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Canadian legend discusses environmentalism

Photo of David Suzuki via Flickr.

David Suzuki presented a lecture in front of more than a thousand students at John Abbott College in honour of the official inauguration of the new science building Wednesday.

The college cancelled classes to allow students to watch the speech, entitled The Challenge of the 21st Century: Setting the Real Bottom Line. The lecture was also available through a live webcast to more than 13,000 high school students as far away as Gaspé.

Throughout the lecture, Suzuki imparted his wisdom to the attendees.

“The planet is not in trouble,” he said. “The planet will be just fine, with or without us. We’re the ones who are in trouble.”

Suzuki said he often gets asked how the planet can be saved but expressed it was not the planet that needed saving, but the people inhabiting it.

“Environmentalism is not a speciality, it’s not a discipline,” he explained. “Environmentalism is a way of seeing our place on the planet.”

Suzuki referred to himself as an “elder” and shared his belief that it is up to elders to pass wisdom onto the next generation but that it is up to the youth to take action.

Suzuki told the students the most important difference they can make is to see the world through an environmentalist’s eyes.

Suzuki emphasized that wealth was not defined by money, but, as his father said, relationships are what constitute prosperity. He went onto explain that the last weeks of his father’s life were some of the happiest they shared.

John Abbott student Jeremy Pizzi said that while he didn’t learn anything new, the lecture was still enlightening. Pizzi found the most effective part of Suzuki’s lecture was when he held up the 1992 document World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in which leading scientists warned against the impact of environmental destruction and global warming.

“If not checked, current practices put at serious risk the future we wish for a human society,” read Suzuki. “No more than one or a few decades remain.”

John Abbott College inaugurated their new science and technology building after the presentation. The building is heated with geothermal technology and the college is hoping it will be certified gold in the Leadership in Environment and Energy Design, a ranking system for eco-friendly buildings.

Suzuki finished by speaking about the economic market as a major factor in the environmental debate today. “If it’s not working we can change the market, we can’t change the laws of nature but we can sure as hell change the things that we invent.” 

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