We Screwed Up: Humans As Invasive Species

Photo: Bruno Da Costa

Photo: Bruno Da Costa

On October 18, the 17th annual Planet In Focus film festival began at the University of Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. To commemorate another year of intriguing documentaries highlighting the diverse nature of our planet and the looming threats to its well-being, the Eco Hero Award was given to David Suzuki, recognizing him as a warrior and trailblazer in the advocacy of promoting a sustainable environment. In his acceptance speech, Suzuki lived up to his award, fervently talking about how the time for reformative constitutional action is now.

Suzuki highlighted how the conquests of the past made in the name of the environment are still issues we must fight to prevent today. For example, even though Suzuki and his supporters managed to prevent the Site C Dam construction at Peace Lake in British Columbia in 1983, the threat of the dam being built is still ever-present. Canadians also helped stop proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the battle to ensure the proposals stays dormant continues.

According to Suzuki, the harsh reality is that politics get in the way of environmental policies, most often because the costs are too great. While the headstrong environmentalist believes the country is in better hands under the Trudeau government, he was unfailing in his criticisms of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his disregard towards environmental issues. The economy, said Suzuki, has no regard for the sanctity of the planet.

He went on to stress that an economy based on over-consumerism will never allow for a reform in economic policies that support the protection of the environment. As a nation, we are trapped in trade agreements that service corporations, not the public. For corporations to stay alive in a culture of mass consumption, the planet’s resources must be depleted.

Suzuki described humans as invasive species that have taken over the planet, abusing the heritage of future generations to fulfill material desires. We will never understand the sanctity of the soil, plant life, water, and air until we stop caring more about money rather than the environment.

Hope still stands, though. Suzuki believes that if we change our agricultural industry to be more locally sourced and sustainable along with shifting away from an ‘economy first’ worldview, then humanity will survive to the end of the century.

Suzuki spoke extensively about his Blue Dot Foundation whose aim is to inspire people to work with their municipal governments. Canadians are urged to start the environmentally sustainable revolution locally and work from the bottom up in order to reach legislative measures that ensure an environmental bill of rights is brought up provincially and, eventually, federally.

It is the Blue Dot Foundation’s hope to see an amendment made in the country’s constitution that bases an economy around the reality that the environment must be protected and that energy use is reduced across the municipal, provincial, and federal levels.

Locally, this means that Torontonians must commit to reduce their environmental footprint. The community must collectively gather in the resolve to preserve the richness of our environment. As Canada’s largest city, it is within our power to set a precedent for environmental consciousness that may be followed across the country.

David Suzuki truly believes that we have that capability. In his talk, he urged young people to vote because thier voices, when raised in unison, can deafen stubborn legislative ears. He even went so far as to encourage civil disobedience. We are equipped with many tools of knowledge, but we must prepared to be the catalysts of change and revert our species’ destructive tendencies onto a path of sustainability.