Nova Scotia Nature Trust | Nova Scotians Protecting Nova Scotia

Annual Dinner & Silent Auction 1998

Dr. David Suzuki. In addition to commenting on human history, genetics, and a fantastical trip in a time machine, on November 27th Dr. David Suzuki wanted to leave his audience with three very simple facts: Nature works, Nature provides services, and Nature is us. Dr. Suzuki gave his speech to a crowd gathered at a benefit hosted jointly by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. The dinner, held at the Westin in Halifax, included a reception, a silent auction, and a book sale and signing. The contributions of a healthy audience of 405 ticket holders resulted in generous proceeds that will help the Nature Trust with its conservation programs. Dr. Suzuki's message was the focus of the evening, and within it the word "nature" figured prominently.

Nature Works

First, Suzuki emphasized that nature has had 4 billion years to hone itself into this incredible array of interacting organisms. The long term survival and adaptability of species depends upon bio diversity. Suzuki explored how mono culture runs in the opposite direction of evolution, yet still remains the popular method of replanting in forestry, fisheries, and agriculture. The forest industry is proud of its methods of silviculture, and believes its experts can 'manage' nature. Suzuki insisted that this is not so. Forests, and all natural habitats in general, are complex ecosystems that are still poorly understood. We are aware of only a fraction of the species and natural processes that exist, yet at the same time we think our global economies can expand infinitely. Politicians and economists tend to equate success simply with growth. Suzuki cautions that we are mining the natural capital of the earth when we should be living on the interest. We should leave nature to its own devices as much as possible because it is, after 4 billion years, the only expert.

Nature Provides Services

Suzuki points out that humans are no longer the agrarian species they once were. We are now largely urban dwellers with more than half of us living in cities. He says that this transformation to the urban setting has made us a destructive and demanding species and a species that is alienated from its natural environment. Suzuki reflected on how many people actually ask him, "Who needs nature?" In our cement worlds, it is easy to forget that life itself depends on nature. Economists speak of nature as an externality, but what if we internalized nature? What would it cost if we were to try to reproduce what nature does for free? What would it cost to pollinate plants or filter our water or prevent erosion? Quoting an American scientific study, Suzuki said it would cost at least 33 trillion dollars to replace what nature gives to us freely.

Nature is Us

Suzuki stated, "We literally are the Earth. We are nature itself." The fundamental building blocks of the universe are earth, air, fire, and water and "You and I are earth, air, fire and water." Suzuki insists that he means this statement in a literal way. After all, we are 50% water and, although we may not think about it, we are air itself. We must take 20-40 breaths per minute from the beginning to the end of our existence. Collectively, we are also connected by the air we breath. When we pollute the environment, we pollute ourselves, and things are getting critical. We must redress the imbalance we have created.

Messages concerning the environment are often overwhelming, which often result in feelings of denial in the listener. Dr. Suzuki's presentation this evening was part of a cross country speaking tour "SOS - Save our Species", dedicated to promoting Canadian awareness of the need for legislative action to protect the plants and animals which are threatened with extinction due to human activity. Suzuki's three N's may be basic but considering them in the context of our daily lives will heighten awareness and hopefully result in positive action.

Report by Kristen Craven


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