Healthy Environment by David Suzuki, Ph. D.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the organizers of the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of conferences bringing together all of the people that are concerned about the environment in this beautiful, that you call your country. I would like to congratulate all of you who are participating in this conferences and will discuss some very, very important issues ranging from food to the environment, to energy and sustainability and I want to thank you for inviting me and providing me the opportunity to share a few ideas with you.

You’re going to hear from people far more about the various issues than I do. What I would like to do is to try to pull you back to look back at the bigger picture, to look at the context within which the different problems are taking place. But before I begin, let me say that I speak to you today not representing any organization or any corporation or any group. I’m here to speak to you as a grandfather and as an elder. And I believe being an elder is the most important part of my life. You see, I no longer have to care about getting money, or power, or fame, or even sex. I’m passed that stage in my life. I don’t have to play any games in order to get a job, or a promotion, or a raise. As an elder, I can speak the truth from my heart and if that offends people, it’s their problem not mine.

Elders have something that no group from society has. We have lived an entire life. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve suffered failures. We’ve celebrated success. We have learned a lot. Those lessons are hard-won. And I believe as an elder, it’s my job now to shift through a lifetime of mistakes, failures and successes to try to pass on what I’ve learned to coming generations. That’s my job and what I’ll try to do today is to share a few ideas from my lifetime.

Young people from Canada often ask me, “What is the most important environmental issue that we face?” Is it climate change? Is it species extinction? Is it the terrible state of the oceans? Is it toxic pollution? I don’t know which one is going to be the most critical one, although climate change right now is certainly frightening but they are all critical issues. My question is why we keep creating these problems, over and over again. I believe that at the heart of the crisis we face globally, is the human mind. It is the beliefs, the values, the world view that determines how we behave and how we act.

Let me tell you what I mean. Many years ago I visited a small village on the side of the Andes Mountain in Peru and I’ve learned from the villagers that their children are taught when they’re very young that the mountains, which the villagers are on, is an apu. Apu in their language means a god. And that as long as that apu casts its shadow on the village, it will determine the destiny of everyone in that village. Now, can you imagine how those children will treat that mountain when they grow up compared to the kids in British- Colombia where I live who are taught that the Rocky Mountains are full of gold and silver and copper?

The way we see the world determines the way we treat that world. Is the forest a

sacred groove or is it simply an opportunity for timber and pulp? Is the river the circulatory system of the land or is just an opportunity for irrigation and power? Is another species our biological relative or just a resource? Is the soil a community of organisms or just dirt? Is your house your home or just a piece of property? The way we look at the world determines the way we treat that world. Today we live at a world that has been shattered into fragments by the globalization of our economies around the world and we no longer see the way we are connected to other parts of the world.

My kids, when they go to a store, they want a cotton shirt and when they come home with a cotton shirt, I say “Did you ask whether it’s organic?” and they say, “Yeah, we are not going to eat the cotton shirt. Why should we care?” Cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops that we grow. When the Soviet Union determined that they want to be the biggest cotton-growing country in the world, they decided to build around the Aral Sea, which was at one time the 7th largest landlocked sea in the world. Now it is in the 10th largest because it had shrunk. And that sea is filled with toxic chemicals and fertilizers that are used to grow cotton and the people in the area are suffering the highest rates of cancer, asthma and respiratory problems because of the cotton they’re growing in that area. But we don’t ask that, we don’t see the connection.

When you pull out your cell phone to start using it, do you know that it has got rare earth compounds? And where do they come from? Some of those came from the most remote parts of the world that are suffering because we want our cell phones and we want the metals that are in it. What about the people in those areas? We don’t ask that questions, we just want the latest Iphone or whatever it is. When we buy a car or a television, do we ever say that, “Gee, there are a lot of metals in this?” Mining is one of the most destructive activities that we undergo. Where does the metal come from our cars, our computers and television sets? Where were they mined? And what about the people that we’re impacted by that mining process, all of that is hidden.

I live in Canada. It is a very northern country and yet in the middle of winter, anywhere in Canada, we can buy fresh fruits and vegetables and I say, “Where the hell we are growing this in Canada?” They come from halfway around the world; the world pays a price for our desire to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, 12 months a year. So these are some of the questions that I believe that we have to begin to ask.

I began my career as a scientist in 1962, when I got my first job as a professor in a university. I had spent eight (8) years studying in the United States. When I came back to Canada, I was determined to be a hotshot geneticist but a woman came along and completely side-tracked me. That has happened all my life and usually it has been disastrous but in this case I am ever grateful to this woman. My great regret is that I never met her again. She died two (2) years later.

