The challenge for Canada in the 21st century is no longer about wresting natural resources from a harsh and unpredictable environment. Today, Canada faces a different challenge — that of seeking “sustainability.” This challenge embraces two main objectives: preserving resources while creating a buoyant long-lasting economy. With more area than any other country in the world except Russia, Canada is generously, if unevenly, endowed with raw materials. This resource base supports today’s highly diversified Canadian economy, firmly centred in services and manufacturing, and the expanding urban scene where eight out of ten Canadians live and work. Canada is a country of complex interconnections, where the abuse of resources — the rampant exploitation of fisheries, forests, and mines, for example — may have serious widespread consequences. Achieving sustainability involves balancing our competing environmental, economic, and social concerns. How such concerns will be resolved in the future is difficult to discern. When decisions are taken, however, the well-being of Canadians is of paramount importance. Canada ranks as one of the world’s most desirable countries in which to live. Thinking of our concerns in the context of sustainability may ensure that it remains so.
For Canadians, the journey to the world of 2050 holds many challenges. Some of these emerged in the last decades of the 20th century, when it became apparent that the land and its resources were neither limitless nor endlessly exploitable. Faced with stark realities as diverse as global warming and disappearing wetlands, a consensus developed around concepts of sustainability. This section of The Canadian Atlas Online speculates on how Canadians may live 50 years hence. Of all its resources, Canada’s own people are its greatest asset. Whatever path they take, they are likely to ensure the country remains stable, dynamic, full of promise and a welcoming destination for newcomers eager to experience the adventure of meeting Canada’s future challenges.