Sustainable development – missing the point in New Brunswick?

Sustainable development definition
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sustainable development is a process of developing (land, cities, business, communities, etc) that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” according to the Brundtland Report, a 1987 report from the United Nations.

One of the factors which it must overcome is environmental degradation but it must do so while not forgoing the needs of economic development as well as social equity and justice.

Several United Nations texts, most recently the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, refer to the “interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars” of sustainable development as economic development, social development, and environmental protection.

For some, the issue is considered to be closely tied to economic growth and the need to find ways to expand the economy in the long term without using up natural capital for current growth at the cost of long term growth. For others, the concept of growth itself is problematic, as the resources of the Earth are finite.

The 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy has the objective of enabling all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, without compromising the quality of life of future generations.

Now, the question for those focused on sustainable development in New Brunswick, isn’t it inherent in the definition that there will actually be development? Actually be people here in the future? Otherwise, shouldn’t we have an ‘eat, drink and be merry’ attitude towards the province?

Sorry to be cynical but a colleague of mine was asked to sit in on a roundtable about sustainable development. He tells me that he will be asking if the sustainability of the economy and actual people in New Brunswick communities will be part of the discussion. His hunch, and mine, is that sustainable development in Canada is now more about environmentally-friendly tactics than about ‘development’. So we’ll get harbour cleanups, river restorations, recycling and emission reductions – just no guarantee that there will be people here to enjoy them.

Don’t forget Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, folks. It was porportionately the size of Moncton 100 years ago and a regional trade, transportation and manufacturing hub. Drive down that way today.

Will that be the fate of Moncton? Of Saint John? No way, you say? Consider Campbellton. It lost 7.2% of its population in five years from 1996 to 2001 and you can expect another similar decline from 2001-2006. And the rate of decline is accelerating so by 2050, there will be nobody left up there.

Economic development, my friends, isn’t some line item on a government budget somewhere. It’s more critical to the future of these communities than any other expenditure – and it’s the one getting slashed.