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October 4th 2006
Future will condemn Howard says Suzuki

Pulling no punches, perhaps the world's best-known environmentalist, Canadian scientist and author, Dr David Suzuki told a 3,000 plus audience in Townsville that, in 25 years from now Australians would regard the Howard government as committing crimes against a generation for not heeding the warnings by scientists on greenhouse gases and saying no to the Kyoto Protocol.

Professor Suzuki was in Townsville presenting a "Suzuki speaks" free public lecture on the ''The Challenge of the 21st Century'' last night at the Townsville Entertainment Centre.

"It grieves me that the Prime Minister says no to Kyoto. It's embarrassing," he said.

But Suzuki's aim was not confined to the federal government. His view was much broader and philosophical with over-population, economic growth, consumerism, reductionist science and a media obsessed by trivia among his targets.

Dr Suzuki is the author of 43 books and has been involved in award-winning science and environment based broadcasting for 30 years. He is perhaps best known as the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's, The Nature of Things.

"Ninety percent of the major fishes of the world have gone," he said. "There are now more humans than rabbits, mice or rats in the world," and, taking a swipe at our consumerist culture, said, "We have an incredible itch for 'stuff'".

Suzuki sketched a brief outline of how humanity had emerged in the last 150,000 years from being a physically unimpressive animal to a "super-species" due to our powerful brain with unique capabilities. "The human brain invents the future" he said, identifying our species' ability to predict future likelihoods - which he lamented was the same ability we were now "turning our backs on," as we ignore the warnings of scientists.

He cited a 1992 declaration (read here) by over half of the world's living Nobel Prize-winning scientists and many others that, "'humans were on a collision course with the living world'" and that, "'we had ten years to change,'" starting with a reduction of greenhouse gases by 20%. "The response of the media was terrifying," he said. "No Canadian or North American major newspaper reported it. "That we had ten years to change the world was not newsworthy."

While Suzuki quoted the warnings of scientists he was also critical of his own profession for its, "scientific reductionism". He attacked modern biology for "focussing on fragments" and "by removing them (from their environment) lose sight of how they interact"

Much of modern technology was, he thought, "bludgeoning nature into submission rather than mimicking it".

Economics he saw as, "Not a science but a form of brain damage." He noted that, when he asked economists how they would describe the ozone layer, or underground aquifers(?), they would refer to them as "externalities". "Economists believe the economy can grow forever and must," he said. Dr Suzuki believes the earth must move towards a "steady state" approach to economics as the earth's resources are finite.

As for the explosion in information, "The last thing people need is more information. We don't know how to reflect on what is meaningful" he said.

Perhaps Suzuki's most telling analogy was to do with growth, both of population and economies. He gave the example of a bacteria in a test tube. Starting with one cell which would divide into two (or double in number) every minute. After 55 minutes the test tube would be just 3% full but by the power of compound growth, at the 60th minute it would be at 96%. Suzuki sees humanity presently as past its 59th minute.

It appeared to this reporter however that Dr Suzuki may have skipped a page in his speech when he referred to five things people could do to reverse the planet-threatening direction. We didn't hear them but a quick visit to his website reveals at least ten and much more (read here)

There was a great deal of confronting and thought provoking ideas delivered by Dr Suzuki some of which may have shocked the audience who, by appearance, were what one would consider mostly a fairly typical cross-section of the Townsville community.

Townsville City Council deserves congratulations for organising this very important and well received address even if its own actions, such as the support of massively resource depleting and polluting industries like the proposed Chalco Alumina refinery, are a clear contradiction of the dangers Dr Suzuki warns of.

George Hirst, Editor.

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Future will condemn Howard says Suzuki
 
8 comments
 
Jenny Stirling
October 4th 2006
George it was music to my ears to hear this said in our own community and to so many receptive people.

AS you say, it will harder for the TCC to support industries like Chalco in the aftermath of such a passionate appeal for reduced consumption, steady state economics, a child centred future and green solutions.

And the amazing thing was that 2,000 people were turned away.

Not to worry, they can come to the Greens showing of Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" which graphically shows the realities of what David Suzuki is talking about. More about that later.
 
Kevin
October 4th 2006
Sometimes it's immoral to think that the dominant species has such a limited outlook on the future - but then, when one reasons from cause and effect - economics governs everything.
 
chasmac
October 4th 2006
There was also an irony in the fact that Dr Suzuki spoke from a podium built over the seabed where, as recently as the 1970s, people paddled canoes and water skied. If Townsville's and the Queensland Government's plans for a cruise ship terminal are realised (and why won't they be after the Mandate for Growth confirmed just days ago?), that spot on the (most recent edition of the) waterfront will be turned into the back street of a monster luxury gated canal estate and unit development housing as many people as were crammed inside the Entertainment Centre.
But don't worry. Legislation passed earlier this year will prevent anyone voicing concern that it's too much, it's over the top or that it's a mindless waste of scarce resources.
As we queued to get in last night I thought about how dumb it was that lemmings (small furry animals from the northern hemisphere) walked in lines following each other and their noses and sometimes ended up falling over cliffs. Now there aren't enough lemmings in any one place to form a line.
 
