David Suzuki: Anti-environmentalists are stuck in the past

Environmentalists won’t be happy until we’re living in caves and scrounging for roots and berries. At least, that’s what I hear over and over again. The people who say this would have you believe that those of us who care about the Earth and its future are neo-primitives who don’t believe in modern ways.

Of course, many people before us developed complex societies over hundreds or thousands of years of cultural evolution, and many developed a far more sophisticated understanding of how their food, energy, and other needs affected the ecosystem they relied on than is typically displayed in our own technological society.

And so, we may have some lessons to learn from our ancestors about our place on this Earth. Many people seem to have forgotten, for example, that we are a part of nature, and not beings that stand outside or above it. Valuing these aspects of traditional societies isn’t about an atavistic wish to return to “primitive” life; it’s about recognizing facets of a more rational way of living.

Most environmentalists I know are looking to the future—a future in which modern and clean technology will help get us out of the environmental and economic jams we’re in. We believe that innovations in areas such as solar, wind, and tidal power—along with advanced ways of thinking about our relationship with nature—will lead us to a more just and sane path than the one we’re on.

Our earliest advances were based on burning wood or dung for fuel. Now we’re still using our Paleolithic trick, burning decayed organic materials in the form of fossil fuels. Isn’t it time we moved on? We are far too numerous—and the impacts of our actions far too great—to keep on acting like cavemen. It seems to me that those who criticize us, the anti-environmentalists, are the ones who want to turn their back on their future so that they can just go on burning stuff.

Our human history is one of change, of coming up with new ideas and new technologies to meet the challenges of allocating resources to growing populations. As environmentalists, we embrace change for the better. But our critics want us to remain stuck in a time that has no future. They reject progress, arguing that we should keep on our destructive way, with outmoded technologies and energy sources.

They reject the research of close to 98 percent of the world’s climate scientists, as well as numerous scientific institutions, that shows humans are contributing to rapidly increasing global average temperatures that threaten our future on this finite planet. Many of those who reject this overwhelming scientific evidence do so out of self-interest. The lucrative fossil fuel industries and their associated lobby groups have invested a lot of time and money into campaigns to stall progress by raising doubt and fear.

These tactics have had an effect. Many people do fear change, and it’s often easier to hold onto what you have—even if you know it isn’t working—than to embrace new ideas. But beyond the scientific predictions, it’s getting more difficult every day to deny the very real and immediate impacts of climate change. Environmental damage from climate change is already killing 300,000 people a year, with an economic impact of $125 billion a year.

A better world for us, our children, and our grandchildren is possible. Just as we’re seeing evidence of the damage caused by climate change today, we’re also seeing innovative ideas being applied to the problems. Many scientists, economists, environmentalists, business people, and citizens are proposing and implementing solutions. Their work is not only offering hope in the face of the catastrophic effects of climate change, it’s also offering hope for faltering economies by ushering in new technologies to replace the jobs and technologies that are becoming obsolete as supplies of polluting fossil fuels become scarce. But the longer we put off fully embracing these solutions the more difficult we will make life for ourselves.

We can continue to burn things until there is nothing left to burn, and we can continue to allow fossil fuel interests to continue to spew pollution into the air without cost, but where will that leave us? Maybe scrounging for roots and berries and huddling in caves for shelter?

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.




Aug 17, 2010 at 6:25pm

Great, "invent" a word by prefixing it with "anti". I would think a Ph.D would be more creative.

Norm Smith

Aug 17, 2010 at 7:52pm

The original temperature records are all doctored up and altered to show fake warming like the discredited "hockey stick" graph. The "raw data" (real temperatures) show no global warming. Google Climategate.

It's all about "scientists" binging on taxpayers $$$ at the global warming money trough. Scare stories produce "funding."

And stop ignoring all the record cold temperatures and the growing glaciers: http://www.iceagenow.com/

And the science is not settled. Read the Oregon Petition.

If the science is really settled why do the global warming scaremongers all have their greedy palms out wanting more research dollars? Why research what is "settled"?

We are already being royally ripped off by Campbell's "carbon taxes". What more do you want dude? How about leaving me some change on payday to feed my family.

Jeff MacLeod

Aug 17, 2010 at 9:36pm

I'm sure everyone knows of climategate. Actually there have been at least 6 different investigations and everyone has been cleared of any wrong doing aside from making their data more public. Nothing is settles in science however global warming as the result of an increase in CO2 concentration is pretty close. The Oregon Petition is has been discredited long ago. Evolution is settled as well yet they still receive research money. And carbon taxes are revenue neutral.

Proofs of warming as the result of increased CO2 concentration abound. Outbound radiation is decreasing at CO2 absorption wavelengths and downward infrared radiation is increasing at those same wavelengths. That stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere are cooling. Human CO2 emissions amount to 30gt a year while the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration amount to 15gt a year or so. Warming based off CO2 is a fact. It is what will occur due to that warming that is in question. Anyone who denies this should open a quantum physics book and start reading.

