David Suzuki

Wed, 2014-07-30 17:39Guest
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The Blue Dot Tour: It’s About All Of Us

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

A now-famous 1972 photo of Earth taken by Apollo 17 astronauts from 45,000 kilometres away became known as “the blue marble”. The late scientist Carl Sagan described a 1990 picture taken from six billion kilometres away by the unmanned Voyager 1 as a “pale blue dot”.

The vision of Earth from a distance has profoundly moved pretty much anyone who has ever seen it. “When we look down at the earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet,” International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan said. “It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile.” Referring to the atmosphere, Garan added “it's really sobering … to realize that that little paper-thin layer is all that protects every living thing on Earth.”

Many astronauts report a deep feeling of connection that transcends borders and worldly conflict —referred to by some as the “overview effect”. Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell said, “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty.”

How can anyone who has even seen a photo of the Earth treat our small blue home with disdain and carelessness? How can anyone fail to recognize how precious and finite the resources, especially water, are — and that we must share and care for what we have?

The “blue marble” photo from Apollo 17, the last manned lunar mission, catalyzed the global environmental movement. Now, as people around the world compete for air, water and land — not just with each other, but with corporations bent on profit at any cost — we need a resurgence in action to care for our small blue planet.

That’s why I’m about to embark on what will likely be my last national tour. From September 24 to November 9, I’m crossing the country, from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C., with 20 stops along the way. The plan is to work with Canadians from all walks of life to protect the people and places we love. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.

Tue, 2014-07-08 15:56Guest
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Addressing Global Warming is an Economic Necessity

David Suzuki

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Those who don’t outright deny the existence of human-caused global warming often argue we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it because it would be too costly. Take Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who recently said, “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.”

But in failing to act on global warming, many leaders are putting jobs and economic prosperity at risk, according to recent studies. It’s suicidal, both economically and literally, to focus on the fossil fuel industry’s limited, short-term economic benefits at the expense of long-term prosperity, human health and the natural systems, plants and animals that make our well-being and survival possible. Those who refuse to take climate change seriously are subjecting us to enormous economic risks and foregoing the numerous benefits that solutions would bring.

The World Bank — hardly a radical organization — is behind one study. While still viewing the problem and solutions through the lens of outmoded economic thinking, its report demolishes arguments made by the likes of Stephen Harper.

Fri, 2014-06-20 10:50Carol Linnitt
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Suzuki: Harper Didn’t Have the “Courage” to Present and Defend Northern Gateway Approval

David Suzuki Northern Gateway Pipeline

David Suzuki isn’t surprised the federal government approved the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline Tuesday, but he is surprised Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t have the “courage” to announce the decision to Canadians.

Suzuki described the approval as “totally expected,” yet expressed dismay at the Prime Minister’s absence.

Harper indicated before the joint review panel even started its sessions he wanted that pipeline through,” Suzuki told DeSmog Canada. “What surprises me is he didn’t even have the courage to present his approval and defend it.”

This is such a craven thing, for the Prime Minister of the country to push through that agenda and then not even defend it, not even having any ministers out there defending it. I find that astounding.”

Northern Gateway is opposed by a majority of British Columbians, including most of the province’s First Nations.

Critics are saying the Harper government is insulating itself from political backlash associated with the pipeline's approval. Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford even claimed it inaccurate to suggest the federal government approved the pipeline.

Sat, 2014-02-22 10:00Guest
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David Suzuki: Trading Water For Fuel is Fracking Crazy

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

It would be difficult to live without oil and gas. But it would be impossible to live without water. Yet, in our mad rush to extract and sell every drop of gas and oil as quickly as possible, we’re trading precious water for fossil fuels.

A recent report, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress”, shows the severity of the problem. Alberta and B.C. are among eight North American regions examined in the study by Ceres, a U.S.-based nonprofit advocating for sustainability leadership.

