When I hear certain provincial and federal politicians speak about the need for "economic growth" (I frequently hear this), I question whether this paradigm is not only an increasingly outdated way of thinking but also dangerous as a constant barrage of environmental crises and concerns (eg water shortages and contamination, pollution, climate change) hits the planet. "Economic growth," it seems to me, has come to be viewed as a kind of religion providing justification and rationale for: weakening environmental protections (eg removal of protection for fish "habitat" in federal Conservative Bill C-38 budget bill); promoting increasing unfettered industrial activity across the landscape without significant overview of cumulative impacts (mining, oil & gas); externalizing environmental damage costs from profit-taking big businesses; and exporting of raw resources while diminishing value-adding jobs in Canada.
There is a growing realization that we need to rethink the concept of "economic growth" that contains an assumption of available infinite resources. As we are discovering, our world is indeed finite and in major need of safeguarding if only for the sake of our descendants. Is it possible to rethink the economy to put the watersheds and health of the land, people, plants and animals at the forefront of any and all policy decisions?
The prevalent "economic growth" before all else approach to government decision-making and priority setting has led to such ideas as establishment of anti-terrorism squads designed to protect oil and gas operations in the tar sands and numerous examples of far-reaching potential health risks to persons and other sentient beings existing in and around major industrial enterprises.
A question we need to collectively ask ourselves is: what do we as a society hold as sacred? Is it all about the almighty dollar and a growing-forever economy wherein we are relegated to being hyper-consumers? Or rather, is sacred somehow about stopping to appreciate all that we are so fortunate to already have around us - the water, the land, the natural food sources from the region and the incredible remaining wilderness.
My hope is that the politicians to whom we have given such power to make decisions for us will consider the possibility that we can create a world wherein economic growth is secondary to those factors that promote people's happiness and health, in particular a healthy natural environment and protected watersheds.