by Matthew Chisholm
“We don’t have a greenhouse gas problem,” explains Chris Bisson, “rather, we have a reforestation and agricultural paradigm shifting opportunity – to produce a more fair and just society.” Chris, an M.A. candidate at Carleton University’s Faculty of Geography and Environment, work-shopped his concept “Resilient Cooperation” in the Durban Exhibition Centre as part of a side-event during the UNFCCC COP17 in Durban, South Africa.
Oftentimes movements are faced with critical moments where they face much-needed shifts in their fundamental structures, philosophies and perspectives. In the context of our relationship with the Earth, Mr. Bisson calls for “a renewed lens” that “reconciles priorities on climate change at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change level.”
Chris was given the opportunity to scale up his ideas as part of York University’s IRIS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability) project. His argument proposes to help to reevaluate the objectives and process of sustainable development from the perspective of permaculture and critical social theory.
To help share his insight into a discussion of sustainability and resilience, Chris made full use of an analogy that his colleagues often use when delivering a permaculture presentation.
“What if you asked me how my relationship with my partner was and I responded by saying ‘sustainable.’ This completely unromantic response would perhaps indicate that it is not a relationship of love, but a one of dependence. A loving relationship of course ought to be more than merely sustainable; it should be willing to last any challenges and changes that may come about throughout its life. This simple question of what is a loving relationship is actually quite revealing when we consider what kind of society, and biosphere we want to exist in. Instead of thinking about how we can maintain our existing social structures, practices and priorities, we should be thinking about how collectively we can create political and economic systems that can be adaptable and relevant to any social or ecological conditions we may come upon.”
If we are to consider what Chris is suggesting in the context of a climate justice approach to an international agreement, there are clear structural problems that tie an adaptation strategy based on sustainability to the creation of a dependency cycle – a relationship that does not acknowledge systems or the intricate connections people have with each other and their biosphere. Such dependency cycles in international climate policy will proliferate under insurance-based approached to adaptation that uses financial mechanisms to tie frontline communities to market-based paradigms. His proposal, an approach grounded in creating conditions to “last any challenges and changes that may [arise over the course of a lifecycle],” seeks not to build resilient systems in our society and biosphere so we are prepared to emerge from crises, such as global climate change, and be in a position to “identify new ways of getting back to what our greater goals were before we created the scenario.” We need to build a resilient society so we can flourish and thrive together.