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David Suzuki: Planet on path to environmental catastrophe

Uncontrolled economic growth places global ecosystem at risk, Suzuki says

The path the human race is currently on is one of self-destruction.

The water we drink, the air we breathe, the soil that provides our food, and the atmosphere that protects us from the Sun’s ultra-violet rays are also the source of sustenance for every living species, but aspirations of economic growth have superseded our own collective interests above everything else we share planet Earth with.

That dim view of our future was the cornerstone of David Suzuki’s recent presentation earlier this month at UBC Okanagan to students and faculty.

Titled “Humanity at a crossroad: Business as Usual or Transformation,” Suzuki spoke about the evolution of over-development, influenced by multi-national corporate control of our legal, political and economic systems.

He wishes former executives from past decades would speak up for the environment about the potential reckless abuse of planet Earth’s resources, in the same manner retired generals voice their concerns about the threat of nuclear weapons buildup.

Suzuki said he was shocked to arrive in Kelowna for his speech, a frequent visitor to the city throughout his life, to see the extent of development taking place across the city.

“I was stunned by the level of growth…it is ridiculously unsustainable,” he said.

“It has become way too big of a city, a reflection of how we determine progress by economic growth.

“But there are limits to our economy. We are at a growth level now that is impossible to fulfill in a finite world. How much is enough?

“The Earth is under assault from a global mindset that drives us to act how we do. The way we see the world shapes how we treat it. It is a resource to be respected, not abused.”

Suzuki said humans have placed themselves at the top of the pyramid rather than part of the intricate ecosystem web that sustains the Earth.

But how to evolve away from a pathway to extinction remains a challenge, Suzuki says, unless there is an attitude change in how we treat the planet.

That starts as individuals and how we curb our consumer impulses and excesses, and being willing to learn from an Indigenous culture about how to respect and thrive in a fragile ecosystem.

“Nature has no political clout in the system we have created,” said Suzuki.

While he is often called an environmentalist, he questions why all politicians don’t see themselves as protectors of the environment.

“Right now there is no political sense to do the right thing because nature does not have a voice. But the scale of the crisis is too great and we are running out of time if we wait for incremental change to have an effect,” Suzuki said.

He said Canada responded as a nation to the threat of the Second World War and the health threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it needs to step up in the same way to preserve our environment.

“Don’t be discouraged because we have no choice. Despair is not a feeling we can indulge right now,” Suzuki said.

Following his speech, Suzuki responded to questions from the audience, the first being what the 88-year-old finds the inspiration to keep in the public debate of protecting the environment vs. economic growth.

“My grandchildren are my inspiration and legacy to my future,” responded Suzuki.

“What I say to young people today is we have left you a mess and I am sorry about that. What time I have left, I want to fight for their future.”

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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