Thursday, September 26, 2013

Crow salutes David Suzuki

Just a few days ago our friend David Suzuki gave a speech in Australia at the University of New South Wales in which he charged the new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, other climate change denying politicians and the ultra rich with 'criminal negligence' for their willful blindness.

"Environmentalism is a way of seeing our place within the biosphere. That’s what the battles were fought over. The barbarians – that is, many of the politicians and corporate executives that environmentalists have been fighting all these years – are driven by a totally different set of values, by the drive for profit, for growth and for power."

Later in an interview he was asked, "David, you've urged, at least twice, that legal ways should be found to jail politicians for denying what you call the science of climate change. David, do you still hold that view?"

Suzuki responded:

"You bet. I think there is a category called willful blindness. Our problem is we have no means of holding our so-called leaders - people we elect to political office to lead us into the future - we have no way to keep them accountable, except booting them out of office. But the reverberations of what they do or do not do today are rippling far beyond the coming years. There will be generational impacts. Now, if you have people who stand up to take positions of leadership and they deliberately suppress or ignore information vital to making an informed decision, I think that's willful blindness, and willful blindness, I understand, is a legal entity that you can sue people for."

Suzuki added, "I think it’s a crazy, dangerous situation if we’re going to marginalize science in favor of political priorities. I think that’s very, very dangerous."

Crow and I agree on behalf of all of those who will inherit this fine planet.


  1. Jail those who disagree with scientists? Are scientists to be considered superior in humanity and integrity to politicians and industrialists? Each of us can be high-minded or greedy and self-serving. It’s taking long enough to get rid of superstitious respect for priesthoods. Don’t let scientists fill the vacuum and start dictating how we shall all behave, as if they are more to be trusted than anyone else.

    As for wilful blindness, we’re all at risk of it daily, for it’s built into human nature. It’s just another term for prejudice. No one is more liable to it than fundamentalists, activists and those who want to suppress freedom of thought or speech with threats of jail.

    From what I read, I have doubts about Dr Suzuki; and believe that James Lovelock (Gaia theory) has a wiser approach.

    1. Although David Suzuki's suggestion that those in positions of power be charged with willful ignorance may sound shocking, I believe that what he's really expressing is the frustration so many of us feel about seeing the Earth being used as an endless supply cupboard/garbage dump. Science is clear on the subject of climate change (the recent IPCC report concludes with at least 95 percent certainty that human activities have caused most of Earth’s temperature rise since 1950, and will continue to do so in the future) - so to deny it, to submerge it in a flood of disinformation, is a deliberate act of malfeasance and immorality.

      Yes, scientists are as capable of being self-serving and greedy as any of the rest of us but there is such a thing as scientific method insofar as making accurate judgements about cause and effect that simply aren't being taken seriously by those in positions of power. Stephen Harper, our Canadian Prime Minister has forbidden scientists who want to speak about almost everything, but especially climate change. He has even proposed legislation that would make environmental activism a form of terrorism.

      I've always had a lot of respect for James Lovelock's theories myself and don't expect he and David Suzuki would be in disagreement about global climate change being a serious problem facing all of us. While the departments of major corporations fight for their own budgets and recognition, and the various agencies of government act similarly, we find that the whole is being sacrificed for the sake of the parts - even to the point of destroying the parts because we can't recognize the whole. This way of being is the definition of profound ignorance and is why so many indigenous societies see modern, industrialized culture as fundamentally stupid.

  2. I agree wiht you and Crow! Dr. Suzuki is a hero in Canada and beyond; his voice is so very important today while Canada is being pushed into a petrostate by our willfully blind PM.

    1. Thanks, Marja-leena. If nothing is done it will be worse than if somehing else continues to be done. Eventually, we as a civilization will wake up to the catastrophe we are unleashing and will (hopefully) act accordingly. Until that time any positive action is a step in the right direction. David Suzuki is correct in speaking his mind.

