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REPORTING · 27th June 2015
Walter McFarlane
Dr. David Suzuki was in Kitimat on Tuesday, June the 9th as a part of an ongoing series of presentations entitled: Connecting Coastal Communities.

Hereditary Chief, Sammy Robinson was present to welcome Suzuki to Haisla Territory. He spoke against the Enbridge, Northern Gateway Project and asked the people who were gathered to stand with the Kitamaat Village to keep the oil away from Kitimat. He stated if there was a spill, it would be caused by human error.

He was followed by Chief Councillor Ellis Ross. “These topics about Climate Change, both locally, regionally, provincially, nationally, world-wide are complicated topics. There’s no one true fix for all of it. The problem with it is that the Haisla have been thrust into the middle of it, and being asked to answer it, which is very unfair,” said Ross.

He stated all the decisions which were made in their territory, about their territory, were made without the input of the Haisla People. They deal with poverty, cancer and environment issues. Now, they look at every permit and do what they can to mitigate the impacts.

Ross explained he has traveled the world: “They are not going to get off crude oil, they are not going to get off diesel, they are not going to get off coal, because a billion people over there want the same standard of living that you have in Canada, and I’m talking about Indians as well. They want the same standard. They want to own a house, they want to own a car, they are not going to stop their thirst for energy.”

He expressed his people are getting tired of being left out while everyone else moves on. They want to do what’s best for everyone, but not at the expense of their people.

Suzuki thanked the Haisla Nation for taking good care of the Kitimat Valley. He expressed he was speaking on his own behalf, rather than on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation, as a Grandfather and as an Elder.

“We are at a critical moment in human history,” said Suzuki. “I believe that what we do or do not do in the next few years will determine whether we survive as a species by the end of this century.”

He explained many of his colleagues are saying it is too late; the human race has passed too many tipping points. One scientist in the United Kingdom, Sir Martin Rees, sets our chances at 50/50, while James Lovelock argues 90% of humanity will be gone by the end of the century. However, Suzuki argues there is not enough evidence to say it is too late, but the human race must be ready to operate with a sense of urgency. He added we need to have hope.

Suzuki stated scientists have tracked human movement over the planet through time and discovered all the trails led back to Africa. As the human race migrated and adapted to new ecosystems, we became an invasive species and animals became extinct.

“At some point, as we began to use these things more and more, people must have realised, ‘we’re running out of them,’” said Suzuki. “Then there was a choice, ‘what do we have to do now? As we run out those things that attracted us here. Either we move on, looking for new opportunities elsewhere’ or some people would have said: ‘look, this is our home, we like it here we’re staying.’ And they had to learn then to adapt and live in a more balanced way with the animals and plants they found in that area.”

He stated there are two ideologies at work in Canada: the First Nation Ideology that the land is sacred, and the invasive mindset which sees resources to extract.

Suzuki explained the impact on the biosphere comes from an unprecedented population explosion, the technology which has led to globalization has also aided in resource extraction increasing our ecological impact, and the consumerism which is items extracted from the earth and when we are done with them, they go back in.

He shared the lessons his parents taught him. “They taught us over and over, live within your means, save some for tomorrow, share, don’t be greedy, help your neighbours, you may one day need their help, you have to work hard to make money to buy the necessities in life, but you don’t run after fancy clothes and big cars as if that stuff somehow made you more important, or a better person,” said Suzuki.

He expressed most of the things we see in big stores, like Walmart, are not necessities, but things we want. The global economy serves the desire for stuff and uses the planet to dump its waste.

“We are now altering the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. Scientists call it the Anthropogenic Epoch, a period in geological time when the major force shaping the properties of the planet is us. This is the age of human beings,” said Suzuki. “But in the process of applying this immense pressure on the planet, we are undermining the very things that keep us alive. The Air, the water, the soil, the energy and the diversity of living things.”

He pointed out that that value of a piece of land, such as a forest, in the eyes of the economy depends on what it could be harvested for. All the things which the forest does by itself, which maintains the lives around it or keeps things intact, are externalities, irrelevant in an economic discussion.

Suzuki pointed out when there are too many animals in an ecosystem, the population crashes. Humans adapt to ecosystems. We live in the biosphere and only so many humans can live in it. He stated scientists agree we are beyond the carrying capacity of the planet and it is beyond the capacity of the earth for everyone to live like we do in Canada.

Suzuki went over the basic things which people need. People need to breathe air, and polluted air makes them sick. They need clean water; again contaminated water makes people sick. We need food and food which is contaminated makes people sick. He argued we need clean air, clean water, clean soil and clean energy, and if we can agree on it, we can determine how we all make a living.

“The economy isn’t a force of nature; this isn’t the result of some law of nature. We invented the thing. Yet, now, we are elevating this human creation above the very atmosphere that sustains us. This is the problem. We don’t acknowledge what our fundamental needs are, that must be protected above everything else, we just say the economy has to be served, because it is the most important thing in our lives,” said Suzuki.

He argued people cannot force nature to fit their economic agendas and human behavior and creations are the only things we can change. “We can change our behavior, we can change the institutions we’ve created, and we’ve got to do that to make them fit the laws of nature and the world that sustains us. We have to have a different kind of conversation,” concluded Suzuki.

He explained they have started the Blue Dot Tour to begin a movement to attempt to achieve an amendment to the constitution, to make it a constitutional right for a healthy environment for Canadian Citizens.

He asked the people of Kitimat to convince our City Council pass a resolution called Declaration for a Healthy Environment. Sixty-six Municipalities have already passed it. “This is our chance, I believe, to really change the discussion away from the economic one, into one that is truly a sustainable future,” said Suzuki.