Earth for all, not just for some

Dr. Trevor Hancock

18 October 2022

700 words

Way back in 1977, the World Health Organization declared the goal of achieving Health For All by the Year 2000. This should be understood in the way the US Public Health Service defined a goal in 1980: “a timeless statement of aspiration”. Clearly Health For All was not achieved, and is still not achieved today. But nonetheless the idea – indeed, the ideal – is important, and it inspired many people, including me.

What is particularly noteworthy is the focus on ‘all’. In my presentations, I always point out it is not health for a few, not just for some, not even for many, but for all. It stems from a deeply humane concern to include everyone, to ensure everyone in the world enjoys good health.

But the ultimate determinant of the health of everyone in the world is the state of the natural ecosystems of which we are a part, coupled with the extent to which the Earth’s natural resources and biocapacity are fairly distributed within and between societies. Which brings me to ‘Earth For All’, a report to the Club of Rome that I mentioned in my August 28th column and is now published.

The report comes 50 years after the Club of Rome released ‘The Limits to Growth’, a ground-breaking and controversial exploration of the future of humanity and the Earth. That 1972 report used a ‘world systems model’ to explore several alternative development scenarios. It found that ‘business as usual’ (BAU) led to ecological overshoot and societal collapse in the mid-21st century – now 30 years away. It also found plausible alternative development paths that could avoid collapse – but regrettably, we did not take them then, and are not taking them now.

‘Earth For All’ builds on the ‘Limits to Growth’, using an updated model to revisit the different scenarios. In addition to BAU, the report examines two alternatives to BAU, one of which assumes twice as much resources are found and used as in the original scenario, while the third assumes a dramatic increase in technology. A fourth scenario was a route to a stabilised world through large scale societal change.

One of the researchers, Gaya Herrington, looked at how the actual data over the past 40 years for the main elements of the model compared to the trends in the scenarios. She found that “the first three scenarios most accurately tracked the actual data”, which, the authors note, “should set off alarm bells.”

Both BAU and BAU with double resources led to societal collapse in the 21st century, the first because “material consumption crashed up against planetary boundaries”,  the second because with twice as many resources “inefficient overuse continued for longer”, resulting in “the biggest collapse due to excessive pollution.” The ‘high tech’ scenario led to serious declines, but not collapse; only the ‘stabilised world’ scenario led to “widespread increases in human welfare and popualtion stabilization.”

Importantly, in her foreword, Christiana Figueres – a notable global leader on climate change – makes the point that we face a metacrisis that includes “climate chaos, environmental degradation and perverse inequality.” Not only do those crises interact, she writes, they “all share the same deep root: extractivism . . . [that] not only deplete the planet . . . it also depletes our human souls.”

The main focus of the book, however – and the accompanying Earth4All website – is not on the problems, but the solutions. The authors note in their opening chapter that “the long-term potential of humanity depends upon civilization . . . undergoing five extraordinary turnarounds within the coming decades.” And they take an optimistic stance: “Our analysis indicates its fully doable” and “can be achieved by 2050.”

The first three of those turnarounds are focused on inequality, underscoring that it is Earth for Alll, not Earth for a few, some or many: Ending poverty, addressing gross inequality and empowering women. The fourth is to “make our food system healthy for people and ecosystems” and the fifth is to transition to clean energy. I will address these turnarounds in the coming weeks, linking them to local action in this region. Given their importance, they should be a key focus for the new municipal councils we have just elected.

© Trevor Hancock, 2022

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the

University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy


“It’s called outside” – We need licensed outdoor childcare

(Published as It’s called outside” in print and “Why we need licensed outdoor childcare” online)

Dr. Trevor Hancock

11 October 2022

700 words

There is an apocryphal story of a mother taking her young daughter out into the backyard. The child looks up from her i-Pad and says “Where are we?” Her mother replies “It’s called outside”.

The point is obvious: We have become so screen-oriented that we – and especially our children – have lost touch with the outdoors, with nature. There is growing concern that this is bad for their health, and a reciprocal concern that it is bad for nature too. After all, if they have had no contact with nature, why would they cherish, respect and protect nature?

So what if you had a childcare program that improved the physical, cognitive and social-emotional development of children, increased their connections to nature and place and had a beneficial effect throughout their lives? Wouldn’t you want it to be made available for your kids and grandkids, and indeed for every child?

That program is nature-based outdoor childcare, and it was the focus of a recent one-day Summit at Royal Roads University, organized by the BC Nature-based Childcare Advisory Committee (the Committee).“The evidence of the benefits of outdoor childcare and education is clear”, said Dr. Enid Elliot, an instructor in early learning at Camosun College and one of the Summit organisers.

