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David Suzuki Gives 2012 Watts Lecture

Science broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki.

Environmental icon and award-winning science broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki delivered the 36th Watts Lecture at UTSC on March 5, 2012. Speaking passionately—and to frequent applause from an overflow audience—Suzuki lamented that humankind has failed to understand that our society is embedded within the biosphere and that this places physical constraints on what we can do.

“The problem is perceptual,” said Suzuki. “We see the world through anthropocentric lenses, as if we’re at the centre of everything, and everything else is out there around us.”

This anthropocentric perspective fosters the illusion that we can balance the needs of the environment with the needs of the global economy. But according to Suzuki, the truth is, once we’ve done too much damage to the environment—global warming, for instance—our economy will also suffer as we face catastrophic environmental changes.

Suzuki pointed out too that most of us still don’t understand that physics, chemistry and biology impose natural limits that we cannot overcome. He warned that our incessant demand for more products has triggered the push for unbridled economic growth—without heed to environmental issues, such as exhausting the world’s finite resources. And he expressed pessimism in the willingness of politicians to make the necessary changes to stave off disaster.

But he also counselled the audience not to despair. It’s important, Suzuki stressed, that young people “get up and make some noise” and demand changes to the way our world is being run.

The Watts Lecture series, which was established in 1970, invites distinguished individuals to speak on topics of global concern.