  3. The drive for profit and power (better known as crony capitalism) is wrecking the planet for sure. I agree with Suzuki that too many politicians are criminally negligent and it will be the younger generations who will pay for this.

    1. What's most tragic about the current tendency of crony capitalists is they expect today's profits to be replicated tomorrow. Meanwhile, the planet and all its species suffer the consequences.

  4. Lovelock would not disagree with other scientists that the accelerated global climate change is the result of human behaviour. Where he differs is in what we can do about it. He was possibly the first scientist to discover the dangers and warn about them, in the 1960s. He’s made it his life’s work.

    Where he differs from some others is in the prognosis, and the analysis of what we can do about it now. He says it’s too late to stop the catastrophe. The conditions underlying climate change have been accumulating since the Industrial Revolution. Nothing can reverse them now. The proposals being put forward to change human behaviour—such as reducing carbon emissions—won’t reverse the damage already caused.

    To use an analogy, when the illness is terminal, further medical intervention may simply increase the patient’s discomfort. A time is reached where palliative care is indicated, and that time is now. Lovelock predicts mass death from starvation, disease and war, as a consequence of what the human species has done to the environment in two centuries. He says that we should now prepare ourselves as best we can.

    To back this up here’s a link to an interview with Lovelock in 2010. I published it on my blog, after transcribing it from the radio. (The BBC did not offer their own transcript.)


    If Lovelock is right, then the latest findings of the IPCC provide no justification for a witch-hunt against the deniers. The scientists have done their job. It’s now the job of politicians, industrialists and all of us to prepare for the future in a dignified way: the future of our offspring, our species and Earth.

    To quote:
    Lovelock: . . . if it does really warm up as badly as I’ve said in that book, and it might well do, then we’ll be lucky if there’s a billion left. And that’s a lot—

    Humphrys: So in other words, seven out of eight will die—

    Lovelock: Well, something like that—if it happens. Yes.

  5. However, I'll grant you that Lovelock would agree that the deniers are a nuisance. I quote the following from the blurb on the book's cover:

    “Our wish to continue business as usual will probably prevent us from saving ourselves," says Lovelock, so we must adapt as best we can and ensure that enough of us survive to allow a more capable species to evolve from us.

    All the same, it's a partisan delusion to put the blame on politicians, big corporations or other hate-figures. “Our wish to continue business as usual” is our collective wish as the human race. We're in this together: the powerless many and the less powerless minority who lead.

    1. Hi Vincent,
      I've read the transcript you posted of James Lovelock's interview in 2010 which is pretty similar to one I've read previously. He has indeed worked long and hard trying to convince people that the climate situation is dire but few enough have listened; at least those in positions to effect change certainly haven't found his views convenient for their own plans. It's a crazy world that has only grown stranger with the passing decades since I arrived at the age of reason.

      I'm certainly not suggesting a witch hunt and neither I'd guess is David Suzuki. I'm not sure that's a good analogy either since most of those who were victims of the real witch hunts were poor women who knew a little herbal medicine or were people who owned property that was coveted by others. The people in charge of the big decisions these days are often more like the witch hunters of old and they are certainly far from weak. Even if one were inclined to poke them with a pitchfork you'd never even get close enough for a tiny jab.

      James Lovelock suggests all we can do is give up and go gracefully. When one who is past ninety and has worked so hard with so little result that likely seems a reasonable enough proposition. Yet when I think of all the money and energy that has been wasted these past few decades on wars of choice and useless gadgets I feel sick. Things could still be done to ameliorate the situation we face now but I too doubt any of that will happen. It's true that the carbon already in the atmosphere will take hundreds of years to dissipate even if the levels used were cut to zero tomorrow.

      I'm not sure what politicians and industrialists you're referring to when you say they must prepare for the future in a dignified way. Most of the ones I read about every day do not have the sagacity or dignity of James Lovelock, David Suzuki or even yourself. Perhaps the craziness can't be stopped but in the meantime it's okay for us to rage a little about the dying of the light while we use less, plant our gardens in what little land we can call our own and wish with all our hearts that our leaders were able to be the good examples they ought to be.

