LETTER: Against growth in Nelson

From reader Charles Jeanes

Re: “LETTER: Nelson is no longer charming” Aug. 27

Your letter from C. Burton must surely provoke response among thoughtful Nelsonites. Can citizens “tame the beast” — the social pathology and economic defects – consequent upon successful promotion of this region as a place to live and do business?

Academic research on urban growth and healthy quality of life is, in my perspective, persuasive. A definite-sized population on a given land base, with allowance made for natural beauty, water, air, and social resilience, cannot be exceeded without negative consequences. The logic of growth in capitalist economic necessity collides with the dialectic of humans being. We are beings of both material and spiritual natures.

I situate myself among philosophers, cultural anthropologists, utopians, and anarchists against real-estate economists, materialists, growth-addicts and liberals. To my mind, the wrong path was chosen when growth is favoured; our elected leaders ignored that small is beautiful, believing in their own intelligence as managers of size, masters of technology, gurus of “the Nelson lifestyle.” We endorsed them; my own constant defeat in electoral politics on consistent anti-growth platforms is partly explained by voters’ preference for the gospel of expansion. (There were other reasons!)

Put these two books on your shelf and read them as dialogue: Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, and Maximum Canada by Doug Saunders. The former is a polymath writer and philosopher with a dwindling following, the latter a journalist enjoying his peers’ respect. I align with the former. His comprehension of the human condition is profound.

Homo sapiens has been dominant on Earth a very brief moment. Colonizing Mars is said to be our logical next progress, since growing our dominions for species-survival has been the law of evolutionary history – if you believe that. The growth of Nelson nestles very well in the narrative of species’ success-by-expansion; Indigenous peoples do not have the same narrative as settlers, but “winners” write history, oui? Celebrate winners!

The “beast” Burton named isn’t just a Nelson problem. Humanity faces metaphorical beasts all around; I want to believe humans can tame them. History, my academic discipline, inclines me against faith.

Charles Jeanes


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