What gets measured gets managed. Gross Domestic Product has been our default measure of national success, but was never designed for that purpose, and doesn’t correlate well with wellbeing in high-income nations. We need a meaningful shared goal to guide our efforts as we steer through these crises–a new North Star. We propose a Wellbeing Dashboard that tracks the 4 capitals: Natural Capital, Social Capital, Financial Capital, and Human Capital, which ensure health and safety now and into the future, as well as specific indicators of wellness drawn from the work behind the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Finance Canada will use this dashboard to complement GDP as part of our national budgeting process. It’s been done in New Zealand. We can do it here. Additionally, we propose that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimate the health and social costs and benefits of all policies in their reports, in order to make clear, for instance, the cost savings to health resulting from investments in electrifying transport.
1. National Vision of Wellbeing & Health
What gets measured gets managed. Gross Domestic Product has been our default measure of national success, but was never designed for that purpose, and doesn’t correlate well with wellbeing in high-income nations.
COVID-19 is showing us what a planetary health crisis feels like. Unfortunately, not only does a changing climate make future pandemics more likely, but it also increases the risk of asthma from wildfire smoke, traumatic evacuations, deaths from heat waves, crop failure, malnutrition, refugee crises, conflict, and more. This is why the World Health Organization calls climate change the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. To give today’s children a chance to thrive, we must create a long term framework for adaptation and emissions reductions with a Canadian Climate Accountability Act that prevents policy flip-flops and ensures investment certainty. This will help us prepare for the 2°C of warming we will see in Canada by mid-century, and prevent the impacts we won’t be able to cope with. A healthy recovery from COVID-19 that prioritizes clean electricity, electrified transport, efficient buildings, green urban environments, and sustainable healthcare can save 112,000 lives through air pollution reduction and generate 1.2 million jobs in clean energy between 2030 and 2050–while setting children up for a healthy future.
2. Nest; a healthy response to climate change
COVID-19 is showing us what a planetary health crisis feels like. Protect our civilizational nest from further crises with a healthy response to climate change
We have entered what is likely to be a prolonged period of transition and must greet this with a commitment to the processes and institutions that increase our resilience and agility. We can strengthen our social safety net at home, and lean into the international institutions that help us get along globally: increase funding to the WHO, and support the Green Climate Fund. As we transition, we must protect human rights and ensure that the actions we take in Canada don’t have harmful side-effects elsewhere in the form of offshored emissions or poor working conditions. Just as when going through rapids in a canoe–teamwork, hard work, and communication will be key.
3. Dynamic stability in a rapidly changing world
Nurture dynamic stability within a rapidly-changing world
Indigenous peoples are the original practitioners of planetary health–studies show that areas under their management have higher biodiversity than conservation areas. We must respect the commitments we’ve already made to our Indigenous Peoples: align our laws with the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, accelerate the implementation of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and ensure Indigenous judges are appointed through the judicial system.
4. Honour Indigenous Governance
Indigenous peoples are the original practitioners of planetary health. Respect the commitments: UNDRIP, TRC, and appoint Indigenous judges through the system.
Being around the table matters. There could be no better moment than a time of overlapping planetary health crises to harness the talent pool of all of humanity: an increase in female decision makers is correlated with pro-environmental decisions and decreased mortality. To power parliament with more diverse voices and make sure all the best ideas see the light of day, we can lower the voting age to 16 and reduce barriers with campaign schools and mentorship, while ensuring access to virtual tables and the virtual economy by closing the digital divide.
5. Power Up New Leaders
Being around the table matters. Close the digital divide, support more youthful and diverse voices.
Our best chance for lasting health rests on setting our sights on optimizing wellbeing, and using the most evidence-based policy measures to bring it to life. Currently, however, academic incentives do not align with policy influence, and industry is out-lobbying evidence-oriented actors. We must revisit research granting structures and treat the time of our federal decision makers and staff as the scarce public resource it is through ensuring a 1:1 ratio of facetime with nonprofit and profit-based influencers, and conducting essential pieces of public policy without closed-door meetings with industries where a conflict-of-interest exists that puts healthy outcomes at risk.
6. Evidence-Based Influence
No closed-doors meetings with industries where conflicts of interest exist, aim for a 1:1 ratio of meetings with for-profit and not-for-profit lobbyists and representatives.
Inequality is toxic to society–it is associated with decreased trust, worsened mental and physical health, decreased women’s empowerment and child welfare, and increased criminality. We can put safety first and get back to basics by taxing wealth and multinational corporations, and put that towards funding a Universal Basic Income on a trial basis for at least the next year of the crisis.
7. Fair Share
Tax on wealth and offshored profits to reduce toxic inequalities and fund a Universal Basic Income
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have spent an extra $16 billion dollars supporting fossil fuel energy, only $2.1 billion on clean energy, and only $625 million dollars on additional federal support for childcare. These are not the actions of a species that is acting in its own best interest. We need to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and shift them towards a low-carbon transition, a National Seniors Strategy, and a Community Care Act, working towards universal public childcare, pharmacare, psychological care and dental care.
at the Core
End fossil fuel subsidies; fund a National Seniors Strategy, and a Community Care Act (Universal Childcare and Early Learning, Pharmacare, Psychological Care, Dental Care).
The intersection of multiple crises in a rapidly-changing world demands an agile workforce able to switch gears mid-career with the help of forgiven student loans and free tuition. We can make innovation Canada’s new calling card by funding outcome-oriented research, and put Canadians to work creating green shelter, reclaimed spaces and materials, responsibly-mined critical inputs, and local, sustainably-farmed food.