David Suzuki Visits Barrie

David Suzuki is on a cross country tour of Canada, giving a series of speeches on climate change.  I was invited to the Barrie event by the local green community, who was hosting the event.  I gave a short 3 minute talk about my project, to demonstrate the art of the possible.

The event was sold out, with 690 in the audience.  Dr. Suzuki is planning on speaking in 50 cities across Canada.  He has remarkable energy, and of course weaves a very interesting and science based talk.
The theme of the tour is “If I was Prime Minister”.  Along the tour, they are preparing a series of videos with audience members, and encouraging people to log on to the tour web site.

He had some real entertaining zingers.  “George Bush Senior was the worst environmental President in history.  Until George W. was elected.  Then he became the second worst.”

“The size of the average home size of Canadians has doubled in the past 30 years.  Meanwhile the average household size has dropped in half.  Why do we need so much space?  To store the stuff we buy.”  And then he asks if we are any happier.

He received 3 standing ovations, and was almost treated like a rock star.  I had the sense he was a little uncomfortable with that.  But I think the audience was applauding the message as well as the man.  There can be little doubt that there a large, growing, and dedicated core of Canadians, who want to do something about climate change.

The local MP for Barrie was in the audience.  He is a Conservative.  I admire him for coming out to an event that is surely not likely to have a lot of love for the Conservatives.  Perhaps he can be influential in advancing policy in a more sustainable direction in the Conservative Party.  I’ve never quite figured out why conservatives seem so often to downplay the importance of the environment, or play it off against the economy.  At the end of the day, all of the economy is entirely dependant on the environment.  All of our food, all of our water, all of our clothes, all of our shelter comes from the environment.  Conserving it, and preserving it, would seem to be a conservative and Conservative value.  But it hasn’t been.

In my talk I marvelled over the groundswell of concern about climate change.  But I pointed out that we were still being told that “We can’t achieve Kyoto”.  “We can’t afford to reduce by 30%.”  “It will wreck the economy.”  My response?

What if John Kennedy, when he heard about the Russian successes in space had said, “We can’t.  There is no way we can get to the moon.”  Or what if Gandhi had said, “There’s no point.  The British will never leave.”  Or if Winston Churchill, seeing the power and strength of the Nazi war machine had said, “We can’t ever win.  We might as well surrender.”  The world would have been a very different place.  Why are our politicians so afraid to confront the big issue of our day, and in a serious way.
It was a good day, but perhaps most of all because I hosted by Peter Bursztyn, a local Barrie energy guru and Georgian College instructor for lunch, and by good friends Marty and Carrie for supper.  Marty has been working diligently on his own family’s energy footprint, including home renovation and insulation, and rides a bike to work 8 months a year.  Both are members of Barrie Windcatchers, which is an organization planning on erecting a wind turbine in Barrie in the future.

Things are happening in Barrie.  And my guess is that they are happening in at least 50 cities across Canada.

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