Dr. David Suzuki received a standing ovation after his speech at the U’Gwamalis Hall in Fort Rupert June 5.
The stop in Port Hardy was one of 12 Suzuki made along B.C.’s coast this month to hear from coastal residents about the challenges facing their community and B.C.’s coastal waters, along with their hopes for the future.
There were a variety of ways for people to express their opinions which included jotting them down on a postcard, writing them on a board, or giving a video or oral message.
The Foundation hopes to share the ideas raised at the meetings with a larger audience after the tour.
The evening began with a film about climate change in B.C. by Ian Mauro, an award-winning community-based researcher and filmmaker. The David Suzuki Foundation has supported Mauro in documenting climate change’s impacts on the West Coast. Those in attendance were able to watch a 30-minute sneak preview of the film.
After the film and the opportunity for people to voice their opinions, Suzuki took to the stage.
“I’m here to speak to you as a Canadian citizen,” he said, explaining that three years ago he stepped down as chair of the David Suzuki Foundation “so I could speak freely, speak as a grandfather and as an elder.”
Some scientists are predicting that by the year 2100 over 90 per cent of humanity will be gone.
Suzuki is more optimistic.
“I believe that what we do, or do not do, may very well determine if we as a species survive until the end of the century,” Suzuki said.
“We don’t know enough to say it’s too late.”
Suzuki referenced the sockeye salmon run in 2009 where barely a million fish made the journey back to their spawning grounds. The next year was the biggest run in 100 years.
“My hope is that Nature has (a few) tricks up her sleeve,” he said.
Suzuki discussed how 100,000 years ago, Canada as a country did not exist and was, in fact, covered in a sheet of ice. 150,000 years ago humans appeared on the planet in Africa.
“That was our birthplace and our home,” he said.
We began to move. We were an invasive species. We wiped out the flightless birds. We had no idea how to take what you need without destroying,” Suzuki said.
“Everywhere we went we made a lot of mistakes.”
You can follow humans’ path across the globe by the wave of extinction.
Humans have had unprecedented power and impact on the earth. In a single generation the population on the planet has tripled to seven billion.
“We have a big ecological footprint. We are the most numerous mammal on Earth.”
Since World War II, the world’s economy is based on consumption and focused on wants rather than necessities.
In order to meet this need “we are changing the biological, physical and chemical properties of the planet. We are undermining the very thing that keeps us alive.”
Suzuki said partnership with First Nations is critical because of the value system they place on the land.
“We’ve got to work together,” he said.
While humans are a very adaptive species “we are still confined to the biosphere” and have to live within the laws of nature.
“There is a carrying capacity for the biosphere for our species. We are using what should be our children’s and grandchildren’s legacy.”
At the end of the day, Suzuki said humans are animals. If we don’t have air for three minutes, we are dead. If we don’t have water for four to six days, we’re dead. If we go three to six weeks without food, we’re dead. That is why taking care of those things is vital. “As long as we are dealing in the realm of economics, we are doomed. We are the major problem, our inventions are the major problem.”
In order for change to occur there has to be political will. Towards this end, the David Suzuki Foundation has created the Blue Dot Movement aimed at enshrining in the Constitution every Canadian’s right to live in a healthy environment.
“We need seven provinces, representing 50 per cent of the population, supporting this notion” in order to amend the constitution, Suzuki said. To date 56 communities have come on board representing five million Canadians. Suzuki encouraged the crowd to speak to their political representatives about joining the movement.
“The Blue Dot Movement will get us talking about the issues as they should be discussed.”