host Dave Miller: Thank you, your Holiness. It’s a perfect framework for the rest of our conversation. Talking about behavior and responsibility, talking about science, talking about population and growth, about gap between rich and poor, about global connections. All themes that I think we can return to as we go in this conversation.
One theme that you mentioned is, ‘This is It’. This is our only home. We’re not going to go to the moon.
David Suzuki, when you look at how we are doing on our one chance, one place we can live, what’s your assessment?
David Suzuki: Well, there are a lot of people I have a great deal of respect for in the world, who are saying, ‘We’ve passed too many tipping points to go back.’ The announcement of 400 parts per million — absolutely catastrophic. Clyde Hamilton, an eco-philospher from Australia, I have a great deal of respect for, has written a book called ‘Requiem for a Species’. And guess what species it’s a requiem for? I don’t see the point though, of saying it’s too late. We’re going to struggle and work right to the end. But I think the challenge we face is the one His Holiness is pointing out. We act through the lenses of the way we see the world. And, I believe, that the great challenge is, that very recently we acquired the sense that we are in control. We’ve lost the sense of what our real home is. Somehow we’ve removed ourselves from Nature, which is the source of everything that matters to us. We have to re-insert ourselves back into the world, see the exquisite interconnectivity of everything, and get on with protecting the natural world and bringing our own behavior back into balance.
host Dave Miller: Where do you see that disconnect? Where do you see that we’ve cut ourselves off from the natural world?
David Suzuki: For 99 percent of our existence, we knew that we were deeply embedded in and utterly dependent on Nature. Nature was the source of everything that we needed to survive and flourish.
For 95 percent of our existence, we were nomadic hunter-gatherers; we followed animals and plants wherever they were in the seasons.
In the last ten thousand years we became farmers. In 1900, when there were a billion and a half people in the world, the vast majority of us lived in rural village communities, because we were farmers. And farmers know that weather, climate, the seasons fundamentally affect our ability to survive and flourish. They know that insects are necessary to pollinate flowering plants. They understand that certain plants can create fertilizer in the soil by fixing nitrogen. Farmers understand: we are embedded in Nature.
But I believe we went through this huge shift in a hundred years, from agricultural village-living animals to big city dwellers. And in a big city, our highest priority becomes, as long as there are parks out there where we can go and play and camp, in the city our highest priority becomes our jobs. Because we need jobs to earn the money to buy the things that we want. And so the economy becomes our highest priority. And so you see it in spades in Canada, where the Prime Minister of Canada says, “we cannot afford to do what His Holiness tells us to do, which is to begin to reduce our geenhouse gas emissions, because it will destroy the economy.”
host Dave Miller: …and Canada clearly is not alone in that. Many western nations say the exact same thing.
David Suzuki: So we elevate the economy above the very atmosphere that sustains us. So, if that’s the case, we’ve somehow lost our sense of what are the really important things that keep us alive.