T. Hoyt Drake
October 4th 2006
Well Done, George (and Jenny) !

Hoyt Drake, Nelly Bay
 
David J
October 4th 2006
A politician's life is generally a short lived one, then again it doesnt need be that long. They need not be necessarily smart, articulate or even wise, however a dose of cunning and self centeredness goes a long way. They are not employed by the people based upon performance, academic ability or even a one page CV! Sometimes their position is won because the best candidate was, of all things, too tall a poppy and was cut down!

Their renumeration and ongoing entitlements bear little resemblance to the world they leave behind when they finally shut that door behind them, content in the knowledge that they will receive super from day one, a car, free travel, an office, a secretary etc all regardless of performace or whether as a manager they did the right thing. Howard and his crew have lots of cunning and self centeredness which has got then through, despite a world where there may be little left in which to enjoy their generous final payments.

Sadly there is little effort to document the achievments of our pollies or otherwise, so, that in the future we can all remember the final contribution a particular party or minister. Perhaps what is needed is a brass plaque wall of achievements to celebrate the good and bad decisions made by a party or members whilst in a term of office. People could visit and be reminded of what was done and said that lead us to the present. Perhaps such plaques, to be read and remembered by all would, could serve as a good driving force to make sure politicans decisions are made with the best interests of all at heart. Perhaps a brass plaque could be placed upon the steps of TCC which would not only document poor environemental decisions made and by who, but also serve as the new high tide mark for increasing sea levels.

A simple brass plaque could have more power in changing politicians attitudes than all the scientific papers combined!

Regards David
 
jenny Stirling
October 5th 2006
Congratulations to Magnetic Times for providing the only comprehensive media coverage of Suzuki's seminar in Townsville.

As David noted in his speech, the media in general don't want to know about climate change.

And so we have more columns devoted to the Broncos' win that to the impending crisis which will rock more than just a football stadium.

What David Suzuki had to say confirms what I believe- that change begins at the local level rather than further up the food chain.

Aboriginal people have used 'shame' effectively to sustain their small communities' morals and maintain relationships for thousands of years.

It tells us a great deal about our culture that our leaders have no shame when it comes to pulling the wool over the public's eyes about climate change.

I heard Mayor Mooney on the radio yesterday saying we have to slightly decrease our consumption of consumer goods and that it wasn't all about economic development.

I noticed the faithful people of Palm staged a prayer vigil prior to their remarkable outcome in the Coroner's Report- a testimony to the power of prayer.

And it is a sobering thought, in the light of Suzuki's talk, that in the days ahead this might be one of the few sorts of 'power' we have access to.

Thanks Hoyt for you kind words.

Jenny
 
Pat Trewin
October 24th 2006
I'm delighted that Suzuki's message has been heard in Townsville. Now we just need to listen. Please try to see "An Inconvenient Truth" to get an idea, not of what we must do, but how quickly we need to do it. What will happen to Maggie if (when?)sea level rises by 20 feet? Think about it - and it's starting to happen now, with increased warming world-wide. Let's pressure our pollies so they will in turn put legislative pressure on business who thrive on massive CO2 generation. Are there any politicians in NQ who are committed to making a stand against 'global warming'? Let's help them, let's support anti-logging and environmental protection movements - and let's plant lots of trees! It's our planet and we must protect it.
Pat
 
chasmac
November 7th 2006
Wouldn't it be terrific if developers and home owners, builders/designers etc. got it in their heads that there is a connection between putting air conditioners in houses (and units and hotel rooms and schools and offices) and the march to its death of the living Great Barrier Reef.
Each summer day as the reef water temp rises above that which many, many coral species can survive, people in their houses on shore turn on the air conditioning and consume some more electricity which, having been derived mainly from burning coal, means the atmosphere cops some more CO2 and the resulting greenhouse effect means that seawater gets a little bit warmer - and more deadly for corals.
Nasty equation eh? Turn on air conditioner = kill more coral reef. Whatever happened to passive cooling via roof insulation, shaded windows and even half clever ventilation? Out the door in an effort to reduce construction costs....so that air conditioners can be installed and cost so much more to run. And when the reef is dead people will still wonder how we did it when we were from the Smart State.


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