Last night, I saw David Suzuki speak at a conference on health and the environment. To my surprise, I was far from impressed with most of what he said. He essentially presented a false binary: conspicuous consumption on the one hand, or the preservation of pristine nature on the other. While I certainly acknowledge that a lot of consumption is unnecessary, that doesn’t mean that all sacrifices are of the same moral variety as him choosing not to fly to Australia.
The view that pesticides should not be used in farming was broadly echoed. No doubt, there can be abuse of pesticides and there is a human and ecological cost associated with employing them. That said, it hardly seems that we can take a message of pesticide abandonment to a world of six billion, in which one and a half billion live in extreme poverty. Calling for an end to economic growth means something rather different in Canada than it does in Brazil or Bangladesh or Bolivia. Likewise, not everyone in Canadian society can switch to more ecological (and expensive) options while making only trivial sacrifices.
As a public relations figure, Suzuki obviously has to simplify his messages and present things in a form that is fairly easily repeated and absorbed. That said, the parks-versus-SUVs form of environmentalism doesn’t have much chance of being relevant outside the thinking of a privileged global elite.