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david Sazuki signing his new book
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
SUZUKI - IS A FOREST A SACRED GROVE OR SIMPLY TIMBER AND PULP?

Suzuki implores humankind to develop an economy “in balance with nature’s capacity” and “slow down”

By Rhonda Spivak , October 3, 2010

About 850-1000 people, including many young people, from both the Jewish and general community came to hear environmentalist David Suzuki implore us all to live ecologically responsible lives and  to develop an “economy that is in balance with nature’s capacity.”

Suzuki’s lecture at Shaarey Zedek synagogue followed a day of activities that were all a part of “Eco –Shift” chaired by Dov Secter and Sarah Allentuck Secter and organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Next Generation Leadership Division.

The seventy-four year old Suzuki, who referred to himself as an “elder” said it is up to us to think of the “legacy” we will leave to the next generation.

“We have created the illusion that everything is all right by using up the legacy that belongs to our children and grandchildren. We’ve used the oceans as giant garbage cans. Eighty percent of the planet’s forests are fragmented and gone. Every one of you is filled with toxic chemicals and over a pound of plastic. We are a species without the ability to recognize there are limits.”

As Suzuki asked, “Is a forest a sacred grove or simply timber and pulp?” He added, “In 20 years there will not be an intact forest left on the planet.”

In imploring human beings to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, Suzuki stated that “We are dumping so much carbon [into the air] that green things can’t keep up.”

The legendary Suzuki, who has received 24 honourary degrees, and authored over 48 books, 19 of which are children’s books, spoke of his memories as a child, when “there used to be trees as far as you could see and streams that were streaming with fish. My grandchildren beg me to take them fishing, but I can’t take them to where I fished as a boy because the fish aren’t there.”

“We are heading down a very dangerous path,” warned Suzuki, who explained that humans (who now number 6.8 billion whereas in 1830 the world population was only one billion) are the most numerous species on earth.

“Just the act of staying alive means that we leave a heavy ecological footprint,” he said adding that we “have an appetite for consumption.”

For example, Suzuki said “We don’t make our clothing. That’s delivered to us. We want cars, computers, etc., but the very act of purchasing these products has ecological ramifications.”


The most fundamental needs we have “are clean air, water, soil, photosynthesis and biodiversity,” said Suzuki. “We boast that we are an intelligent creature, but what intelligent creature knowing the role of water, air, clean energy in our lives would proceed to drive species to extinction.”

Suzuki mentioned that the David Suzuki Foundation has a “list of ten things that we can do to lighten our ecological footprint”, such as “don’t eat meat for one day a week,” and “don’t use a car for one day a week.”  These are things that will “slow us down” and “we need to slow down.”

To that end, Suzuki criticized Presidents Bush and Obama for pouring money into the auto sector because they wanted the auto industry “back up operating in the same old way.”

The David Suzuki Foundation website suggests walking, biking, carpooling or taking transit as often as possible, as well as reducing your home heating and electricity use, choosing energy efficient appliances, eating local and organic food and composting all organic waste. In particular, the website advocates reducing air travel as it has a disproportionately large impact on climate change. The website advocates that companies use video conferencing as often as possible for company meetings/conferences rather than airline travel.

In a telephone conversation before the event, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Suzuki about his own airfare travel, and he responded that this is an issue he struggles with—noting that he travels by air for speaking engagements as it is necessary “to get the word out” about  living more environmentally sustainable lives.

In the telephone conversation, the Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Suzuki about what he thought of Shai Agassi’s electrical car concept. Agassi, an Israeli entrepreneur, has been in the media for his proposal to sell electric cars and build a network of locations where drivers can change or replace batteries, the equivalent of filling up at a gas station. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_05/b4069042006924.htm

Suzuki told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he wasn’t familiar with Shai Agassi or his electric car proposal.

In introducing the evening at Shaarey Zedek, Dov Secter spoke of wanting to have  “Jewish agencies to adopt or expand their green practices” and to encourage individuals, families and businesses to engage in “more environmentally sustainable living.”

“Tikkun Olam is a core Jewish value,” said Secter, who announced that a number of organizations have taken steps to become more environmentally conscientious : The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg; Shaarey  Zedek Synagogue; Etz Chayim Synagogue; Temple Shalom; The Asper Jewish Campus; Gray Academy of Education; Camp Massad; B’nai Brith Camp; Aleph Bet Day Care; Shalom Residences; and the Gwen Secter Centre.

Suzuki spent a significant part of his lecture talking about how our society is pre-occupied with the global economy  instead of  the world’s ecological well –being. “Now we have a global economy that hides the ecological costs.”

He said that “In 100 years we’ve been transformed from farmers to city dwellers. .In cities, our highest priority is our job.”

He chided human beings for worshipping the “markets” economy, noting that the whole concept of a market is a “human construct.”

“We’ve elevated human constructs far beyond what they deserve,” saying that “It’s madness to think that we can’t change those human constructs.”

He criticized Prime Minister Harper who “for four years said we can’t do anything about climate change because it will ‘damage the economy.’" Suzuki said that asthma and cancer rates would go down if we stopped putting the economy over the environment.

 

 

There was no question period following Suzuki’s lecture, after which Suzuki received a standing ovation. Following the lecture, Suzuki’s latest book, “The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for a Sustainable Future” was on sale in the lobby and he signed copies.

Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek, in opening remarks to Suzuki said that “ecological awareness is awareness of the human spirit . ”Whether we realize it or not, I believe that we’re all here to pray.”

 

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Federal Senator Dan Plett, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, and councilor Jon Orlikow all attended Suzuki's lecture.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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