      Gaia deserves better than we have given back to her. The mystery is that she still seems to love all of us who are lucky enough to have experienced her bounty.
      Best wishes,

  6. Hi Susan,
    James Lovelock, has admitted to being an “alarmist” over climate change and is quoted as saying environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.
    Lovelock, now confirms global warming it’s not happening as quickly as he once feared.
    Here are some of his recent quotes {“The problem is we don't know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened;" "The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now," he is quoted as saying. The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time ... it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising - carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that", he added.)

    However I think the reason surface temperatures has not risen over the past 15 years or so has been reasonably established as due to increased absorption by the oceans.

    What I think this tells us is that climatology is a very complicated business, but there’s still time to take action sufficient to mitigate against even the worst case scenarios.

    However I don’t think there is any doubt the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels is adding to atmospheric carbon dioxide to the extent ultimately is left unchecked the planet will suffer catastrophic consequences from global warming. However, carbon dioxide or carbon as it is commonly referred is a colourless and odourless gas not to be confused with smog pollution and its immediate harmful effects. Both are significant challenges yet to engender coherent policy responses.

    Suzuki, under pressure from a climatologist who disagreed with him in his audience (but who was also influenced by him to take on science in their youth) admitted that he is not a climatologist, so that he sees himself simply as an advocate for clean air, water and soil in order that we survive as a species. Who could argue with that !.
    But I think this quote may be taken out of context since it was in response to a more general question from the audience.
    The carbon abatement plans for the newly elected Abbott government involve a direct action plan in lieu of a trading scheme, which is at odds with most economist’s views favouring a market based approach.

    Lovely drawing as usual !!
    Best wishes

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      It's always nice to see you've been by to visit and I very much appreciate your input about James Lovelock's mild revisions to his original theory about climate change. Yes, it turns out the oceans have been able to absorb more CO² than was earlier thought possible but that will end sometime - we just don't know when.

      Meanwhile, the new IPCC report will be bound to cause anxiety about the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. The current green-energy technologies still cost far too much and produce far too little to replace existing energy sources. To insist on buying these expensive non-solutions is to put the cart before the horse. What we need is investment in research and development to reduce green energy’s cost and boost its scale. When solar and other green technologies can take over cheaply, we will have addressed global warming—without the angst.

      Thanks too for the background on David Suzuki's remarks on his recent visit to Australia. His advocacy for clean air, water and soil is indeed inarguable. If your new PM is actually intending to use other methods for lessening the country's carbon footprint then that sounds good enough to me. He could then provide a good example for our own PM who acts like the sovereign of a petro state with his 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' attitude.

      I'm delighted you like the picture.
      All the best

  7. I sometimes wonder what my children's and grand children's world will be like, after I am gone. It's for them that I recycle, and grow my own veggies, and make green lifestyle choices..... Despite the fact that they seem to see little value in those things. My voice hasn't the authority or the audience of your friend David's, so I seldom speak on the subject, hoping that actions speak

    1. You're providing the best gift imaginable for yours and everyone's children and grandchildren. I know they likely aren't appreciative yet but that's what kids are like, isn't it? One day they will understand.

  8. Beautiful, though terribly sad, drawing. We are supposed to have record-breaking (for the date) rain/wind this weekend. I am not looking forward to it one bit. Wish I had wings like Crow to get away.

    Topically, I was considering the plight of future generations tonight while daydreaming at the kitchen sink, and wondering how it is that the rich do not choose to take it upon themselves if not to lead for change at least to throw bundles of funds toward the effort to save this planet.

    1. I'm glad you liked the drawing, Lydia. Heavy rainstorms aren't the norm in Portland at this time of the year, are they? I hope the forecasters were wrong.

      I worry about the future generations as well. It seems the ultra-rich are more interested in the things money can still buy.