That evidence includes studies in a number of countries that have shown benefits such as increased fitness, improved motor skills, improved mental and social wellbeing, more complex and imaginative play, increased environmental knowledge related to place, and connections to nature that persist into adulthood as pro-environmental attitudes.

Moreover, even though many assume outdoor childcare is less safe, experience shows that is not the case. On the contrary, as long as proper safety and risk mitigation strategies are in place, children develop awareness of personal boundaries for safe activity while developing “communities of safety”. In addition, being outdoors means lower rates of disease transmission, including Covid. As Dr. Elliot concluded: “In fact there is a risk to not allowing children to be outside, to not be connected to the land”.

But the problem is that this form of childcare is not licensed in BC. “Right now in BC”, explained Dr. Mariana Brussoni, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and Director of the Human Early Learning Project, “childcare can only get licensed if it is attached to a building. That means that operators . . . must still find and license a facility, even if they never set foot in it. Or they run an unlicensed childcare centre, with no regulatory oversight.”

As a result, the program – if licensed – is more expensive to run than it should be, which means it is not accessible to low-income families. If it is not licensed, then it cannot access wage enhancement funding from the province and is not eligible for the new $10-a-day childcare support funding. Either way, the children, families and staff lose out.

Outdoor childcare is an efficient way to expand childcare spaces, costing less per space, so society as a whole loses out when it is not widely and equitably available. Which is why the conference organisers and their supporters are pushing to have outdoor childcare licensed in BC.

The good news is that just to the south, the State of Washington has licensed outdoor, nature-based childcare, meaning BC can learn from them. Their program was described to the group at some length by two key members of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

They emphasised that licensing basically follows the same rules as regular childcare, but with additional training for the inspectors on specific additional rules for outdoor nature-based care, which they described in some detail.

An added benefit that is emphasized by both the BC Committee and the DCYF is the chance to connect with and learn from local Indigenous people about their history and their connection to the land. A new BC-based program, Learning Outside Together, developed by the Early Childhood Educators of BC and the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society, provides a useful new way to do this.

To learn more, or to help ensure outdoor, nature-based childcare is available to all, visit or the Facebook page “Spreading Our Branches”.

© Trevor Hancock, 2022

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the

University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy

Municipal candidates must think globally while acting locally

Posted out of sequence, as I forgot to post it the previous week

Will they promote walking, biking/rolling and public transportation? Or will they promote further urban sprawl, single-family dwellings and a car-focused transportation system?

Dr. Trevor Hancock

27 September 2022

700 words

The Club of Rome has just published what may be its most consequential report since ‘The Limits to Growth’ in 1972. Fifty years on, they created a stellar panel of Earth scientists, economists, social development experts and activists, to write ‘Earth For All’, sub-titled ‘A Survival Guide for Humanity’. The book and related website and other activities are intended “to help steer humanity away from ecological and social catastrophe”.

“We are in the midst of a planetary crisis of our own making”, they write. I will not repeat here their discussion of the challenges we face; I have discussed them often in these columns, most recently in August, and before that in June. Because what really matters is what we do about the crisis we face.

“The long-term potential of humanity”, the authors state, “depends upon civilization . . . undergoing nothing short of five extraordinary turnarounds within the coming decades”. These are to end poverty, address gross inequality, empower women, make our food system healthy for people and ecosystems, and transition to clean energy. Underpinning them all is a radical transformation of our economy

Moreover, they write, “there is sufficient knowledge, funds and technologies in the world to implement them”. For example, they indicate that it would take an investment of only 2 – 4 percent of global income each year to fund the energy and food system turnarounds. And they believe this is achievable by 2050.

For obvious reasons, their focus is largely on national and global policies; words such as local, municipal or community do not appear in the index. But in the midst of municipal elections, it is important that candidates who want to run our municipalities for the next 4 years think and talk about what local actions are needed to support these transformations. And it is important that voters ask them about these issues and judge them on their understanding and commitment.

So, for example, when candidates talk about securing economic development, ask ‘to do what?’ Will economic growth increase our greenhouse gas emissions, our consumption of resources and our waste emissions? Or will it entail a switch to energy and resource conservation, restoration of our local ecosystems, ecologically sustainable food systems and reductions in waste and pollution? Will it create jobs that provide a living wage, or more part-time, insecure jobs with minimal benefits?

On housing, transportation and urban development, will they prioritise the creation of social housing by providing land and incentives and cutting red tape and support creating an abundance of housing, especially ‘missing middle housing’, in a manner that is human-scale and attractive, while at the same time increasing energy and resource conservation.