In 1962, a woman named Rachel Carson published a book called “Silent Spring”. It was all about the unexpected effects of pesticides. You know we often, at some point, thought that pesticides were great. Paul Muller, who discovered DDT that kills insects, won a noble prize for his discovery. As I read her book, I realized the implications of wide- spread use of pesticides. I realized, as a scientist, that we can’t see that when you spray chemicals in a field, it ends up affecting the fish and birds and human beings because we live in a world that everything is connected to everything else. But we don’t see that anymore. We fragment the world into bits and pieces.

Today in Canada, in the industrialized worlds and in the increasingly developing world, more and more of us are living in big cities. When I came to Manila, I was astounded at what a big city you have here. In Canada, 85% of Canadians live in big cities and in the big cities we live in an environment that is a biological desert. It is filled with humans but very little, empty, in terms of biodiversity. And nature is something we don’t feel that is relevant to our lives and so we lose contact with the natural world.

In a city, our highest priority becomes our job. We need a job to buy the things that we want. The economy becomes the dominant element in our lives and our governance reflects that obsession with the economy.

But let me tell you a story about interconnectedness which we lose in our fragmented world. I live at the west coast of America, in British-Colombia. Pinched between the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountain range is a thin strip of land extending from Alaska down to Northern California called temperate rainforest. This thin-strip of land has the highest biomass of any ecosystem on the planet. The weight of living things in a temperate rainforest is greater than in any ecosystem. Why? Because we got huge trees, we’ve got redwood, we’ve got cedar, spruce and balsam and other giant trees. But the dilemma has always been how do we get such big trees?

When it rains all the time and there’s a little nitrogen in the soil, which is the basic fertilizer, how can we support such big trees? It turns out that it’s the salmon. Up and down the coast are thousands of rivers and creeks that have salmon population. The salmon are born in fresh water rivers. They go out to the sea as small fishes and in the ocean. They live, depending on the species, for 2-5 years. So they load up with nitrogen from the ocean. It turns out that the nitrogen on land is the normal isotope of nitrogen, which is Nitrogen 14 or N14 but in the ocean there’s a high proportion of heavier nitrogen called Nitrogen 16 or N16. We can measure the difference between N14 and N16. So the salmon go out to the ocean and grow into these big beautiful animals which are filled with N15 from the oceans. And when they go back to spawn in the rivers and streams where they were born in, everything celebrates.

If you have ever seen the spawning run of salmon, it’s definite because the birds are coming. The animals and the seals and the whales, everybody is eating the salmon as they come back and they go up to the river. The bears, the wolves and the eagles are all eating the salmon and then when they had their full, they go pee and poo in the forest. But what they’re doing is that they’re fertilizing the trees with the flesh of the salmon.

The bear will take at least 600 salmon from the seas. They’ll fish together in a pool, and that is where you’ll see several bears, but when they grab a fish they don’t like to eat with the other bears. They go run off to the woods. They go up to 250 meters on either side of the river. They sit down and eat the best parts of the salmon which are, you know, the brains, the eggs, and the belly. And they leave the rest of the carcass and go back for another one. And immediately when they leave, ravens and insects and salamanders are all eating the carcass of the salmon. But the big remainders of the predators of the salmon are flies. Flies lay their eggs on the carcass and after few days, the rotting salmon will be filled with worms and the maggots eating the flesh and filling up with the N16 from the ocean. Then they drop from the floor of the forests and pupae over the winter.

So what we find is that the salmon, literally, fertilizing the forest using the eagles,

the wolves and the bears to carry them off into the forest. If you try to drill a hole into a tree and pull the core of that tree so you can look at the tree rings, you’ll see that there are fat rings and thin rings which you can test for N16 from the ocean. When you have a thin ring, you have very little N16 but when you have a fat ring, you have a lot of N16. So the salmon is literally feeding the forests and you can show that.

Many of the salmon don’t get caught by the wolves, the bears, and the eagles. They die on the river after spawning and they sink into the bottom. And very quickly, after a week, the salmon at the bottom of the river will be covered with fur of fungus. And the fungus will be eaten by coco pods and other invertebrates such as insects. Four (4) months later, when the baby salmon comes out of the gravel to get ready to go out of the stream, the river is filled with food that came from the carcasses of their mothers and their fathers that lay in the river. So in dying, the salmon are preparing a feast for their babies as they go out to the oceans.

