past


The following was sent to Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, by a Salt Spring resident and filed with the Driftwood for publication.


Having interacted in the past with your predecessor, the Hon. David Johnston, on several occasions, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about preparing for the exit from COVID-19.

This is sparked by hearing your message from late April on CBC, which I found compassionate and inspiring, without at first knowing who was speaking. I was then delighted to find out that those were your words. I thank you for speaking so thoughtfully about the fortitude in all of us that will ultimately put this threat at bay and allow us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What is sad in this situation, as in previous pandemics such as SARS-CoV, is that to a large extent we have brought this misery upon ourselves. The current virus, SARS-CoV-2, is not a “foreign enemy” but a part of natural systems with which we have interfered. This interference leaves the door wide open to situations such as we face today, allowing greater exposure to novel pathogens. Had the lessons of SARS-CoV been taken to heart, we might not be where we are today.

One would hope that, when the current crisis subsides, we will not go back to a world in which we continue to weaken the fabric of life in the self-destructive pursuit of profit and endless material growth in a finite world. Having a background in economics, I am familiar with the complexity of the system we have created — both its benefits and its costs. Today the costs generated by this maladaptive economic system are increasingly apparent on many fronts, including the ongoing erosion of biodiversity and cultural diversity worldwide and the growing inequity and inequality within and between nations. And these costs are having a boomerang effect on human health and well -being, outweighing the benefits by orders of magnitude and ultimately leading to the existential crisis we are now forced to face on many fronts.

How we cope with this pandemic may well be a dress rehearsal for how we might cope with the larger crisis that looms ahead. I hope that once we get through the present crisis, we will think more deeply about core values, and pivot in a new direction — one that extends our compassion and respect for one another to embrace the whole of the natural world. If we are to have a viable future, we need to devise a new economics that enhances, not diminishes, the vitality of the biosphere in which we live.

Should we continue our mindless adherence to an economy that fails to differentiate between life-destroying and life-enhancing activities, that would be to our own peril. By falling back onto the same dysfunctional economic system we had pre-COVID-19, we might ultimately seal our fate and that of future generations that depend on us to steer a sane and sustainable course.

I believe that as a society we can turn the corner on the past, and now is our opportunity to do so. This will not be easy, but I believe that together we can bring about the sea change in values and attitudes that will pave the way to creating a viable, just and sustainable future.

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