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Biodiversity for the next millenium
Suzuki, D. (1993). Biodiversity for the next millenium, in: Fenger, M.A. et al. (Ed.) Our living legacy: Proceedings of a Symposium on Biological Diversity. pp. 7-20
In: Fenger, M.A. et al. (Ed.) (1993). Our living legacy: Proceedings of a Symposium on Biological Diversity. The Royal British Columbia Museum: Victoria. ISBN 0-7718-9355-8. XIII, 392 pp., more

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  • Suzuki, D.

    Our continuing exploitation of the natural world with increasingly destructive technology constitutes a massive assault on the global life-support system of water, atmosphere, soil and biodiversity, and thus threatens our existence as a species. Eighty per cent of Canadians live in controlled urban environments with no connection to the natural world for water, food or garbage disposal. There is little understanding of the environmental carrying capacity as we create dams, roads and clearcuts. This planet has been recycling its materials through intricate webs and cycles for five billion years. The most important reason for rnaintaining biological diversity is to keep these webs functioning to maintain productive soil and clean water and air. As a species we have a built-in need for other species. Yet we differ from other species with our human concepts of the future, loyalty, nations, justice, peace, economics and resource values. Culture and personal experience shape our beliefs and values, which may lead to conflicts in such places as the Stein Valley. Global ecocrisis facts include: increasing human population (5.3 billion now, 10 billion in 40 years); declining food production; increasing toxic wastes; atrnospheric changes (ozone depeletion, acid rain and greenhouse effect); destruction of tropical rainforests; and unprecedented species extinctions. Our inability to act, despite knowledge of the facts, is predicated on a distaste for bad news, an unwillingness to make sacrifices and massive denial. As a species we have evolved to respond to immediate physical threats rather than to the hazards listed above. We cling to sacred truths such as: humans exist apart frorn nature and create their own environment; science provides the knowledge and power to understand and control nature; a healthy economy must precede a healthy environment; and, steady economic growth is necessary for progress. We need to act before more ecological thresholds are crossed and ecosystems collapse. A long-term strategy to maximize the protection of biological diversity and allow us to maintain a healthy economy must be a high global priority. Achieving this goal requires massive restructuring of social priorities and actions of governments and industry. Actions required are reduction in population and consumption, creatively forgiving poor countries' debts and warning developing countries of our environmentally destructive path. Zero discharge limits for toxic wastes and green house gases should be enforced. Understanding the fallacies of the sacred truths requires a change in focus to the long-term from the present preaccupation with the moment. As animals we need clean air, food, shelter, community, meaningful work and social justice. These entail different priorities than those of our highly mobile consumptive lifestyles, and we must look for common ground towards these shared goals.

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