The maggots from the flies drop off to the forest floor and in the spring they hatch in trillions. And these flies are filled with N16 from the ocean. They hatch into trillions by the time that the birds from South America are coming from their nesting grounds in the Artic.

So you see this incredible system. The ocean is connected into the land through the salmon that are nurturing the forest. The salmon are feeding their babies and they’re feeding in timing to feed the birds that are coming from South America to North America. That’s what is interconnectivity is in the world that we live in. Everything is connected to everything else.

Then we come along and we go, “Oh, we’re going to manage this. We’re going to take care of it”. You know, like what Ramon is doing here. The salmon, we should manage the salmon, that’s the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for the commercial fishers. Oh but wait, the indigenous people, they use salmon. That’s the Department of Indian Affairs to take care of the native food. Oh but there’s sports fishermen like Suzuki. That’s the Department of Tourism. So the salmon is dealt with three (3) departments. And oh what about the trees? That’s the Department of Forests. What about the rocks and the mountains that the river flows through? That’s the Ministry of Mining. What about the rivers themselves? That’s for the Ministry of Irrigation for Agriculture and the Ministry for Energy for the dams that makes the electricity we use. And what about the eagles, the bears, and the wolves? Oh that’s for the Ministry of the Environment.

So that is the single system of interconnections and we come along and we look at it in bits and pieces and we think that we’re going to manage the system. There’s absolutely no way that we have been able to do that when we look at the world that way.

Scientists divide the history of the planet into different epochs. These are geological periods: Miocene, Eocene, and the Holocene. And recently scientists have designated the current time period that we are in as the Anthropocene, the period of human beings when we have become the major factor that affects physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. We are the major influence shaping the history and properties of the planet but we don’t know enough to be able to apply these great powers that we have now, in a way that will sustain a future; sustain the things that we depend on. It has happened very suddenly. It has happened on the sudden

convergence of our numbers. We are now the most numerous mammals on the planet.

I was born on 1936 when there were two (2) billion people in the world. In my lifetime, the population of the earth has been tripled. And every one of the seven (7) billion people has to be fed, clothed, and sheltered and all of that comes out from the Earth. There has never been a mammalian species to have an ecological footprint of human beings but of course we are not like other mammalian species. We have an enormous amount of technology used on our behalf and that amplifies even more our ecological footprint. And ever since World War II, we have been inflicted by a large appetite for stuff. We have now made an economic system. In North America, 75% of our economy is built on consumption.

You know my mom and dad came through the Great Depression and because of the Great Depression, they learned lessons from those hard times. They told us, over and over, as children, “Live within your means. Share. Don’t be greedy. Save some for tomorrow. You need money to buy the necessities in life but you don’t run after money as if having more money, makes you more important person.” But we’ve forgotten that. Now, when we buy stuff, we do not buy what we need but, buy what we want. And there’s no end to what we want and everything that we consume comes out of the Earth. When we are finish with it, it will go back into the Earth. And we have a global economy now that can provide us stuff coming from all over the world.

So when you take that together: Our numbers, our technological muscle power, our consumptive demands and the global economy, we have become a force of nature that has never existed in the 4.5 billion years that the Earth has existed.

How did we ever get into this point when we have become such as powerful force scrapping the planet’s properties. I am a geneticist and I have been impressed with the way that scientists now can use DNA and look at DNA in different populations and infer the movement of people over time. And all the trails of humanity whether it’s from Australia, the Aboriginals, North American and South Americans, all the trails lead back to Africa about 150 thousand years ago. That’s when we were born as a species.

I can’t wait to be invited in the United States and tell them, “What’s your problem? We’re all Africans!” That’s where we were born, Africa. Think of Africa where our ancestors were born, filled with animals, abundant in variety and everything we can imagine today. It must have been a paradise for us living the era, but for some reason we began to move away from our birthplace. Why? I don’t know. Maybe our numbers got to a point where we needed more space or probably some young men were interested in some adventure. Maybe they wanted to check out the Neanderthal women on the other side of the mountain. I don’t know. We interbred with Neanderthal so maybe they were looking for some action. I don’t know.

