I had the privilege of speaking to a school group the other day, and a student asked me why I ran for public office.
It’s a pretty standard question in a school setting, but every opportunity I get to answer it reminds me why I decided to enter politics.
I ran because I believe we are living unsustainably. I’ve made no bones about holding that belief, which has prompted some people to call me a “glass-half-empty” kind of politician.
I believe that the main reason we’re not adapting human needs and wants to the realities of a resource-constrained planet is because our political and corporate structures are entirely focused on the present. The future isn’t taken into account when decisions are made, ensuring that the needs of today’s voters and shareholders take precedence over the rights of future generations.
The most glaring example of this shortsighted approach to governing ourselves is the allocation of our natural resources. In general, politicians will always make decisions that keep the present generation of voters employed, even if it means the extinguishment of resources and the loss of employment for future generations.
The collapse of the cod fishery in eastern Canada in the 1960s is a classic example of failing to plan for the future. This “tragedy of the commons” has occurred too often throughout human history.
Unfortunately, I believe this scenario is playing itself out in B.C. with the new Special Committee on Timber Supply. The central focus of this committee is finding additional timber to keep the forest industry operating at its current capacity — a standard “present generation” approach to natural resource decision-making.
Are the committee’s goals another “tragedy of the commons” in the making? I guess we’ll see on Aug. 15 when the committee submits its final report.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.