Our sustainable future, taking a lesson from our troubled cities

So we have a sick little munckin at home.  It’s been 10 days of on and off fever, runny nose and cough.  On the positive side, there are at least a couple good things about a cold in the family.  Firstly and most importantly the amount of cuddles increases exponentially J

Secondly, you are forced to slow down and cancel all weekend activities.  This presents a rare opportunity to get in some random thinking time.

So I spent some time thinking and reading about the Detroit bankruptcy.  I can’t even imagine what residents must be going through.  The sadness, anxiety, helplessness, fear and anger.  And this is not just now; the downward spiral towards rock bottom has been going on for decades.

There has been so much discussion around what caused this.  What led to an $18 billion deficit and one of the highest crime rates in the USA with 386 homicides per 100,000 residents1. Was it the declining industry, the unions, the corruption, the exodus of residents?

Or was it the lack of leadership and accountability that allowed the creation and evolution of an unsustainable municipal ecosystem?  Had there been a vision for a thriving Detroit in 2050, leaders, businesses, community members, and entrepreneurs would have not only recognized that the auto industry could not shoulder the economic responsibility of a thriving metropolis in the long term, they would have also acted on this. 

They would have proactively sought economic diversification.  They would have invested time energy and money in research, innovation, partnerships, incentives, and community capacity building efforts to co-create a viable economy and future for Detroit.  It can be done and Pittsburg could be a good example2.    

Public transit, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
© Michael Buckley / WWF-Canada
A light rail transit train, powered by wind-generated electricity and part of the city’s public transit system, rushes through on its dedicated rail line into the downtown core of the city, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

So I bet you’re thinking – how does this tie back to WWF?
I am sad to say that, with regards to the environment, I feel we are a Detroit waiting to happen.

I see no vision of a sustainable future in which humans live in harmony with nature.  I see little recognition in the upper echelon of politics that we are getting dangerously close to an increase in temperature that, if not abated, will wreak havoc on our societies, putting friends, families and neighbours in danger, in addition to throwing our economy into a tailspin. 

There is a positive side; we still have time to change.  We have time to invest in a sustainable future.  We can stop subsidies to fossil fuels and incent innovation and create a renewable energy economy.  We can conserve our critical ecosystems; protect the Great Bear, Canadian watersheds and oceans. 

What we need is true visionary leadership from our leaders.  And we, as citizens need to hold them accountable to the future we want to see.  We need to work on understanding, talking about and demanding meaningful solutions to the real issues we face. 

I have no doubt it can be done.  It will not be easy, but we can do it if we work together, invest in the right solutions and hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to a sustainable future.

1 https://www.policymic.com/articles/22686/america-s-10-deadliest-cities-2012