One of the most disturbing findings is that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is using enormous amounts of water in areas that can scarcely afford it. The report notes that close to half the oil and gas wells recently fracked in the U.S.“are in regions with high or extremely high water stress” and more than 55 per cent are in areas experiencing drought. In Colorado and California, almost all wells – 97 and 96 per cent, respectively – are in regions with high or extremely high water stress, meaning more than 80 per cent of available surface and groundwater has already been allocated for municipalities, industry and agriculture. A quarter of Alberta wells are in areas with medium to high water stress.

Drought and fracking have already caused some small communities in Texas to run out of water altogether, and parts of California are headed for the same fate. As we continue to extract and burn ever greater amounts of oil, gas and coal, climate change is getting worse, which will likely lead to more droughts in some areas and flooding in others. California’s drought may be the worst in 500 years, according to B. Lynn Ingram, an earth and planetary sciences professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That’s causing a shortage of water for drinking and agriculture, and for salmon and other fish that spawn in streams and rivers. With no rain to scrub the air, pollution in the Los Angeles area has returned to dangerous levels of decades past.

Thu, 2013-11-28 06:00Guest
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Greenpeace 'Arctic 30' Arrests Show Attempts to Silence Environmentalists Continue

This is a guest post by David Suzuki

Early November marked the 18th anniversary of the tragic murder of outspoken writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues by the Nigerian government. Saro-Wiwa and the others had waged a long campaign to stop multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell from drilling in the lands of the Ogoni people in the Niger delta.

Nigerian military harassed and intimidated members of the Ogoni community for years because they opposed Shell’s drilling program. Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues defended their communities and local environment from a notoriously toxic industry. In November 1995, a special court established by the military government illegally detained and tried them on spurious charges. Convicted without due process, they were executed 10 days later, despite enormous international outcry.

Sadly, this is not an isolated occurrence. A recent report by human rights organization Global Witness documents the murders of more than 700 environmental and indigenous-rights activists over the past decade – more than one killing a week, on average. They reviewed databases, academic studies and news reports, and consulted with the United Nations and other international agencies. They found citizens are often harassed, intimidated, beaten up, sexually assaulted and sometimes killed for opposing endangered wildlife poaching, illegal logging, dams and activities of foreign mining companies – including some Canadian firms.

I experienced this reality in 1988 when we interviewed rubber tapper Chico Mendes about his battle to save the Amazon rainforest in Brazil for The Nature of Things. He was assassinated two weeks later. The following year, Kaiapo Chief Paiakan asked me to help stop a dam proposed for Altamira, Brazil. My wife, Tara, and I helped raise $70,000 for a demonstration, and the World Bank was persuaded to withdraw its project loan. Paiakan was then subjected to death threats. We brought him and his family to Vancouver until the danger subsided. 

Many instances of persecution and killing have occurred in countries with atrocious human rights records, such as Sri Lanka, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet surprisingly, most attacks on environmentalists have been in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, with democratically elected governments, independent judiciaries and other institutions intended to protect their citizens’ rights to voice concerns about the environment without facing harassment, intimidation and violence. These countries have also signed international agreements to protect human rights, like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As the recent incarceration of 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists by Russian authorities clearly demonstrates, human rights are vulnerable at a time when governments aggressively promote the interests of corporations over a healthy environment, and are willing to use heavy-handed tactics to ensure people who disagree don’t stand in the way.

Tue, 2013-09-24 15:51Guest
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Attacks on Climate Change Science Hinder Solutions

By David Suzuki.

Starting in late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Fifth Assessment Report in three chapters and a summary. Not to be outdone, contrarians have unleashed a barrage of attacks designed to discredit the science before it’s released. Expect more to come.

Many news outlets are complicit in efforts to undermine the scientific evidence. Contrarian opinion articles have run in publications in Canada and around the world, from the Financial Post and Washington Post to the Australian and the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday.

In the Guardian, scientists Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham point out that attacks cover five stages of climate denial: deny the problem exists, deny we’re the cause, deny it’s a problem, deny we can solve it and claim it’s too late to do anything.