But we began to move and as we moved into new ecosystems, we were an invasive species. We don’t have an idea how things worked and we just walked in. And, “Oh, wow!” There are birds there that don’t even have wings. And we began to knock them down and live on them. We were a very clever animal. And you can follow the movement of humans across the planet by a wave of extinction. We eliminated birds and mammals as we moved into new areas so that means, then at some point, when we got into new areas and kind of established ourselves people found, “Holy cow, we were running out of

things”. And you know that those birds that were once abundant, they were not as abundant anymore. So you got two choices. We have to move somewhere else or we have to stay and live in a different way.

I believe that those are the origins of indigenous knowledge all over the world. People say that here is where we want to stay and we have to learn through the mistakes and failures and successes of their ancestors. That’s indigenous knowledge. Far more profound than any scientific information we could ever get because that knowledge was critical for the survival of the people. Every time we lose a language or a culture, I believe that is a great tragedy because we lose the major source of information about how one can live sustainably in an area and that knowledge is thousands of years old.

Five hundred (500) years ago, we saw a new wave of movement of human beings, the period of Great Exploration. Occupation and colonization of new territories from Australia to Africa, from South America to North America, and that wave of exploration and colonization brought in a new mentality. They came into new lands that had indigenous people there but this new wave of colonizers saw resources. They saw opportunity. And my grandparents were part of that wave of colonization that continues up to this day. My grandparents left Japan because they were poor and uneducated and they heard that in Canada, there was opportunity if they worked hard. And so they came to Canada between 1902 and 1906. That was the beginning of our family in Canada. They never learned how to speak English. They just knew that if they learned and worked hard, they’ll make money and they can buy a land that was their future. To them land was opportunity. Anything on/or in the land was a resource if there was any fish, or trees, or topsoil, or minerals. They just use them to increase their wealth.

My parents were born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. My dad was born in Vancouver in 1909 while my mother in 1911. And like all the children of immigrants at that time, they had no grandparents. They had no elders because they were still back in Japan and so they had no roots. How do we have roots if we don’t have grandparents and elders and I believe that is the challenge of our time. How do we develop a sense of sustainability that comes from a tradition or a culture that is deeply rooted in the land that is our place from the world and that we are utterly dependent on nature and that long-term sustainability depends on protecting that nature?

So let me share some of my experiences and then I’ll quit for the day. First of all, when we have an issue that we are dealing with, whether it’s pollution, or as I have been involved for years, clear-cut logging of forests or it’s building of a new dam, we have to talk to each other, not at each other. Too much of our discussion is at each other and we have positions and we lock horns. I can tell you a specific example.

About 15 years ago, we were involved with very big issues of logging in British- Colombia and so we decided to do a 2-hour special on logging. I arranged an interview with three (3) loggers in a cut block in Vancouver Island. We pulled over our van and we began to unload our gear. The loggers saw us coming and they knew that they’ll be interviewed and so they came out. We started our cameras and they’re going, “You, environmentalists, you’ve given us this trouble!” and they started yelling and cursing at me. It was great television. It was a good stuff for television but at the end of our interview with these guys, I said, you know, I worked in a construction. I am a carpenter, I worked for eight (8) years in construction and I loved to work with wood. I don’t know any

environmentalists against logging but we want to make sure that the forest you cut down will be there for your children and grandchildren to log as you are today. And right away, one of the loggers said, “No way my kids are going into logging. There won’t be trees left.”

And you realize that you aren’t talking to each other, or with each other. They were worried about earning their paycheck and being able to put food on the plate, to pay for their car or the mortgages of their house. Whereas I, as an environmentalist, saying we want to sustain the forest forever and so that means that we got to log properly. It can be done. Many people have done it for thousands of years but we just can’t use the clear-cut method.

May I say Ramon, that a mono-culture or a plantation is not a forest. That’s not at all reforestation. We have lived with the diversity that is a forest and that story told me right away that we weren’t talking to each other. We were screaming at each other but about very different things.

About a few years later, I was asked by the Lytton Indian Band First Nations, an indigenous group, who were horrified at the British-Columbian head giving a logging permit to a company called Fletcher Challenge. I don’t know if you know Fletcher Challenge here. It’s a New Zealand forest company and Fletcher Challenge was given a permit to log in the Stein Valley, which is a sacred valley of the Lytton people and they asked if I would come and help them stop any logging.

And so I took my family and said “I have to camp into the forest and I have to see what I am fighting for.” So we went camping into the forest for a week. It’s a magnificent ecosystem. As we were coming out of the forest, we were coming out at the end of the trail, we’ve met a party of people and I knew right away that these people are not going in for a camping trip. The women were in dresses and high heeled shoes and the men were in suits.

