After the showing of the film Gimme Some Truth, that I saw at the University of Winnipeg, David Suzuki talked about how foresight was a key characteristic of humans. It was an incredibly valuable skill. It allowed us to thrive where other species died out. We have more technologies and techniques to look ahead than ever before. However we are not using these tools, or our skills, to look ahead to see the danger around the corner. Instead we are allowing economics and politics to dominate. We are accepting business as usual. Some of our politicians are doing exactly that.
Franklin D. Roosevelt knew after the Depression and during the WWII that America would have to transition from a war economy to something new and different. The war economy was what got America out of the Depression but at a great cost—i.e. wars are incredibly devastating. He wanted something to replace that war economy with something less destructive. He found that in consumption. America’s economy became a consumer economy. Consumption drove the economy. This, according to Suzuki was a horrible mistake. I agree. The consumer society has shredded the environment and morality. It was as bad as the war economy.
Suzuki said that many of his colleagues whom he respects a lot believe that it is already too late to do anything about climate change. They say, we are already doomed. We can’t keep temperature rises to 1.5º C as scientists say we need to do to avoid catastrophe and as the governments of the world said they would do when they signed the Paris accords on climate change. To this Suzuki responded, “We don’t have enough information to know that this is true, so we have to give it a try.” He refused to give up–yet. “Nature is resilient. We need to step back and give it a chance,” he said.
According to Suzuki “climate change is the “existential issue of our time.” We must get politicians to take this issue seriously. All other problems pale in comparison.” As a result we have to do something urgent and game changing. He says we have to get after every politician. We cannot accept any longer their refusal to deal with this issue. We can’t let them backtrack. It is too late.
Suzuki pointed out that in 1998 the environment was the No. 1 issue on the minds of Canadians. Then we had a recession and everyone forgot about it and turned to the economy instead. Politicians started to talk about environmentalists as a ‘special interest group.’ That is not what we are, Suzuki said.
As Suzuki said, “Our kids have everything to lose. Their entire future is at stake. This is much more than a drop in 3rdquarter profits.” The elders like Suzuki and, of course, me, have to speak up. We should blog about it. Hey I am doing that. We all have to do something.
If you think social justice is important, as Suzuki does, and I do, social justice will be radically affected by climate change. The poor and those who have done the least to cause the problem will suffer the most from climate change. Is that just? Climate change is the serious issue, not marijuana. Yet we spend much more time talking about marijuana.
In July of 2017 Suzuki wrote a letter to the Prime Minister who had been so widely hailed as an environmental savior when he committed Canada to the Paris accords on Climate change. Suzuki was deeply worried about what Canada was doing when it approved dubious pipeline projects. Here is part of that letter:
… If we don’t look at it head-on, then I believe we will continue to talk but fail to take the hard steps that must be taken now — stop all discussions of building pipelines, shut down the tarsands and fracking, and get on a hard path to renewables. That must be done if we are to even come close to meeting the 2050 targets in the Paris Accord. It is ludicrous to keep looking to the economy and market forces and consumer pressure to make us change direction. We need you to make big, hard decisions and Harper made it all the more difficult for you by failing to even tackle the low-hanging fruit …
The good news is that the future predicted doesn’t have to happen, but only if you take the hard steps. You know I have no hidden agenda. I implore you as an elder near the end of my life and terrified for the future of my grandchildren.
This evening in Winnipeg David Suzuki filled the audience with wild enthusiasm. It was like a secular revival meeting. Let’s hope its more effective than that. He said in the next election he wants stadiums filled with young people and adults demanding change. That election is about one year away. Suzuki thinks that is our last chance.
Scientists in their dry manner have issued a serious warning. Here is what the press release the IPCC issued says,
The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”
What does “unprecedented changes mean? There are many interpretations. Here is one: At 2ºC , 25% of all species will be extinct. At 3ºC New York City will be submerged. Of course the higher the temperatures the worse it gets.
Suzuki described his altar call this way:
“We’ve now got a call that is comparable to the call when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941. After that event, nobody said, ‘Those damn liberals, they want to spend us into poverty. Nobody said, ‘This is a Democratic or Republican issue. Nobody worried about the economic cost. We’ve got a challenge. How to make a peacetime economy in which our primary goal is to make a massive transition of our energy usage.”
Suzuki also pointed out that like the reaction to the Pearl attack this can be done. It is tough but not impossible. And our time is short. Half of the reductions must be made in 12 years! As Suzuki said,
“Sweden, which is a northern country like Canada imposed a carbon tax in 1992 of $130 per tonne. We’re quibbling over $10 (per tonne) or $15 (per tonne) or $50 (per tonne). During the time that the tax was $130 (per tonne), the Swedish economy grew by 40 percent. So now, let’s not waste time on that. Let’s get a carbon tax in and lets start with a much bigger tax than either the Liberals or any of the other governments are speaking of…Stop behaving as if it’s those Greens who care about the environment, and we don’t give a damn because the economy is our highest priority. This is Pearl Harbour, and let’s act on it together.”
Debra Roberts one of the Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group II, (not a radical like Suzuki) in presenting the report to the world press, pointed out, “The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future.’Then she added, “This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”