David Suzuki On Peak Oil  

Posted by Big Gav

In a recent interview, David Suzuki has echoed Chomsky's view of peak oil - it could have a silver lining in terms of the impact we're having on the environment.

Q: With Earth Day here, can we take action to motivate people?

David Suzuki: We're going backwards. After Rachael Carson published "Silent Spring" in 1962, the growth of the environmental movement was immense. She put the environment on the agenda to such an extent that by 1972 we had the first World Environmental Conference in Stockholm.

To me, 1988 was the peak: That was the year Margaret Thatcher was filmed picking up litter in Hyde Park in London, saying, "I'm a greenie too." That was the year a man named George Bush ran for office and said, "If you elect me, I will be an environmental president." So much for election promises -- but that was also the year Canada elevated its minister of the environment into the inner Cabinet. That was the peak, and we've been going down ever since.

Now the economy has become everything. We're told, If the economy is in trouble we can't afford to protect the environment. People feel helpless, because they know we're going in the wrong direction, but they feel there's nothing they can do about the global economy. Ninety-three percent of Canadians believe that nature is absolutely critical to their identity as Canadians, and over 90 percent are willing to have higher taxes in order to protect the environment, and yet our governments dont reflect that.

Q: Do you both feel that governments are failing to act by prioritizing the economy over health and environment?

DS: Yes. I don't know about Japan, but in Canada it's because of the enormous power of the private sector, which funds most political campaigns. So the minute someone gets elected, if they have received major funding from a corporation, you can bet that corporation can call that politician anytime and get straight through. An average person trying to get through will not.

Q: The picture looks bleak. It seems we need to warn people but we also want to encourage them. However, if the message is upbeat then people just think someone else is taking care of it; and if the outlook is fearful they simply tune out. What is the critical tipping point?

DS: Well, that's what you hope, that there is a tipping point. But the reality is that this huge juggernaut of a globalized economy and transnational corporations is hugely powerful -- it's just got so much momentum that it's going to be very, very hard to begin to deflect it.

To me, a hope is that we are going to hit peak oil - and some geologists say we already hit it last year. The business community is now starting to take this very seriously. The first thing to happen would be the big-box stores, like Home Depot and Walmart, collapsing because they are dependent on cheap oil to ship cheap goods. Also, in the suburbs of Canada we have these gigantic homes with two or three people in them, and the heating and cooling bills are enormous, and they depend on cars. But the big thing is food. In Canada, food travels an average of 5,000 miles (8,000 km) from where it's grown to where it's eaten. This can't go on. The impact of [fossil fuel depletion] is going to create enormous suffering, no doubt about it.

CW Nicol: Have you been to China recently? I was there a month ago and the activity was frenetic. You may think Tokyo's air is bad, but there I got rashes all over my body. And this may be too simple, but this anti-Japanese hysteria is not just about textbooks. It's about that contested border on the South China Sea and who gets the natural gas, who gets the energy.

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