David Suzuki, a Canadian scientist, broadcaster, and tireless environmentalist who was recently voted the person Canadians most trust, has a new CBC radio show on Sundays between 11:00 and noon. The 10-part show, The Bottom Line, premiered last week. The first two hours have been fascinating listening. The show describes its goal as:
“Exploring the disconnect between our modern values and the natural world. Environmentalists are often told by politicians and corporate executives that without a strong growing economy we can’t afford to do the kind of things they are demanding, that the economy is the bottom line. This series is a celebration of the earth, the atmosphere, water, soil, and energy of the sun that work in tandem to sustain life on this planet. The true ‘bottom line’.”
The first episode featured discussions between Mr. Suzuki and Jim Prentice, Canada’s Environment Minister while they were in Haida Gwaai marking the expansion of a federal park. Suzuki pushes Prentice on the false dichotomy that still persists in this government’s attitude between the environment and the economy. The old “we can’t do anything about the environment unless we have a strong economy” argument. Suzuki clearly presents the urgency of climate change and environmental degradation, and Prentice doesn’t “get it” at all. His responses to Suzuki’s questions include such platitudes like: “It’s about balance.” “We are taking steps forward.” “We’ve set a goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels.” “I’m proud of the scientists we have at Environment Canada.” “We need technology to address these issues over time.”
Really Mr. Prentice?!The former Chief Economist at the World Bank has said that if the world doesn’t deal in a heroic way to reduce emissions, the consequences of climate change are economically catastrophic. The risk to humanity from climate change is second only to the threat of nuclear war. And yet this is the anemic response Canadians get from our government – “we hope that some technology comes along to save us eventually because we can’t possibly find ways to reduce our emissions, the highest per capita in the world”! Good grief. It’s pathetic.
Anyway, The Bottom Line is worth listening to, just to hear Suzuki and Prentice offer their very different points of view. And Mr. Suzuki is pretty gentle on Mr. Prentice, considering that the Environment Minister’s responses were so inadequate.
Also in the first episode is an interesting interview with Lord Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and author of a report on climate change and economics for the British government. Stern says that the current view that separates the economy and the environment is “a basic analytical and intellectual mistake.” In the future, he asserts, the two will be seen as working together. And in response to David Suzuki’s questions about the lack of urgency in the world’s response to this looming disaster, Stern states that Britain and the rest of Europe know from their experience with two World Wars last century that the inability to cooperate internationally leads to disaster, and hopefully this experience will assist in addressing the problem of climate change:
We’ve got to use the rationality that developed with evolution to anticipate these problems. We’ve got the ability, we’re going to have to use that. If we wait for experience to tell us we’re in trouble it’s going to be almost impossible to get out of it. People need to understand the great dangers, but we need to go beyond that and talk about the great opportunities that we’ll create if we go the sensible route.
“Sensible route”? Sounds good to me! Are you listening, Mr. Prentice and Mr. Harper?
Listen to “The Bottom Line”.
David Suzuki Looks Back With a Hint of Regret. Globe and Mail