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Our Rotary Club of Canterbury member, Roger Taylor, provided some information and insights into the kinds of challenges that society may face in coming years in his presentation on Monday night entitled “What kind of future should we be planning for?”
Initially Roger showed us a video by Professor Will Steffen from the ANU in Canberra which was given at the 2009 conference on the topic of “Sustainable Cities Sustainable Transport”. This video occupied most of the time of the presentation and provided a large amount of information with many graphs to imply a causal relationship of human actions upon various world parameters. Relationships mentioned included reduction in fishery stocks, world transport of water in agricultural commodities, the extent of terrestrial water interception and storage, loss of biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, climatic issues and many more.
Roger provided a graph by Dr Graham Turner from CSIRO Canberra which showed his projection of growth limitations in food, industrial output, population, etc. This graph suggested that we may be facing tipping points this century in several human activities, as has happened with the activities of previous civilisations.
Roger thinks the climate change argument is a sideshow in terms of limits to growth projections. Policies for more efficient cars and light bulbs are only token gestures. We may be living beyond our collective means by consuming and degrading the earth’s capital. The planet won’t die - at least in short geological terms - it will merely change and become a planet that is increasingly more difficult for human society - initially on a local scale, then regionally and then globally.
Roger suggested that the most immediate challenge may be a financial one within a background of environmental problems and constraints. He quoted from the economist Satyajit Das who has suggested that the GFC may have been a major inflection point in economic history. George Soros has called it the end of the super boom with high debt levels, large global imbalances and the build up of future entitlements that have not been properly provided for.
As Rotarians, we assist many in need, especially in the Philippines and Nepal. Our preference is to give a hand up rather than a handout to support these people to be sustainable and to improve their life. This is through better knowledge and practices to overcome the effects of adverse existing conditions, as well as to improve their environment and capacity to implement more changes and improvements if needed. Thanks to Roger for his willingness to share his thoughts on such important global issues. Details in the presentation no doubt will be debated by some but maybe we need to consider our own lifestyle and practices and the impact on our environment.
This week the Canterbury Rotary Lunchers will be meeting on Thursday rather than their usual fortnightly Wednesday meeting. The Trinitas Thai restaurant has particularly innovative Thai cuisine. The Lunchers would welcome new participants as well as any members that can’t normal come to a Wednesday lunch.
Next Monday the speaker will be Jeff Cox who will talk to us about achieving and maintaining optimal health for life - a talk that should have some things of relevance to all of us. Until next Monday have a good week in Rotary and “Be a Gift to the World”.