From Doomsdayers to Doers

June 11, 1999

By Michael Jessen

This is a one-time-only message – the Earth is on life-support.

Imagine the walls of a giant funnel. The upper wall signifies resources and ecosystem services such as clean water, air, and healthy soil. The lower wall indicates societal demand for resources to convert into goods and services that puts pressure on the upper wall, narrowing the capacity to meet those demands. When demand exceeds supply, the funnel becomes a dead-end.

World scientists have told us this is so in their Warning to Humanity issued seven years ago. We’ve heard the message again recently on the CBC Radio series “From Naked Ape to Superspecies” hosted by David Suzuki.

Okay, repeat after me: The Earth is in deep trouble and needs my help. There, we’ve admitted it. Now let’s move from being doomsdayers to doers.

Call it Millennium Fever or what you will, but people everywhere are recognizing the need to change the system. You can see it in lifestyles being embraced by a growing number of communities and individuals, and the initiatives being adopted by many businesses.

By making practical, ethical and meaningful choices, we become part of the solution. By working together at all levels, we redirect our time and money towards creating a system that meets the quality of life priorities for everyone without compromising the future of the planet.

This space is dedicated to those individuals, businesses, ideas and practices that can help us all take small steps to a sustainable future. The column strives to provide stepping stones for our human evolutionary journey. While the sub-heading on the column is Think Globally, Act Locally, the focus will be on thinking local and acting local.

We can’t change the world, but by molding our communities and neighbourhoods in a sustainable way, we can influence change in the world.

A recent poll indicated just two percent of British Columbia residents listed the environment as “the single most important issue facing Canada today.” Environmental concerns lagged far behind the most important issues such as the economy, unemployment, and taxes.

Yet a myriad of studies have shown that initiatives to improve environmental standards create jobs, thereby improving the economy. Last week, the German Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research indicated a Europe-wide energy/carbon dioxide tax and other measures to combat global warming could potentially create up to 1.9 million new jobs.

The March/April issue of E-The Environment Magazine has a cover article on green taxes that help the environment and save you money. You can find the article on the magazine’s web site at

In the coming weeks, this column will detail how people in industry, government, and our communities are working to transform our society from one based on material consumption to one centered on quality of life. You, too, have a role to play in this transition. Please give us your feedback and reaction to Small Steps.

ONE SMALL STEP – Conserve water by taking showers instead of baths and turning off the tap while you brush teeth, shave, wash or scrub. Fill a one-litre bottle with water and place it in your toilet tank; you’ll save water with every flush.

All columns archived here are copyright © 1999 by Michael Jessen, all rights reserved. If you wish to print an individual column for your own use, please do so. If you wish to publish any of the columns in either print or electronic format, please contact the author at to arrange appropriate payment.