Coping with climate change

Carrying on as we are is an end-game. Theremust bemore emphasis on innovation, self-reliance and sustainability. By Judie Steeves


nnovation is needed to combat the impacts of climate change and to turn around the current rush to consume all the earth’s resources, warned speakers at a fall conference on Building Sustainable Communities: Innovation Through Collaboration. If we are to continue as a species, we need to become more self-reliant and focus on regenerative human ecosystems instead of pursuing our current exponential growth, according to Bill Rees, a professor emeritus at UBC, who was speaking about building sustainable communities. Rees is a human ecologist and ecological economist who originated the concept of an ecological footprint. He warns that our continued exponential growth is not an example of building sustainable communities. Instead we are simply using up the planet’s resources.

“We can’t carry on this way, yet we’re not doing anything to change it,” he warned delegates to the conference, held in Kelowna.

By uncoupling from the natural world and concentrating on material economic growth we are headed toward the collapse of society, he continued. The assumption that economics and eco-systems are unrelated is a recipe for disaster.

Globalization of the economy accelerates the destruction of the environment; our ecological footprint is increased by success and it results in an explosion of consumption and pollution, he warns.

Climate change has already passed a dangerous tipping point from which there is no return. The functional integrity of the ecosystem is at risk. “Economic growth is financed by the liquidation of nature,” he says. Instead, he believes “Humanity must

Bill Rees

practice more environmentally- sustainable alternatives to business as usual.”

That could include relocalizing food systems and reconceiving settlements as self-reliant.

“We need to redesign our communities. Instead of growing by depleting, we must stop and relocalize our economy and government. Tax incentives are needed to encourage

Holmgren advises.

At a later workshop at the conference, Kent Mullinix, director for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, explained to delegates they are studying the potential of regional food systems as a move toward increased self-reliance. “Currently, our food system will not sustain us,” he pointed out.

Using models, they are assessing the impact of such indicators as ecological footprint, food self-reliance, habitat for wildlife, nutrient balance, employment, economic output and tax revenue of various scenarios.

Unfortunately, he says, they are finding there are many data gaps, such as, “No one knows how much B.C.- produced food is consumed here.” However, he says if the mix of crops grown in the Lower Mainland was altered, B.C.’s food self-reliance could be increased from 28 per cent to 40 per cent; and to 56 per cent if the mix of crops grown was changed to satisfy local food needs.

Expanded production to all land in the Agricultural Land Reserve and available Crown land could increase that to 67 per cent. And, the economic impact would be 50 per cent better if the same amount of land was farmed as in 2011.

Kent Mullinix

people to rely on local systems, so we are contributing, rather than detracting from, the resources that are available.” He agreed with Mark Holmgren, of the Tamarack Institute, who advocated what he called “upside-down thinking,” about making changes. “Be purposeful about turning convention upside down. Don’t be limited by logic and rules. Innovation is about thinking differently; about turning the norms upside down,”

14 British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2018

The key is processing facilities, and at the moment we don’t have the capacity for processing, Mullinix noted. Harmony Bjarnason of the B.C. Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative, told delegates that farmers are on the front line as far as climate change is concerned, since temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, hot, dry stretches in summer, new insect pests, wildfires and vulnerable water supplies all affect farming and are all impacted by climate change. She said collaborative solutions are needed and pointed to 41 projects under way across the province looking at solutions to some of the problems caused by climate change. They range from a Decision Aid System to help farmers determine where insect and pest cycles are in real time, to help them manage pests and disease issues better, despite extreme and unusual weather; to a website to help farmers identify and manage invasive species.

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