World collapses while Hilton hogs front page

On the night of his Lismore forum, world-renowned environmentalist Dr David Suzuki (pictured) said he felt like he was locked in the boot of a car.

I feel like were in a car thats going at a hundred miles an hour towards a brick wall, he said. And everyone is arguing about where they are going to sit, when there needs to be some steering, and the brakes need to come on. And people like me are locked in the trunk.

He said apart from outright nuclear war, climate change was undoubtedly the number one problem the planet faced. The challenge was to get the message out into the mainstream and he directed the blame squarely at the media.

In 1992 a group of world-leading scientists issued a warning to humanity, he said. They said we could have as little as 10 years to avoid an absolute catastrophe. And it wasnt covered by any of the major American TV networks or newspapers. The media is obsessed with celebrities, and yet over half of all Nobel Prize winners sign a document, and this is not considered newsworthy. Its the tragedy of our times. What are we getting in the media? Why do we spend one second on Paris Hilton? That blows me away. Who the hell is she, and who cares?

In terms of climate change, he said the big question was When do we reach the point of no return?

Theres a report saying the Amazon a rainforest is currently going through drought. Thats unprecedented. Have we pushed mother nature too far? I dont know. Weve changed the atmosphere, theres no pulling back from what weve done.

He thinks the catch cry think globally, act locally has done the environmental movement a disservice.

I dont think its a wise thing to say, he said. Because when you think globally, its so huge and overwhelming that people get depressed. They see a report or a newscast and they dont want to face it. Think globally is a turn off.

Instead he advocates think locally, act locally.

Join a group of parents who want to stop spraying pesticides in school-yards, he said. Get involved at a local level, where you feel you can do something and see results. And the hope is that this will be effective globally.

Does he ever get depressed?

All the time, he said. But I dont say that in public.

Dr Suzuki said there were two defining moments in his life.

The first was reading Rachel Carsons book Silent Spring in 1962 when he was just starting his scientific career.

That was a really defining moment when I realised what she was saying, that scientific studies in the lab wont tell you anything about what will happen out in the real world, he said. Nobody realised that spraying chemicals out in the fields would affect the fish and the birds and the people. That really drew me into the (environmental) movement.

The other thing was my encounter with a First Nations guy. I asked why he was fighting the logging because a lot of the loggers are native and I thought they needed economic development. He said to me, When the trees are gone, we wont be Indians anymore, we will be just like other people. Being connected to the air, the water and the land all of that makes you who you are.

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