New Year’s resolutions for a happier, sustainable future

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Mike RobinsonA new decade calls for new ideas.

How about entering the 2020s with the clear vision and noble spirit that comes with embracing change?

Why not confront the demons that we travelled with in the 2010s with some new, reconstructed and rethought vigour?

Let’s revise our goals and refashion our strategies for their attainment. How about connecting our 2020 resolutions to a new year’s roadmap for a changing global climate landscape?

Resolution 1: Let’s embrace peer-reviewed science with the rigour that it demands. That means enquiring about the scientific method, developing an understanding of the basics of scientific enquiry, and learning how results are peer reviewed and exhaustively critiqued before their publication.

We can achieve this goal by talking with scientists, taking university courses (auditing or for credit), and reading explanatory works by savants like Harvard professor and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Maybe try his Letters to a Young Scientist or Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.

The goal of Resolution 1 is to to become scientifically literate in an increasingly confused world. Scientific literacy is fundamental to developing a basic understanding of the difference between fact and opinion.

Resolution 2: Let’s refine our approach to argument, learning what ad hominem argument is and refusing to become an adherent of personal attacks. Let’s plan arguments like lawyers are trained to brief cases in law school. Let facts, issues and resolutions be our mantra.

Before beginning an argument, think through the underlying facts, the issues these facts raise and the potential resolutions. Develop your argument by proceeding sequentially and try to encourage your partners-in-argument to do the same.

Best of all, let’s learn to argue and lose, when lose we must, with grace and humility. And when we win, also do so with grace.

Resolution 3: Let’s champion hope for new economic ideas and approaches. This implies not being wed inextricably to one economic sector, to one means of earning a living or to governments that can’t think broadly about alternative solutions to economic dilemmas.

Just because one region of the country has a history of natural resource production or automobile assembly, doesn’t mean the future naturally ordains continuance of those means of production.

Consider that a national railway created the means for a myriad of economic dreams to spill onto the Canadian landscape when it was completed in 1885. None of what we now assume to be Canada’s basic means of production existed before a band of steel was built across the country.

What could our new national dream be?

Resolution 4: Let’s divorce ourselves from the notion that personal wealth creation is the be-all and end-all goal of life, and that wealthy people are our best natural leaders. Let’s nest wealth with other values that perhaps deserve broader recognition, like health and fitness, generosity of spirit and education.

And let’s not forget simple kindness in an information technology environment where vulgarity, spite and truculence increasingly rule the day.

How about defining decent ‘all-rounders’ with a penchant for public service, as our basic ideal for democratic representation? Why not elect such people to represent all of us?

Resolution 5: Let’s commit to sustainability by combining Indigenous traditional environmental knowledge with Western science in the course of taking decisions with environmental consequences.

Indigenous societies have demonstrated unique means of maintaining environmental sustainability, and clearly our contemporary carbon-based economy has a very limited future.

As we take steps to return Earth to a sustainable future, let’s do so mindful of tried-and-true approaches developed by societies older than our contemporary industrial variants.

Hopefully, at least some of these ideas can travel well in the new year.

By committing to becoming scientifically literate, learning to argue well, being open to new economic options, rethinking our fascination with wealth, and combining Indigenous traditional environmental knowledge with Western science, we’ll increase our chances of success.

Given the growing precariousness of our future, a few sane risks might be in order. Why not increase our chances of actually having a happy new year in 2020?

Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

By Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson’s career combined his academic training in Law and Anthropology at UBC and Oxford University, in frontier regulatory compliance work at Petro-Canada and PolarGas, and the leadership of three national NGOs: The Arctic Institute of North America, The Glenbow Alberta Institute, and The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. In addition, he has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, The David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004 he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

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