Using Up Nature

The following is an opinion piece by Arlene Kennedy of Tobermory. We’re pleased to post it in full here.

     True confession…I am beginning to suspect that I am a megalomaniac. I like big ideas, overarching theories and the “big picture,” both figuratively and literally, since as an art collector I own several rather large paintings, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now.

     A friend just lent me A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, a 2004 Massey Lecturer. Talk about “big picture” – this vast sweep at the tenure of mankind on the planet is a gallop through where we’ve been, how we got here and where we might be heading. It’s not pretty.

     Today’s preoccupation with the debt crisis and how many of us appear to be living beyond our means truly pales in contrast with the debt humanity is taking on with our use and abuse of the earth. The author believes that “If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature.” We are using nature up at a rate far faster than it can regenerate itself.

     So I’m thinking about my home here in the Bruce Peninsula in terms of a sustainable community. So are a lot of other people, as evidenced by last fall’s creation of The Meeting Place, the regular occurrence of Transition Communities get-togethers, the educational initiatives at the Lion’s Head school, the numerous grass-roots organizations including the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory and lately, some relatively  independent efforts to generate local “clean” energy. Solar power is a focus that seems to be in favour over giant turbine wind farm power.

     What can I do to contribute to securing in the future a quality of life and standard of living I am now privileged to enjoy? How do we conserve and preserve the balance between development and preservation of this unique gem of a Biosphere?

     I am hoping that the knowledge generated by residents and researchers in this area will be part of the solution. Which brings me to another initiative worthy of attention and support: the Sources of Knowledge Forum presented at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre this May. Researchers presented brief sessions on their impressive work carried on in this region.

    Applied research is the latest buzz that attracts government funding, and although I admire the utilitarian bent of this trend, there is also room in my view for less directed research out of which may grow future but as yet unforeseen applications.

     There is some interest in the community to attract an outreach “campus” of sorts, perhaps affiliated with a university or other institute of higher learning that already has access to external funding and has the infrastructure to establish and support a “Bruce Peninsula Research Centre.” A wealth of learning occurs here now. How might it best be maximised?

     There’s no place like it in the world. There are instructive parallels and contrasting locals, but we are a one-and-only. So is the earth. How do we avoid bankrupting nature and watching humanity become extinct in the process?

     That’s the “big picture.”


Do you have more information about some of the initiatives and ideas that Arlene mentions? Is anything like this going on in your community? Feel free to add a comment. Or write your own opinion piece and send it to us. We may be able to print it in the magazine or post it here as a blog comment. We’re happy to be a forum for discussion!

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