Will they promote walking, biking/rolling and public transportation, expand the ‘All Ages and Abilities’ trail network and implement the Victoria Transit Future Plan?  Or will they promote further environmentally damaging urban sprawl, large single-family dwellings and a car-focused transportation system?

On environment and energy, will they follow the lead of Vancouver and ban new fossil fuel hook-ups? Will they develop a regional strategy to shift us to a clean net-zero-carbon energy system ASAP? Will they protect and restore natural areas and promote sustainable, regenerative agriculture? Will they adopt a zero-waste policy, especially for food waste, and oppose landfill expansion?

It should not come as a surprise that these ideas sound like many of the proposals put forward to create ‘One Planet’ communities and to create a more livable Victoria. They too come from an understanding that for the sake of future generations and for people around the world, we have to become a model of how to live well and with justice within the limits of the Earth.

‘Earth for All’ ends with a call to create a social movement rooted in conversations “in every home, every school, every university, every town and city” about these necessary transformations. And they urge the creation at local and national levels of citizens’ assemblies to discuss how to bring about these changes.

So a final question for candidates: Will you support the creation of a regional Citizens’ Assembly to discuss how to create a livable, healthy, just and sustainable community here in the Greater Victoria Region? And if not, why not?

© Trevor Hancock, 2022

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the

University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy

First Nations agreed to share the land, not give it up

Dr. Trevor Hancock

3 October  2022

700 words

I began writing this on September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to reflect on the past, present and future of the relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. One obvious issue to consider in that relationship is the land on which we all live. Indigenous people lived on this land for millennia before Europeans started to settle on Vancouver Island in the 1840s.

Like many others now, when I introduce myself in a meeting I refer to the fact that I live on the traditional and unceded or improperly ceded territories of the Lekwungen speaking people. The extent to which those lands were not in fact ceded (surrendered to Britain) by the local Indigenous people was brought home to me recently by a book entitled ‘To Share not Surrender’.

The book is one product of a 2017 conference organized by the Songhees First Nation and the University of Victoria to consider the so-called Douglas Treaties. These ‘treaties’ form the basis of Indigenous and settler rights to the land in this region and in a couple of other places on Vancouver Island.

The first thing one has to conclude from reading the book – and especially Neil Vallance’s chapter on the making of the Douglas Treaties – is that the ‘treaties’ were in essence fraudulent. There were oral discussions with Chiefs and others for which no formal records were made by the British. They then ‘signed’ a paper with a cross (few if any spoke English or wrote), indicating their agreement; the actual written text was sent later from the Hudson’s Bay Company and their ‘signatures’ attached.

And what did the First Nations agree to? Vallance – who is a retired property lawyer who did his PhD on this subject at UVic – says they were ‘sharing treaties’: “In sum”, he concludes, “First Nations negotiated with James Douglas an agreement to share, not surrender, their land and its resources”.

So what does that mean for those of us who now occupy the lands subject to the Douglas Treaties. After all, we settlers can trace our local roots back, at best, less than 200 years – less than one percent of the time that Indigenous people have been in North America.

More specifically, what does it mean for municipal governments whose main focus is about the management of land, and whose principal source of revenue comes from a tax on land. If the land is, in reality, to be shared, what does that mean in practice? What are the fair and just terms for sharing the land?

I don’t begin to have an answer to those questions, and in any case, clearly, it is something that needs to be decided in negotiations between First Nations and the municipal, provincial and federal governments. But I have given it some thought, assisted by discussions with my colleagues in Livable Victoria, among others. 

It seems to me that one place to start is with a powerful comment in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “reconciliation will never occur unless we are also reconciled with the earth.” In other words, land use must be compatible with reconciliation with the natural world, as understood by local First Nations. Among other things, surely this means respecting the land, waters, plants and animals and protecting and restoring natural areas.

Second is the issue of returning land. The ‘Land Back’ movement aims “to get Indigenous Lands back into Indigenous hands”. While negotiations have already done that to some extent, surely there is more to be done?

Third, sharing the land must mean shared decision-making. Local First Nations must have voice and power in land use decisions (whether municipal, provincial or federal) made with respect to their traditional territories and based on traditional knowledge.

Finally, rent and compensation: Surely local First Nations are owed rent for the current use of their lands – perhaps through a share of the property tax ? – and compensation for the historical confiscation and use of their lands.

Reconciling land use and development is going to be an issue of growing importance for all the newly elected Councillors in this region – so you may want to ask candidates for their views on these issues.

© Trevor Hancock, 2022

Dr. Trevor Hancock is a retired professor and senior scholar at the

University of Victoria’s School of Public Health and Social Policy