But you know when you are in camping trip, you always talk to the people you meet and very quickly I realized, “Holy cow!” One of these guys is the CEO of Fletcher Challenge, the company that’s going to log this forest.” And he realized, “Oh this is the disturber David Suzuki”. So needless to say, we begun to debate, to shout, and in anger he screamed at me. “Listen, Suzuki. Are tree-huggers like you willing to pay for those trees? Because if you aren’t willing to pay for those trees they don’t have any value till someone cuts them down.”

That for me was a real epiphany to realize that he was absolutely right, in the system that we live in. Unless money exchanges hands, those trees are to be considered worthless. The trees as long as that forest is standing are taking carbon into the air and putting back oxygen in it. Not a bad service for an animal like us. If they weren’t doing it, we wouldn’t be here.

In economy it is called an externality. That’s not in the economic system. Those trees are pumping millions of gallons out of the soil, transpiring it into the air and modulating weather and climate – externality. The trees hold the soil so when it rains the soil doesn’t spoil the spawning gravels of the salmon – externality.

The forests inhabit countless invertebrates and fungus, mammals and birds and all of these are relevant in our economic system. So the forest which keeps the forest habitable for animals like us is seen through economic lenses as having no value until you can cut it down or some enviros are willing to pay to protect that forests. That informed me something fundamentally wrong about the economic system that is always raised as something has to be done or not being done.

The final story that I am about to tell you is about three (3) years ago. I got a call from the CEO of one of the largest companies in the Tarzans of Alberta. He called and said, “I would like to talk to you.” and I said, “I’d loved that. Come down, I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to fight, come down.”

So the next day, he showed up in my office and when I came I opened the door and said, “Thank you for coming, I’m honored. I’m thrilled you’re coming, but I would like you to do one favor before you come through the door. Please leave your identity outside as a CEO of a company. I want to meet you as human being to human being.”

Because I said to Mr. CEO, “What’s the point of negotiating if we don’t all start in a common base of agreement? We have to agree on what our fundamental needs are.” Well he wasn’t very happy because he’d come down as a CEO of an oil company to negotiate with me. But he came in and I said to him: “I know this is difficult for you so please let me explain. We live in a world that is shaped, that is constrained by laws of nature and there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to live in that world.”

Physics tells us that you cannot build a rocket and travel faster than speed of light and we know and accept this, unless Einstein was wrong and I don’t think he was. We know the laws of gravity saying you can’t build an anti-gravity machine here on Earth. And the first law of thermodynamics tells you that you cannot build a perpetual motion machine, we know that.

Those were determined by the laws of physics and in chemistry, there are laws too. There are diffusion constants and reaction rates and the atomic property of different elements that determine the kind of chemical reactions that you can perform and the kind of molecules you can synthesize. And chemistry determines the limits on what we can do and we have to accept that.

In biology, it’s the same. Biology tells us that every species living within a habitat or an ecosystem, there is a carrying capacity. There is a maximum number that the ecosystem’s habitat can support. And if exceeded that number, then population will crash because you’ve exceeded the ability of that ecosystem to support a maximum number.

Were humans not limited by habitat or ecosystems? We use our brains to adapt ourselves to different conditions but we live within the biosphere, the zone of air, water and land, where all lives exist. That’s our home and there are limits to how many humans can be supported. And every scientist that I’ve talked to tells us that we are far beyond the carrying capacity of the biosphere if we are going to live like we do in Canada or in the United States. We are far past the sustainable population and the way we’re living. We can increase the sustainable number if we can use far less resources from the biosphere.”

And I said this to the CEO, “Mr. CEO, physics, chemistry and biology dictate these

limits” and he said, “Yes, I have to agree and we’re not going to do anything to beat one of these conditions.”

And then I said, “Mr. CEO what do you think is the most important thing that a human being on Earth needs?” I can see it right away that he’s thinks of money, job, profit. Then I said, “If you don’t have air for three (3) minutes, you’re dead. If you have to breathe polluted air all the time, you’re sick. So surely, Mr. CEO, you would agree with me that clean air is our highest priority. Whatever we do, we have to protect the air. It is the source of life and well-being for us”. And then I said, “Every one of us, you, Mr. CEO, and I, are 60-70% water by weight; we are just a big blob of water, we have to thicken our head if we don’t want to dribble it on the floor. We are a big blob of water but our body leaks the water. It comes out of our eyes, our nose, our mouth, our poop and pee. We lose water and we have to drink water constantly. Mr. CEO, if you don’t have water for 6-7 days, you’re dead. If you have to drink contaminated water, you’re sick. So could you not agree with me that protecting clean water and protecting clean air are our highest priority, if we want to survive and flourish?”

