I was disappointed, but not surprised, at the recent provincial government calculation of a balanced budget. Finance Minister Mike de Jong proudly proclaimed that “the greatest gift we can leave our children and grandchildren is a debt-free future.” I agree entirely, but only if we expand the equation for a balanced budget to include ecological and social costs and benefits, in balance with the economic calculations.
I laboured five decades as a wildlife conservation biologist in all parts of Canada. Over those years I was often engaged in losing struggles to protect and conserve fish and wildlife populations and their habitats from impacts of poorly planned resource development projects. Too frequently the ecological services provided by the natural world, if considered at all, came near the very end of a long list when the benefits of a development project were being marketed.
Planning horizons seem to terminate at the next election. Budgetary considerations always seem to focus on achieving narrow, short term economic goals, with no real regard for the broader ecological implications.
This is a new era. Society is now faced with developments on a scale which I couldn’t have imagined as a young field biologist. We can’t continue to treat ecological services as free goods.
The piper of climate change is playing a very somber tune, perhaps a dirge. We must alter our course to one which treats the natural world with dignity and respect, not a compost heap with a seemingly inexhaustible ability to absorb the egregious insults imposed by industrial humanity.
We must demand from government processes of full-cost public accounting.