No easy way 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 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 in Kelowna last fall 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.” 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 ecosystems 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,” Rees says. Instead, he believes “Humanity must practice more environmentally- sustainable alternatives to business as

22 Bill Rees usual.”

That could include more localizing of food systems and conceiving settlements as self-reliant.

“We need to redesign our communities. Instead of growing by depleting, we must stop and re-localize our economy and government. Tax incentives are needed to encourage people to rely on local systems, so we are contributing, rather than detracting

Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, explained to delegates that the the potential of regional food systems is being studied as a move toward increased self-reliance. “Currently, our food system will not sustain us,” he pointed out.

Kent Mullinix

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.” At a later workshop during the conference, Kent Mullinix, director for Sustainable Food

British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2018

Using models, Kwantlen is 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, Mullinex 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, you could increase B.C.’s food self-reliance from 28 per cent to 40 per cent; and you could increase it to 56 per cent if you changed the mix of crops grown, to satisfy local food needs. If you expanded production to all land in the Agricultural Land Reserve and available Crown land, you 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. The key is processing facilities, and at the moment we don’t have the capacity for processing, he 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 advised that collaborative solutions are needed and pointed to 41 projects currently underway across the province looking at solutions to some of the problems caused by climate change. They range from a Decision Aid System to help Okanagan 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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