Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of going with some students into Toronto to listen to a talk by none other than the 5th Greatest Canadian ever, Dr. David Suzuki. Of course, he talked about the environment, focusing on the most pressing issue, Climate Change.
He began the talk by saying that 20 years ago scientists urged immediate action against Climate Change, including a letter signed in 1988 by several influential scientists (including many Nobel Prize winners) saying that we had only 1-2 decades to take immediate drastic action and change the way we live, but yet nothing was done. Also he cited a conversation with then Federal Environmental Minister, Lucien Bouchard, where he said that Global Warming "threatened the survival of our species", but yet nothing was done then. Suzuki claimed to have bittersweet feelings about the public acceptance of the issue, saying that it would have been much better to have happened decades ago.
After the preamble, he got to the real good stuff. He was mentioning time that he spent with aboriginals and things that he learned from them. He mentioned a deep seeded belief in many native cultures that people are made up of the four sacred elements, earth, air, fire, and water.
Water is a pretty obvious connections, since it makes up most of our body. Earth and fire sort of got lumped in together, saying that everything we eat comes from the soil and the sun (fire) and is absorbed directly into our bodies, making us who we are. The one that got me the most though, was his connection to the air.
He broke this belief down into scientific terms, saying that the oxygen that we absorb into our body is metabolized by our cells and becomes a part of who we are. So therefore, anything that we do to the air, we are doing to ourselves. He told a story about going to a hospital in Toronto on a smog alert day and seeing children and seniors struggling with asthma. The people who brought their children or parents into the hospital were panic stricken, and were willing to do anything it took to help their loved one breathe. Dr. Suzuki was amazed that these people who were so concerned about their parent's or children's respiratory health drove to the hospital in SUVs. If they were so willing to do anything to help their loved ones, why would they not reduce the pollutions they were producing? There is a very strong correlation between pollution and asthma, yet people are far too disconnected, even when the cause of their problems are staring them right in the face.
Dr. Suzuki mentioned the research of a scientist, who wanted to track the path of one single breath of air. It was concluded, that if I take a breath of air right now, in one year, after going around the world, I will inhale some of the air that I exhaled right now. In the mean time, it will be inhaled by millions of other people along the way. He mentioned that some of the air that we are breathing in right now was in fact in the lungs of Joan of Arc, Jesus Christ, or the dinosaurs. Pretty cool eh?
So he mentioned then, that if I am the air, and you are the air, what we do to the air, we are doing to ourselves and one another.
Dr. Suzuki, then lambasted political and corporate leaders who he claims are far too short-sighted, focusing on the economy as opposed to the planet. He made a fantastic connection to the American-Soviet Space Race of the 1950s and 60s. In 1957 the Russians launched Sputnik and proceeded to have a series of victories in their space program, such as launching the first dog and the first human into space. The Americans could have easily given up, saying that it was too hard or cost to much. Instead though, they worked very hard and were able to land someone on the moon. It cost a great deal, but the economic benefits, such as our telecommunication systems, were astounding. Dr. Suzuki believes that the same thing can happen as a result of confronting climate change.
All in all, I was incredibly inspired by Dr. Suzuki's talk. He spoke very eloquently and with an incredible amount of conviction. I was inspired to go to his website davidsuzuki.org and take his "Environment Challenge", and I really encourage all of you to as well. It outlines a number of really easy steps that you can take to reduce your environmental footprint and live a greener life. It really is worth looking at, because we may not have a ton more time...
Until next time,