David Suzuki came to town

Last night I had the honour to listen to David Suzuki, one of Canada’s national heros, in Castlegar, B.C., Canada as part of the Mir Center for Peace Lecture Series.  He is an inspiring and passionate speaker on the environment.  It is clear why we have all been glued to his TV shows, such as CBC’s The Nature of Things, since the 1970’s.  Dr. Suzuki reflected on being an elder (i.e. 74 yrs old), and that the questions haven’t changed much over the years.  These questions include: Who are we? How did we get here? and What’s it all about?

The lecture summarized some key points on the need to recognize the basics of life, biodiversity and role of the human brain in getting us to where we are today.  He wholeheartedly emphasized the need to put the eco (house) back into economics and start valuing the very elements in this world we need to survive.   He challenged us to see the world as it really is, to slow down, and reimagine the future.

While I respect this man and all he has done to communicate environmental issues to the public, I found his talk lacking on some key points, namely that of equity.  Firstly, the lecture focused on the footprint that 6.8 billion people have on the world. This aggregate number misses the point that most of the population is living in poverty and that the impact is our responsibility as North American/Western consumers.  Secondly, he spoke of the need to limit growth.  Again, there are many countries in this world that need growth while others need to question their growth, both quantitatively and qualitatively.   The rights of less developed countries to develop should be recognized.  Thirdly, Dr. Suzuki challenged us to see the world as it really is, i.e. a tree can be lumber or a tree can be the lungs of the earth.  He was referring to the latter.   My question is who decides the definition?  In a globalized world, we need to respect the rights of local people and hence poor people often see resources differently than we do (i.e. that tree is shelter, energy, medicine and food).  Sustainable use is a more equitable option than preservation in many cases.

Suzuki focused on his world view, a deep green view in which we are all animals.  My take on the situation is slightly more pragmatic.   It’s not a one-sized fits all for the planet.  Biodiversity is key, including human diversity. This means there will be trade offs and everyone will have to give a little, some will need to give more and take less.  We are fortunate here in Western Canada. We need to expand our world view beyond the geography in our backyard and support efforts for others in the world to gain access to their land, resources and rights to an income.  Recognizing the needs of poor people and the planet will hopefully lead to a healthier planet for all.   With a captive audience at the Mir Center, Suzuki missed an opportunity to provide the fuller picture of our global dilemma.

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2 Comments

Filed under Kootenay Life, Uncategorized

2 responses to “David Suzuki came to town

  1. Craig Humpherys

    Good to read an informed summary of Daves’ big night out in the Koots. I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I imagined it was a little bit like preaching to the converted but I could be wrong. I imagine the median age of those in attendance to be about 55 or older but I could be wrong.
    Sustainability is all about having local and direct control over the resources that a community requires to survive. Usually these resources are accessed locally and ideally supply some form of surplus for trade. A word that comes to mind is bio-regionalism. Its a kind of ideology buts has its roots in more traditional ways of living, ie before oil, free market capitalism and globalization.Unfortunately for us all the disempowerment of people around the world brought on by the factors mentioned have led to a drastic shift in demographics, meaning huge landless urban populations that have no real control and no real food security. Hungry people are easy to manipulate.
    The solution I believe would start by allowing the free market to be truly free. That means by transitioning funding and subsidies away from the oil industry and the agricultural industries we could potentially create an even playing field where the true costs of business would be reflected. This may allow for such things as energy alternatives and localized agriculture to become far more competetive. I stress the need for a period of transition however as we all need to have time to adjust.
    We all need to be responsible for the choices we make day to day ,moment to moment. Life is essentially a journey of the spirit not a quest to gain power through material acquisitioning. I am not particularly optimistic but remain positive. Nature has the power to heal if we allow it to.Thankyou for your time.

  2. Michelle Laurie

    This film looks like another side to the story. http://www.theendofpoverty.com

    I particularly find it meaningful that it highlights : 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources. This was part of the story I felt was missing from DS’s talk.

    From the website: Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies — in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries.

    Renowned actor and activist, Martin Sheen, narrates The End of Poverty?, a feature-length documentary directed by award-winning director, Philippe Diaz, which explains how today’s financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet’s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line.

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