David Suzuki appeared on Bill Moyer's PBS television show yesterday, once again offering what he himself termed an "apocalyptic" vision of a dystopian future, if more remedial action is not taken by the world's carbon emitting countries on global warming and climate change.
His only hope is that humans change their view of nature from abusing her to supporting and collaborating with her. In his view, nature is necessary to support all life, including human life, and that when we dump tonnes of pollutants into the atmosphere, we are all paying a very heavy price.
As for the economic argument that resisters use to push back against measures like a carbon tax, Suzuki again almost shouts, "We created the economy, and if the damn thing is not working then we can change it!" The economy, as opposed to physics, chemistry, biology, is a human invention, and not something given by nature and should not be used as an argument to oppose strong measures to combat our outright attack on our own ecosphere.
As for the argument that Suzuki is using an apocalyptic position, one that psychologists have demonstrated is not effective in changing human attitudes, he responds that his hope lies in the belief that nature will support all our efforts to curb our emissions. And he points to countries like Sweden that has already cut 1992 level emissions by 8%, while growing its economy, as his way of demonstrating that growing the economy and creating jobs is not incompatible with taking serious steps to protect and preserve the ecosystem.
Scathing in his criticism of the Canadian government of Stephen Harper, Suzuki says that Harper is attempting to create a "petro-state" in this country, with his unqualified support for the Alberta oil sands energy project, and its need for pipelines to the west coast and to Texas, in order to sell the heavy crude that is being extracted from the ground in northern Alberta.
However, in his strong attempt to link the United States to participation in the environmental movement, Suzuki uses the "moon" project outlined by President John F. Kennedy, following the Russian launch of Sputnik, in 1957. What seems missing in our assessment of Suzuki's use of this analogy is that, different from the threat of losing to the Russians following their successful launch, the Americans do not have an "opponent" with whom to compete on the environment, as they then saw Russia. It is in competing with an external, extrinsic opponent, that the Americans can and will give an all-out effort verging on a national crisis response, to a situation that pictures a victory over an opponent.
The environment, however, is an abstract and universal and unnamed opponent, one shared by all countries and all peoples around the world, so that "winning" does not have the same kind of psychological appeal and motivation for the United States. And, coming out of two wars, and a serious economic crisis, the Americans are concentrating on their short-term goals of putting people back to work. Also, ironically, while the process of innovation is critical to the business of generating new ventures and through them new jobs, the political process in the United States is so mired, even drowning some would argue, in loose and free-flowing cash for the people who have been elected, that their willingness to put the national interests ahead of their own personal ambitions for the luxuries of a lifestyle that emulates the "rich and the famous" is literally non-existent.
And so, along with Suzuki, we wait and watch as the White House attempts to stimulate interest in and a demand for political action on the global warming and climate change front...all the while wondering what kind of prodding it will take to wake the stubborn beast that is the American political culture to the impending threats of global warming and climate change...and wring our hands in hope of a change in government in Ottawa that will bring attention to the need to spend public money to reduce Canada's dependence on fossil fuels.
And we all know that there are jobs by the millions in new technologies and in concerted attempts to grow the economy through addressing the threat to the environment, and for that we can all thank a lifetime of activism by Dr. David Suzuki, named by his father after David the Goliath slayer of the Old Testament, who has certainly lived up to his father's expectations.