One attack that’s grabbing media attention is the so-called International Climate Science Coalition’s report “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.” It’s written by Fred Singer, a well-known tobacco industry apologist and climate change denier, with Bob Carter and Craig Idso, also known for their dismissals of legitimate climate change science, and published by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. non-profit known for defending tobacco and fossil fuel industry interests. Heartland made headlines last year for comparing people who accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change with terrorists and criminals such as Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski!

Read Singer’s report if you want. But it’s full of long-discredited claims, including that carbon dioxide emissions are good because they stimulate life. It’s not the goal of deniers and contrarians to contribute to our understanding of climate change; they want to promote fossil fuel companies and other industrial interests, a point explicitly stated in the Heartland-ICSC news release.

Tue, 2013-09-03 18:58Guest
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Conspiracies Fuel Climate Change Denial and Belief in Chemtrails

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

I recently wrote about geoengineering as a strategy to deal with climate change and carbon dioxide emissions. That drew comments from people who confuse this scientific process with the unscientific theory of “chemtrails”. Some also claimed the column supported geoengineering, which it didn’t.

The reaction got me wondering why some people believe in phenomena rejected by science, like chemtrails, but deny real problems demonstrated by massive amounts of scientific evidence, like climate change.

Chemtrails believers claim governments around the world are in cahoots with secret organizations to seed the atmosphere with chemicals and materials – aluminum salts, barium crystals, biological agents, polymer fibres, etc. – for a range of nefarious purposes. These include controlling weather for military purposes, poisoning people for population or mind control and supporting secret weapons programs based on the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP.

Scientists have tested and used cloud and atmospheric seeding for weather modification and considered them as ways to slow global warming. With so many unknowns and possible unintended consequences, these practices have the potential to cause harm. But the chemtrails conspiracy theory is much broader, positing that military and commercial airlines are involved in constant massive daily spraying that is harming the physical and mental health of citizens worldwide.

I don’t have space to get into the absurdities of belief in a plot that would require worldwide collusion between governments, scientists and airline company executives and pilots to amass and spray unimaginable amounts of chemicals from altitudes of 10,000 metres or more. I’m a scientist, so I look at credible science – and there is none for the existence of chemtrails. They’re condensation trails, formed when hot, humid air from jet exhaust mixes with colder low-vapour-pressure air. This, of course, comes with its own environmental problems.

But what interests me is the connection between climate change denial and belief in chemtrails. Why do so many people accept a theory for which there is no scientific evidence while rejecting a serious and potentially catastrophic phenomenon that can be easily observed and for which overwhelming evidence has been building for decades?

Thu, 2013-01-03 05:00Guest
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After 25 Years, It’s Time To Stop Spinning Our Wheels

By David Suzuki
 
In 1988, hundreds of scientists and policy-makers met in Toronto for a major international conference on climate change. They were sufficiently alarmed by the accumulated evidence for human-caused global warming that they issued a release stating, “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.”
 
They urged world leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2005. Had we heeded that warning and embarked on a campaign to meet the target, Canadians would now be healthier (because of reduced air pollution), have greater reserves of energy and more jobs. We’d also be a world leader in renewable energy and could have saved tens of billions of dollars.

Sun, 2012-12-09 12:00Guest
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Are We Trading Away Our Rights and Environment?

Written by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

Tue, 2012-10-23 20:00Guest
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Suzuki: Short-Term Thinking On Display in Canada-China Deal and Budget

By David Suzuki
 
Why, when so many people oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push it through?
 
The problems with the plan to run pipelines from the Alberta tar sands across northern B.C. to load unrefined, diluted bitumen onto supertankers for export to China and elsewhere are well-known: threats to streams, rivers, lakes and land from pipeline leaks; the danger of contaminated ocean ecosystems from tanker spills; rapid expansion of the tar sands; and the climate change implications of continued wasteful use of fossil fuels.
 
The benefits aren’t as apparent. Some short-term and fewer long-term jobs, possibly for foreign workers, and increased profits for the oil industry – including state-owned Chinese companies – are all we’re being offered in exchange for giving up our resources, interests and future, putting ecosystems at risk, and forfeiting due democratic process.

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