  9. Hi Susan
    Greg Hunt is the incoming Environment Minister in Australia and has a commitment to ratify the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, to ensure the 5 per cent emission reduction target is achieved .He has additionally confirmed a commitment to continue to fund a market in emission reductions.
    Hence he has a Renewable Energy Target to defend; a very useful infrastructure in the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System; and some teeth through the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act.

    Hopefully he will remembered for significantly reducing emissions beyond these modest reductions and not for axing of climate programs and people. You may be interested to know Tim Flannery's Climate Commission – (The Australian Climate Council) recently scrapped by the Abbott government is to continue given an immediate response by private donors numbering over 6.000. Hence its work in providing updates will continue but now under community funding.

    Hunt has said the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSR are well resourced and will provide him with independent environmental briefings. But he also welcomed the continuance of The Australian Climate Council under Tim Flannery, but claims all of the information available is similarly available to him through the government agencies I mentioned.
    Best wishes

    1. Those sound like positive developments in the face of some major denial and the continuation of neo-liberal, business as usual programs. Climatology is an extremely complex subject but what can't be denied is the fact that so long as our species continues to emit large volumes of carbon into the atmosphere we're actively participating in covering the world with a very large and cozy blanket.

      Along with you I'll hope Greg Hunt and Tim Flannery will be successful in their endeavors.
      Best wishes

  10. Susan, you say

    "I'm not sure what politicians and industrialists you're referring to when you say they must prepare for the future in a dignified way. Most of the ones I read about every day do not have the sagacity or dignity of James Lovelock, David Suzuki or even yourself."

    I didn't say they, I said we. What is undignified, in my view, is to use this issue as an opportunity to throw bricks at an imagined enemy. "Science good, we the powerless people good; politicians bad, industrialists bad."

    You make Suzuki sound like the zealot hero of those who want nothing less than revolution; a view which is hardly refuted by Wikipedia's article on him. He is hardly to be compared with Lovelock: climate change is not his field at all.

    In fact he is apparently ignorant of current scientific analyses. See for example this article.

    So his main thing seems to be accusing people of criminality, based on his activist fervour and of course cheered on by his side.

    I can't help concluding that he debases the argument. Anyone who grabs media attention in this way ought at least to have viable suggestions to make which people can unite around.

    If the world is in danger, and there is something we can do about it, then it's a time for the human race to join forces and act together. It's not a time to accentuate divisions and start a new war of ideologies. We have enough of those already.

    If someone calls me a criminal, they become my enemy. If I have power I will use it to quash their influence. Surely Suzuki's strategy is a crazy one.

    1. It was a bit depressing to read the article you linked to for the simple reason that there was so much venom being directed at David Suzuki in the comments too. I'm not saying he didn't make some slips during the QA but even if he wasn't aware that a lot of the trapped heat is likely sinking into the deep ocean, he certainly has made the point that we must think beyond the next few years and put mechanisms in place to address climate change, which will also address the loss of oil output. That's happening too as the current procedures with mining the tar sands and fracking are only stop gaps.

      It would be a good idea for the world's governments to play it safe and take preventative measures but I doubt they will. I very much appreciate David Suzuki's efforts to educate us about the bigger picture. Here's another quote:

      "But it doesn't have to be bleak. We could have a healthy and prosperous future. "Canada could be seen as a world leader on energy, human rights, and global discourse. The solutions are not radical. They include such reasonable measures as slowing oil sands production, eliminating subsidies to an industry that hardly needs them, increasing royalties, setting up a rainy day fund for the revenues, and encouraging energy conservation and renewable energy development."

      There's no doubt in my mind that David Suzuki is correct in his views.

  11. As on my quest to become the politest blogger in this universe and those yet to discover I do not wish to make one step backwards, and thus will contribute to your most interesting discourse with Vincent by just quoting Karl Popper:
    To attack a man for talking nonsense
    is like finding your mortal enemy
    drowning in a swamp and
    jumping in after him with a knife.

    The peace of the night. :)