Suzuki speaks

Following are notes from David Suzuki’s keynote address at the WALK21 conference in Toronto, Oct 2 2007.

The argument against doing something about climate change is always that it would be too expensive and would harm the economy. But, what is the cost of not doing anything?

But nature doesn’t care about the costs. “Economics is of no relevance to the issue of the biosphere.”

For obesity and diabetes, the best medicine is to walk.

This is the defining moment of humans as a species. Foresight is the great ability of humans.

Human beings have become so powerful, we’ve been undermining the very things that keep us alive.

Economics is a set of values posed as science. It considers the environment as an “externality”.

Imagine a test tube full of a growth medium. A single bacteria is dropped in. After one minute, the cell divides – there are now two bacteria. This happens each minute, so as a result, the population doubles each minute. There is 60 minutes worth of medium in the test tube. At the 59th minute, the test tube is only 50% full of bacteria. At the 58th minute, it’s 25% full; with only 3 minutes left, the tube is just 12.5% full. Imagine, with only 3 minutes before the bacteria completely exhausted the resources that sustains their life, one of them figures this out and tells the others. The response might have been laughter. They could have dismissed the warning; “look at all this space and food we have around us.” But what if they recognized the danger and they are so smart that they figure out a way to create new worlds for them to live in – 3 new test tubes, so they now have four test tubes in which to stretch and live. At the 61st minute, two tubes would be full. And after one more minute, all four test tubes would be full with no food remaining.

Our population has been doubling over our specie’s existence. In his lifetime, the Earth’s population has grown from 2 billion to 6 billion. If humans were the bacteria and the test tube is the Earth, we are now at 59+half minutes. “We are in the 59th minute.”

With the way we’re living now, the pace at which we’re using and losing our natural resources, the volumes of pollution we’re creating with the consequences we’re already experiencing, could the Earth accommodate twice as many of us and still provide the quality of life we expect?



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