When my children were small, 20 some years ago now, they witnessed me or my wife, Eva, visiting our credit union back in Saskatchewan, banks here or ATMs on many occasions. We easily got money handed to us on any and every occasion. One day after a particularly pointed parental speech by one of us on how we could not afford something they thought we needed, one of them either Ilona or Liam, I can’t recall now, had a quick answer to our dilemma. “Just go to the bank and get more money.”
I am sure some variant on this experience has been shared with many of this column’s readers. For far too long our response to the crises confronting us both personally and societally has demonstrated the same shocking naivete. Even presidents of the United States have told us that our way out of peril of one sort or another was to spend more.
The current grave economic problems confronting Greece, threaten to escalate enmeshing governments with weakened balance sheets in Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Without drastic action some commentators see the whole of the European community facing a crisis which could then spark a second round of economic contraction worldwide.
While the trigger for this lay in one country living well beyond its means, the reality is shared by all of us in North America as well. Other portents of the deep malaise immersing us all can be seen in recent US Department of Energy and Joint Forces Command studies. They concur that demand for oil will outstrip supply in just two years and that within five years demand will be running ahead of production by 10 million barrels a day (for more information on this have a look at http://www.countercurrents.org/arguimbau230410.htm).
Here in the Yukon and across Canada we all are living well beyond the Earth’s means. The fundamentals of sustainability demand a radical rethinking of just what is normal. A ‘new normal’ is needed now.
Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute argues for creating a new normal that lives within the constraints of a world of depleting natural resources. The change to this won’t be easy he notes, “Let’s be clear: I believe we are in for some very hard times. The transitional period on our way toward a post-growth, equilibrium economy will prove to be the most challenging time any of us has ever lived through. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can survive this collective journey, and that if we make sound choices as families and communities, life can actually be better for us in the decades ahead than it was during the heady days of seemingly endless economic expansion.” (For more have a look at http://richardheinberg.com/214-life-after-growth).
However the outlines of a frightening alternate new normal can be seen rearing up in places like Arizona. The Friday before last Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a new bill allowing people in that state to carried concealed fire arms without a permit.
Last week the Arizona governor signed another bill making it a state crime to be in the state illegally and which requires police to question any suspected persons about their immigration status.
Confronted by change a harvest of fear can be reaped by those zealous to protect the status quo. Gripped by the threat of loosing the lifestyle promoted by the corporate interests that have profited mightily from our prodded profligacy, groups like the Tea Party movement attempt to build even higher walls. They try to shift the blame for our woes from our collective responsibility in the Earth-destroying rapacity of our consumer society to the ‘other’.
Which new normal will we strive for here in the Yukon?
The Second Opinion Society will be hosting a Mental Wellness Conference from May 7 to 9. Its theme is Listen to Yourself and Your Body: Self-Care Approaches to Mental Wellness. For more information contact 667-2037.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.