Can PEI change in time?
Here is my response to my students. We are wondering whether PEI can make the changes it needs for its long term survival without a crisis. While we talk about PEI, the isue of whether we are at the end of the industrial system and what this means is a question for all of us
I suspect that PEI will need to experience a number of profound shocks and drop into Chaos to adapt. Why? Because I fear that our state of equilibrium is so powerfully held by a number of structural elements.
Many of you talked about demography, education and politics on PEI. These are some of the structural issues that concern me. Your comments have caused me to think a bit more about this myself.
While there are many conservative young people, it is fair to say that young people are less set in their ways. The percentage of young to old on PEI is low and will get lower. On PEI, as in Atlantic Canada we have a birth rate less than replacement and many young have to leave to get work - what are your plans? Much of our immigration, PEI does relatively well here, is made up of retired Islanders returning for their Golden Years - many of who have been holding onto, I bet, a fantasy about how PEI was when they were young and wanting to find this again. Our older and homogeneous population will have strong braking effect on change.
With the majority of our population likely to be over 50 in 15 years time - this will be a powerful barrier to change. That is unless of course that having this skewed age distribution itself causes a crisis. What will we do with all those schools and teachers? What will we do to afford healthcare? Who will pay all the taxes? So I see on balance this trend as one that drives a crisis. We risk holding onto the old for dear life until it is too late and our system snaps.
Another possible future is that we open the doors on PEI for immigration from the =rest of the world. We will never be Toronto but we could do one thing here that others wont - we could open the doors for foreign professionals such as doctors who end up driving cabs in Toronto. It might only take a few thousand to shift our equilibrium of white Christian culture and expose us to more change and to a more aggressive set of people.
Education. More than 43% of adult Islanders never finished high school. It is very challenging to cope with change if you have a limited education and therefore few choices.
This is I think a key factor in PEI politics where so many voters look to a top down paternal government to solve their problems and to give them work. We have the political system that we have I think as a result.
This strong equilibrium is held more tightly because of I think two things. The well-educated tend to leave the Island, making the education skew worse and our electoral districts are so small that a hundred voters can lose you your seat. How can you consider tough change when your seat losing voters don't want it and look to you for all the answers to their life's problems?
PEI has started to think about electoral reform. My sense is that we are too sensitive a system and that larger districts and fewer MLA's would help. But I have no confidence that this will fly - do you?
I think that our Conservative mindset will therefore lead us to a crisis rather than a soft landing.
There are many sign s that our potato industry and our fishery are very vulnerable to a crisis. So is Tourism. It is easy to see how this may happen with border closing and health related excuses (Mad Cow, wart, SARs - how about Foot and Mouth?). These industries pay for our way of life - roads,schools, healthcare .
It will then be change or die and those who wanted no change will demand it - while of course blaming the last government for not acting!
So what do we do? Give up?
I don't think so. Ideas are powerful things and take time and circumstances to become accepted. What we are talking about in this course are ideas that most don't know of and have no meaning. Most people think that if we only worked harder at what we are doing now that everything will be OK. They are in the old valley. But if you are working to build a link to the next valley, it will be there when the time comes.
When a crisis happens there is a vacuum - often a vacuum of the right next idea. I suspect that, like the canary in the mine, PEI's crisis will happen earlier than most, other economies are more robust, but all industrial systems are vulnerable. If we are first and we have a critical mass of thinking going on already about using nature as our guide, we will come out of this earlier and as a leader.
We are not on our own here on PEI. What gives me most hope is that when the bifurcation comes it will shock the heartland even more than us. They will hang on longer because they are so invested in the old system. It made their success.
Deep in Islanders is a practical memory of living with nature. We are only one generation away from a group that "knew" nature because most Islanders worked directly with it and in it. Ideas about using nature a sa model will have an easier sell in a crisis her than in Ontario - what do you think?