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Blog by Sidney Ribaux: Life expectancy, hope and change

This fall has been difficult for my mother. She lost two of her closest sisters, little sister Lise and big sister Françoise.

I went to Françoise's funeral last Saturday with my wife and our newest addition, Salvador, who is seven months old. We reflected on this woman's life – looking through old photos – and mourned her passing.

When Françoise was born in 1932, life expectancy was 62. Françoise exceeded that by almost 20 years! A long and beautiful life.

In 1932, there were only two billion people on this planet, the TV did not exist, cars were a luxury item, and, for many children, Christmas meant one gift, an orange. Over Françoise's life, rural villages were electrified, television became our primary source of information, the car our mode of transportation of choice, and the aircraft a commonplace option for vacation travel. Françoise was born into a more austere time, in a farmhouse without electricity, with 15 brothers and sisters to feed. By the end of her life, she was using Facebook to keep in touch with her own three children, her grandchildren and, ahem, me. What progress!

The incredible changes that Françoise experienced give me hope. If you had told my grandmother that day in 1932 that all her children would have a car, a house, a television, a computer and free access to the province's hospitals and schools, she probably wouldn't have believed you. It's like when economists and scientists tell us today that we can live without gas, oil and charcoal, and we have trouble believing it. But it's true: we can – and must – learn to live without these things.

According to Statistics Canada, the life expectancy for Salvador is 83. If he beats that by 20 years, as Françoise did hers, he will still be on this beautiful planet beyond 2100. If he lives to this venerable age, he will be surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The United Nations estimates that the population of the Earth will be 10 billion people by 2100. Will agriculture be able to feed all these people, or will it have destroyed the soil and the water on which it depends? Will we have managed to avoid the worst climate scenarios or will the climate conditions have become intolerable? Will the environmental crises have given rise to renewable energy or will we be faced with the worst human displacement and conflicts in our history?

Life is not so short. It is even getting longer. Over a lifetime, many things change. This is a fact. How society changes is entirely our responsibility.

Françoise is survived by three children and seven grandchildren. The best way I can pay tribute to her is to help them build a just and ecological society.

To read the original French