If you want to know the real science you should visit http://www.realclimate.com or http://www.skepticalscience.com as opposed to the link listed above.

anti must include scumlink

Aug 17, 2010 at 10:11pm

TransLink is stuck in the past and likes to operate diesel buses on trolley bus routes to save 10 cents per rider and spends 10 cents per rider to cover interest charges on the RAV Line. Time to start firing the scum running TransLink.


Aug 17, 2010 at 11:47pm

Quick now, everyone give your cash to Goldman Sachs & Al Gore, it's the only way to save the baby polar bears!

Bicycles, global taxes and clandestine depopulation agendas give Gaia multiple orgasms! Anyone who disagrees is working for oil companies!

Ignorance is strength! No one is illegal! Freedom is slavery! Social change!

Dave Henderson

Aug 18, 2010 at 7:11am

My problem with the enviromentalist position is quite simple. Seventy percent of atmospheric carbon is from coal burning power generation. No one in the enviromental community will say anything positive about nuclear power though. The other think that no enviromentalist will ever say is that there are too many people on the planet. It is hard to take seriously the views of a group who claim to want to save us from ourselves but cannot bring themselves to gore one of their sacred oxen (NO NUKES NO NUKES) or say the hard things that must be said. If doctor Suziki is right about the path we are on then why doesn't he advocate for concrete steps to reward members of society who choose not to have children. I'm sure the planet will take care of the excess human population but if we do it voluntarily there will be a lot less pain.
Finally this notion of windmills and tidal power is great but we have an enormous capacity as a species to take things too far. There must be a point (tipping point?) at which we have built so many windmills that we are taking too much energy out of the atmosphere and that effects climate. The same may be true of projects that seek to put solar panels in the desert. That energy is going into the ground and what effect does that have. If you think that is impossible then remember that in the 1920s no one on the coast here believed that man would ever be able to cut down all the trees no matter how hard we tried. The invention of the chainsaw changed all of that.
The real problem with the enviromental movement is the unwillingness to take on the hardest issue, that of burgeoning human population, anything else is just fiddling while Rome burns, it might feel good but it won't do any good.

glen p robbins

Aug 18, 2010 at 9:02am

I suspect that many Doubters from the public pool are slowly beginning to move to accept there is a problem-------the soccer moms (who can be a crowd of Catskillian proportions) if they aren't onside are moving there.

The 'non lefties' hold back because they are afraid----and their fears are more easily quashed by denials---others rationalize the movement as ideological left wing---or sense its part of some world order conspiracy---fear does funny things to people.

Religious types are concerned that supporting global warming (as man made) will negate their longstanding theories that these are consequences of prophesy.

Ultimately, the important arguments of science---get set aside by good people----until they begin to think about the earth in a good (God/non denominational religious) sense------and their obligation and responsibility to others--particulary their children----grandchildren---in part because their children believe there are problems--and tell their parents so. (Humanism)

Also -- older citizens who may be able to relax more (financially) are fast becoming supporters----as they think of legacy.

I believe the people -- for whatever reason - who haven't 'made a decision' on this subject are moving in larger numbers in support of the global warming advocates---and do so less because of the arguments by the experts--and more on community exchange including family discussions.

When the distractions of economic recession---lessen----I expect the number of citizens who are in support of a more grand plan to deal with global warming will have increased ahead of what they were prior to the 'recession'------the issue is: Will some governments and big business continue to try to stall the inevitable for their own financial benefit?

Ken Barth

Aug 18, 2010 at 11:04am

Why bother when Stephen Hawking says humans need to move to another planet?

The race to trash and pillage the Earth is on!

Oh and many of the ENGO directrors have more than one home-they definitley do not want to live in Caves!


Aug 18, 2010 at 11:27am

The charge that climate scientists are only arguing that global temperatures are warming at an unprecedented rate because they get more research dollars demonstrate how feeble and desparate the carbon energy sector--whom these arguments are supported by--are becoming.

Deniers are financially supported by companies who comprise the, by far and away, most lucrative on the planet, and yet their science does not hold up to scrutiny.

the kgv

Aug 18, 2010 at 11:32am

We get your point Mr. Suzuki. Everybody who disagrees with you and your environmentalist friends' opinions are knuckle dragging neanderthals who don't have enough intelligence to get out of the rain to stay dry. I don't have any problem with that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, correct or otherwise. One thing I do have a problem with is, your statement in the second paragraph of your article, and I quote.

"Of course, many people before us developed complex societies over hundreds or thousands of years of cultural evolution, and many developed a far more sophisticated understanding of how their food, energy, and other needs affected the ecosystem they relied on than is typically displayed in our own technological society."

When you make a statement like that, you should have specific examples to back it up, otherwise, it really doesn't mean a whole lot. I'll give you an example.

Studies into many ancient civilizations have shown that there is no need to worry about the long term effects of modern civilization on the environment, the world is going to end on Dec 21, 2012.

Here, I've made a statement which many people believe and many people do not. What does it mean? Without anything to back it up, absolutely nothing. It's just an statement, which you can choose to agree or disagree with. Don't worry, I won't demean your intelligence if you disagree. I'll leave that to people like Mr. David Suzuki and co.