Suzuki: 'Absurd' to Let Corporations Profit in Name of 'Saving Planet'

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Guelf Mercury News

Suzuki: 'Absurd' to Let Corporations Profit in Name of 'Saving Planet'

Canada’s most prominent environmentalist says ‘Nature doesn’t care about the economy’

by
Tony Saxon

Suzuki in this undated file photo. “It’s absolutely absurd to make money about saving lives. Crazy,” Suzuki said, in response to comments from fellow panelists at University of Guelph.

GUELPH, Ontario — Allowing economic forces to be a role player in saving the environment is “absurd,” says Canada’s most prominent environmentalist.

David Suzuki made the comment Thursday while participating in a University of Guelph President’s Dialogues panel discussion. The title of the session was: Climate Change: debate, dilemma, death?

“It’s absolutely absurd to make money about saving lives. Crazy,” Suzuki said, in response to comments from other panellists.

Green energy entrepreneur and inventor Sherolyn Vettese and former Yale professor and Zerofootprint founder and chief executive officer Ron Dembo both just expressed that there was a role for the economy and business to play in saving the planet.

That had Suzuki shaking his head.

“We’ve got to leave the corporate sector out of it. It’s already driving us in the wrong direction,” Suzuki said.

He called the economy a “tiny circle.” Yet “we allow our decisions to be driven by the economy. It’s suicidal.”

Suzuki said he is sick and tired of fighting to save the environment because when you fight, there’s a loser. He said different parts of society have to come together as one, not as stakeholders, for such an important goal.

“We’ve got to leave the corporate sector out of it. It’s already driving us in the wrong direction,” Suzuki said.

“We need big solutions and the big solutions have got to be government. The challenge is well beyond what we do in our individual lives.”

Dembo said it is a “pipe dream” to ignore the economy in the environmental equation.

Vettese suggested making green initiatives profitable for the corporate world.

Suzuki found support in panellist Barry Smit, a University of Guelph professor and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“Air, water and soil aren’t economic entities. They’re sacred,” Smit said. “Nature doesn’t care about the economy.”

Started by Summerlee six years ago, the President’s Dialogues are a way of hosting educated discussions on issues of contemporary importance with experts on related but varied areas.

The dialogues are open to the public, with Thursday’s drawing roughly 300 people.

After the panel discussion, questions were taken from the floor, although many of those turned into lengthy comments, not questions.

Paul Kovacs, founder and executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and one of Canada’s leading experts on insurance and climate extremes, liked what Suzuki was saying, he just wasn’t sure it was possible.

“David, I would love to live in a world in which you just described, where nature guides the principals by which we operate. What do you propose we do to move to that world?” Kovacs said.

“That is the big question,” said Suzuki, who admitted half jokingly that he was “a total failure” in creating a better world.

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