When does one stop development? The customary answer to this question is: You can't refuse Southern countries the possibility of escaping from poverty and, in one way or another, of catching up to the level of comfort enjoyed in Northern countries. Certainly. So, let the countries of the South develop.
But when must the countries of the North, for their part, stop developing? This question poses itself very concretely when projects for highways, industrial regions, superstores, housing estates, parking lots, etc. arise. Rationality should, in virtually all cases, lead us to reject their implementation. The logic of economic interests - which camouflages the appetite for lucre underneath promises of job creation - most often imposes the pouring of concrete. The result of this rationale is the constant aggravation of the ecological crisis in which we are involved.
This general movement is virtually undetectable since it is the result of a myriad of local decisions. Today, QuÃ©bec presents the dilemma in a highly visible way. Its Prime Minister, Jean Charest, representing business milieus, announced a "Plan for the North," intended to exploit the region of QuÃ©bec situated north of the 49th parallel - a territory twice as large as that of all France - to National Assembly of the "Belle Province" on March 10.
The plan consists of creating great hydroelectric dams and vast mining operations. New roads will be opened. One may imagine that the forest industry will demand to participate in the party. Thus will QuÃ©bec increase its exports to the United States. It goes without saying, as the prime minister emphasized, "this is a project we will make an model of sustainable development."
This project will indubitably generate a flood of dollars, but, also, incontestably, a torrent of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution of lakes and other forests, an impoverishment of fauna linked to the opening up of these regions forgotten up until now by men. One or several national parks will certainly be created to delude the willingly credulous citizens into the belief that, in actuality, development of the North is a measure of environmental protection.
Let's restore the problem to its most crudely simple terms: If it's true that climate change, the erosion of biodiversity and chemical pollution are major problems, the North must not be developed. Does QuÃ©bec need that development? According to the Statistical Institute for that province, disposable income per inhabitant is roughly equal to that of France or Japan. One may consider that that's enough and that there is no necessity for enrichment. It's up to QuÃ©bec's society to decide whether, by occupying it, it wishes to lose the North. But the situation suggests an obvious fact that holds true for all rich countries: Developed countries no longer need to grow.