Letter: We Face Wicked Problems

My daughter and I were recently discussing my observation that some of her peers where making a conscious choice not to work full time, at least for now, even when they were offered the opportunity.  I asked my daughter why this is so, and she replied, “Because they feel that the world is fucked.”

My daughter is soon to complete her Master in International Development with a focus on Environmental Studies at the University of Ottawa, and over the years we have had many discussions about the challenges our society faces – so I nodded in understanding…

Here are a few examples of what she was referring to:

  • The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN-IPCC) recently released its report that the world only has a dozen years to bring carbon emissions under control to avoid catastrophic impacts to millions of people (not to mention wildlife);
  • The World Wildlife Fund recently published its ‘Living Planet Report’ that states that the world’s wildlife populations have decreased by 60% in the past 45 years;
  • Artificial Intelligence, robotics and biotech and their potential impact on the future job market;
  • Overpopulation, potential pandemics, terrorism, poverty, nuclear war, affordable housing, opioid crisis, and so on and so on…

These are all examples of what are becoming know as ‘Wicked Problems’ – problems that are very complex and difficult to solve.

Some of these unsettling developments are showing up in our own backyard – toxic wildfire smoke for the past two summers, Southern Resident Orca down to 74 individuals, and people with mental health and poverty on our city streets.  No wonder some young people are concerned for their future!

Rebecca and I continued with our conversation – but focused on reasons for optimism! For example, there are tremendous advances happening with electric cars as well as with renewable energy such as solar.  Our family also believes that Proportional Representation holds great promise as a modernization of our democracy that will help society rise to these ‘Wicked Problems’.

According to a recent book by Harari – 21 Lessons for the 21 Century – what is needed to address society’s challenges is more collaborative government at all levels.

Arend Lijphart, Professor Emeritus, University of California, has studied political systems around the world for many decades. His research findings include the fact that countries that use Proportional Representation tend to have better health and education programs, and they score higher on the Yale University Environmental Index. Moreover, per capita GDP is generally higher in countries that use PR systems. This is because legislation and policy is developed more thoughtfully as compared to First Past the Post, which tends to result in costly pendulum swings in policy that is driven more by lobbyists than by the needs of citizens.

Citizens young old are more politically engaged in countries that use Proportional Representation, because they know their vote counts. Not only is voter participation higher, but also there is more dialogue and serious discussion about policy that is best for the majority rather than the partisan ‘idea bashing’ so common in First Past the Post Countries (i.e. Trumpism). Of the 80 countries that use Proportional Representation none have ever gone back to First Past the Post.

We need Proportional Representation and smarter government to solve big societal problems not only at a provincial level but on a national and global level as well.

Proportional Representation is an opportunity for B.C. to pave the way for the rest of Canada. We hope you will join our family by voting YES for Proportional Representation.

Rob and Rebecca Purdy

Kamloops, BC

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