Authors discuss how inequality is damaging to society


At a lecture given at Vancouver Public Library on Wednesday, sustainability advocates Bill Hopwood and Cheryl Hewitt talked about why they believe we live in a world that ought to be sustainable.

The lecture was part of The Taking Action Series, presented by Langara College.

Bill Hopwood, author of Sustainable Development: Mapping Different Approaches, discussed how inequality is damaging to society.

Bill Hopwood and Cheryl Hewitt
Bill Hopwood and Cheryl Hewitt PHOTO Sera Akdogan

“In a more unequal society, life expectancy is lower, infant mortality rates are higher, mental illness is higher, illegal drug use is higher, crime is higher, prison population is higher,” Hopwood said. “Half of humanity lives on less than $2.50 a day and over a billion people lack access to clean water. Those are environmental problems and it’s relatively easy to fix.”

The cost of clean water for everybody in the world is $30 billion. Hopwood compares this to the fact that the world spends $1.5 trillion on warfare and weaponry.

Cheryl Hewitt, executive director of PeerNetBC, explained that “in a world where the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, the greatest threat to sustainability is inequality.” Hewitt said that in order to create sustainable communities, we have to create communities that are increasingly equal, as opposed to unequal.

“I think that we can change the course of things through collective and collaborative action, but we have to start now and it’s getting increasingly obvious that if we don’t start to address some of these issues of sustainability sooner rather than later, we face increasing problems particularly on the environmental front,” Hewitt said.

“You can look at issues relating to pipe lines but no one’s challenging the assumption that the long term damage from the development of these resources,” she said.

This long term damage affects everybody, including students because they are the generation that is going to see the largest impact.

Langara’s been doing this series for decades. “We’ve been organizing an event around sustainability for three years, and this is the first lecture that I’ve done here,” said Hopwood.

Hewitt suggests that people who are interested in sustainability and inequality check out The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone, written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

 Reported by Sera Akdogan

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