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DIMITRI LASCARIS: And as we approach the federal election, as you know, party leaders are talking more and more about their respective plans for addressing the climate crisis. In your view, is any party that is currently represented in Canada's parliament squarely and sufficiently addressing the need to leave as much of the tar sands in the ground as possible, or do you think that they are all, to varying degrees, skirting this critically important issue?
DAVID SUZUKI: Well, the Greens are the only party that have really embraced this and come up with very strong statements about it. The NDP is flirting with the idea of the Green New Deal and the job creation part of turning away from fossil fuels, which we have to talk about. But actually embracing the notion that because we know there's potential oil and revenue there we can't just leave it in the ground is certainly anathema to not only the conservatives but the Liberal Party as well. And again, Mr. Trudeau said this before or after he approved the pipeline-I can't remember when-but he said, "No country would leave that amount of oil in the ground." And yet, if we take the science seriously and we say that we have to reduce energy use by 6 percent a year, we have to be off fossil fuels by 2050, it doesn't make sense then that we're still looking for more, that we're still saying, "Oh, the Arctic ice is going away, we can look for oil up there." We've got to shut it down. 80 to 85 percent of our known reserves have to be left in the ground. And I would think the first thing you do is leave the most carbon intensive source of oil in the ground first. That's where we've got to start.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And finally, Dr. Suzuki, you travel around the country, you talk to Canadians all the time about environmental issues and the climate crisis in particular. Do you sense, in your personal conversations with people at the grassroots level, that there is a dramatic change in Canadians' level of concern about this issue, and how do you think concerned Canadians should try to make a difference in the upcoming electoral campaign in terms of dealing effectively with climate change?
DAVID SUZUKI: Well, I'm asked this all the time, "What can I do?" There's certainly no question Canadians, unlike their American neighbors, Canadians have been aware of climate and taken it very seriously. In British Columbia, we lost-I don't know-tens of billions of dollars of pine trees because of the mountain pine beetle that is no longer controlled by cold temperatures in the winter. And they have exploded and destroyed a vast area, and now those beetles have been blown across the Rocky Mountains and are into the boreal forest in Alberta, and that will spread right across the country. We know in Canada, especially from the Inuit, who for over 30 years have been telling us that something is happening up in the Arctic. We've known, and Canadians know, that whether or not Canadians are ready to embrace the really hard decisions is the question, because it's going to cost money. And indications are yes, people understand we're going to have to make big cuts, and yes, we're going to have to pay for that. But if it's going to come to more than 100 bucks, no, not really willing to do that.
Even among environmentalists, many people seem to think, well, if you get an electric car, if you substitute the LED lights, we're going to be able to live pretty well the same way. No, we will not. The economy is already the driving force of our destructiveness. It is way too big. We're going to have to live much more lightly on the planet. And that means every year we're not going to be able to find new editions of our iPhones or our iPads or our laptop computers. It means that we're not going to be able to buy clothing that's in fashion every month. The clothing industry and fashion is one of the most destructive activities. We're simply-we've got too heavy a footprint on the planet, and that's got to be met. When I say we can't go on living the way we're living now, people immediately say, "Oh, are we going to have to go back to living in caves? Are we going to have to grow all our own food and make our own clothes? And I say, "No, but how about 1945? When the war was over and we were going into a period of prosperity, I was a child in 1945 or 1950, how about that? We had telephones, we had cars, television was coming in."
I mean, the idea that in order to reduce our impact we're going to have to go back to living in caves is absurd. We're way beyond the ability of the planet to sustain us. And you have to say if you go to a big box store like Wal-Mart-I was raised by parents who were married during the Great Depression. They always said "Live within your means. You have to work hard for money to buy the necessities in life, but you don't run after money to buy more stuff." Go to a big box store and ask yourself, "Wow, all the stuff we can choose," how much is what you'd consider a necessity? Not just a necessity to keep you alive, but a necessity to give us a good quality of life. And my bet is the vast bulk of all that stuff, which is a product of an economy that is based on consumption, the vast majority of stuff would never be called a necessity. But we've got into this idea that "I just want to look good," or "I want the latest thing."
You know, I like to tell people, my family was impoverished after the Second World War. We lost everything because we were Canadians of Japanese origin. We lost all our stuff, shipped to a camp, and kicked out of British Columbia at the end of the war. And all my life, I've worn blue jeans. Why? Because denim wears like iron. And now I look at kids buying blue jeans costing hundreds of dollars that are already ripped. I don't think it looks good, but I guess they think it's fashionable and looks good. But what is the message in that purchase? It's saying, "I don't really care about the planet. I just want to look a certain way. I'm buying this stuff, but it doesn't matter to me that it wears like iron, that it's durable, because I'm going to toss it out when I'm done with it or when the fashions change." That's the kind of species we have become. And we've got to think very hard about that now as we look at the trinkets that are occupying us.
When the IPCC target came out in October last year, the next day in Canada, marijuana became legal and pushed everything out of the news. Like, that was it, where the IPCC report was one day wonder. Then in May of this year, the United Nations released a massive study by scientists that showed humans are causing a massive extinction crisis, that a million species of plants and animals are now in danger. The next day after it came out, Harry and Meghan had a baby. And guess what? It pushed everything out of the news, out of the media. What the heck kind of a species are we? We boast that we're intelligent, but we're totally preoccupied by these-I don't know what it is-diversions. You know, sports, celebrity. If we could rally Canadians the way Canadians rallied around the Raptors when they won the NBA championship, to have a rally like that for a climate, think of the enormous potential of that. But no, we're too distracted and we're really not focused in the right way.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And certainly, if we defined intelligence as sustainability, our species would certainly rank very low in intelligence. But I thank you very much today for joining us, Dr. Suzuki. We've been talking with Dr. David Suzuki about the Canadian Parliament's recent declaration of climate emergency and the subsequent approval of a Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by the Trudeau government. And this is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News.