And then I said, “Some people can live for weeks without food but between 4-6 weeks without food, and our food comes from soil, you’re dead. And if you eat polluted food, you’re sick. So can we put food and soil up with clean air and clean water as our highest priority to protect? And finally, every bit of our energy in our bodies, we need to move, grow and reproduce and all of that energy is sunlight that is captured by plants and photosynthesis converted into chemical energy. Then we get that energy from eating the plants or the animals that eat the plants. We store that energy in our bodies and when we need to get that energy back, we burn the molecules of sugar and release the sun back out into our bodies and then we use it. So can we not say that photosynthesis is our highest priority? Every bit of that energy from our bodies has come out of photosynthesis.”

So we have to protect those things. And Mr. CEO, the miracle of life on Earth are those four elements that the indigenous people called as the four sacred elements from Mother Earth: earth, fire, air and water. Those four elements are delivered to us by the web of living things on the planet that we call biodiversity. And it’s all the plants on the oceans and on land that take carbon out of the air and put oxygen back in that allows animals like us to survive. The oxygen-rich atmosphere is created by the web of plants around the world.

In Vancouver, we get our water from three (3) watersheds surrounded by old growth rainforests. The tree roots and the soil fungi and other plant roots and bacteria filter the water so we don’t have to do anything and then we can drink it. It is also the same with underground aquifers. It is filtered as it percolates through the soil. Life is what cleanses the water that we depend on. Every bit of the food that we eat was once living. Life, plants and animals are what ultimately create our bodies and life creates the very soil in which we grow our food.”

Anybody here knows the movie, “Martian”? It has to come to the Philippines yet but you know in the movie, you have Matt Damon. He’s got a year’s supply of potatoes but he’s stranded in Mars for four (4) years. So how do you stretch one year’s supply of potatoes into four (4) years when there’s no soil on Mars. Soil is created by life and you all know the solution was he had to poop in every hole that he planted the potatoes in, in order to get them to grow. Life creates the very soil that we depend on to grow. And life,

of course, captures all of that energy that we need.

So this is what I said to the CEO. “Mr. CEO, can you and I agree as human beings that the highest priority for our lives and well-being is to protect the air, water and soil that give us our food, photosynthesis and biodiversity? And then we can ask how we can make a living.”

I am sorry to say that he couldn’t agree at the end and he left a very unhappy man, and never called me again. In a way, it was unfair, you see. He had come as a CEO of an oil company and he were to go back to his company and shareholders and say, “I spoke to David and I have to agree with him that air, water, soil, and biodiversity, that these are the fundamental things we need so whatever we do, we can’t mess those things up.” Well, of course, if he did that they would probably go out of business but they would probably fire him and hire someone else.

So this is the challenge we face as biological creatures. Our biological nature determines that we are animals that have needs that can’t be substituted for – earth, air, fire and water.

Other things we draw lines from our borders. I heard Ramon saying that he discovered the continental shelf of the Philippines. Now, look at the hectares of shelf belonging to the Philippines. What do you mean that they belong to the Philippines? For heaven’s sake, they belong to the planet as a whole. You don’t own just because you draw a border around our cities or our countries. Those borders don’t mean anything.

When the fire at Chernobyl happened, it was the Swedes who said that something was wrong in Russia because there was a strong pulse of radioactivity that they detected in the air. Because air doesn’t stay in national borders, air belongs to all of us and no one. Human boundaries, what does that mean in terms of nature? And we create other things like capitalism and communism, the economy, the market, corporation. These aren’t forces of nature, for God’s sake. We created them.

Yet when I listen to businessmen in Canada, they say, “My God, the market. The market! Hallelujah! Praise the market, free the market.” What a lot of nonsense! We created the market and now we act as if the market is a thing that we got to bow down to and worship and that we’ve got to let the market do its thing.

If it doesn’t work, for God’s sake, we can’t change nature. We can certainly change the things we create. And this ultimately is the challenge. We all have to agree on what the bottom line is and stop trying to force nature to fit into our economic and political agendas. Find ways that we can live by fitting in the laws of nature that determines the way we live. Nobody says it’s going to be easy but if we can come altogether and agree on those fundamental things then I think everything is possible.

Thank you very much.


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