On May 30, Dr. David Suzuki spoke at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney about his latest book, Letters to My Grandchildren. The book is written in conversational-styled letters to his six grandkids and touches on history, racism, gender equality, change, the state of our world, and much more.
Attendees filled nearly every seat and greeted Suzuki with a standing ovation as he took the stage. Throughout the talk, he received laughs and sporadic rounds of applause from an attentive audience, but one that notably lacked student and youth participants.
On Friday, the Martlet interviewed Suzuki to discuss why so many people — including youth — aren’t getting involved in environmental issues. “The average person with a laptop has access to more information than any generation in human history,” Suzuki says. However, he believes we select information to support ideas we already hold.
“We come through life, we develop certain prejudices and beliefs, and we are not interested in changing those beliefs when we’ve got so much information out there that supports what we believe.”
In 1988, scientists declared that “global warming was a threat to human survival second only to nuclear war.” People took it seriously until the economy hit a recession and their main worry shifted to their job, Suzuki says. “It seems as if every time there are problems with the economy, the environment disappears.”
The words ‘economics’ and ‘ecology’ come from the same root word, Suzuki says. In Greek, eco is the word for ‘household’ or ‘domain,’ and on Earth our household is the biosphere.
“When we have a prime minister that says ‘we can’t do anything about the environment; it’ll destroy the economy,’ he elevates the economy above the ecology,” Suzuki says. “For me, that’s suicidal” because the economy depends on the health of our biosphere.
Suzuki believes that the government has willfully ignored the environmental crisis of climate change in Canada for the last ten years. “We cannot tolerate having that kind of government any longer if there’s an election coming up in October or November.
“Young people have everything at stake in this election and they have no choice, if they care about the future we are going towards, but to become involved,” Suzuki says.
Suzuki says those who cannot vote must recruit their parents to speak on the behalf of our youth and demand that the environment become a part of the political agenda. For those who can vote, they must raise this issue, recruit youth and especially demand that elders — ones who have gone through the system and no longer need to worry about losing their jobs — tell the truth about climate change.
“We have a democracy,” Suzuki says, “and when young people aren’t voting — with 40–45 per cent of Canadians not voting — we don’t have a democracy anymore. So we have got to get out there and reclaim democracy.”
In Canada, the average child spends eight minutes outside and six hours in front of technology, Suzuki says. “We’re not even getting outside so why should we [care] about the environment if we’re not out there anymore?”
In order to combat this, Suzuki calls upon elders with living memory of climate change to step up and help our youth fix these problems. “The generations that preceded you created the mess and you have to damn well demand that they take part in helping you clean it up.”
Suzuki believes that elders have an obligation to tell the youth what matters. It’s no longer about making money or the economy.
“It’s about creating a world where we have the opportunity to experience nature, where hunger and poverty are eliminated, where we have social justice—these things are all tied in together.
“We’re not living the right way on this planet. You’ve got to demand that the [older] generations stop creating a mess for you, and get on and work together with you to start cleaning it up.”