I stumbled on David Suzuki’s book The Legacy in a thrift shop a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it; knowing that Suzuki is a scientist, I was terrified it would be full of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I couldn’t understand or relate to. But instead it is poetically written full of wisdom, a strong dose of reality for anyone needing to be converted, and hope.
Combining biography and his life’s learnings, Suzuki tells us a story story that reinforces how all humans belong to complex [ but simple ] eco systems that we require for survival, that we risk through modern economic practice, and that we hold responsibility for nurturing.
I’m not a fan [ at all ] of trying to urge action by scaring the shit out of people. And Suzuki does do a bit of that. But I forgave him because I liked it – and I like him …
He tells us a story about bacteria, dividing every minute in a test tube (the bacteria represent us, and their test tube is the planet :
“At time zero, there is one cell: at one minute, there are two; … and so on. At sixty minutes, the test tube is full of bacteria and there is no food left. At fifty-seven minutes, it’s only 3 per cent full. If at that moment, one of the bacteria points out they have a population problem, others would jeer, ‘What have you been smoking? Ninety-seven percent of the test tube is empty, and we’ve been around for fifty-five minutes!’ Yet they would be five minutes from filling it.
Let’s say that at fifty-nine minutes, the bacteria belatedly realize they have only a minute left and pour money into scientific research. But the test tube is all they have. They can no more increase the amount of food and space than we could increase the amount of air, water, soil or biodiversity on Earth.
The attempt to maintain endless growth is a delusional fantasy. We are already past the fifty-ninth minute. It takes 1.3 years to replace what humans exploit in a year. In other words, rather than living on biological interest, we are drawing down on natural capital. I make no apology for what I say.”
The Legacy isn’t all about doom and gloom – it shifts to hope at about the half way point. Reminding us of our humanness. Encouraging cooperation with nature and with each other, our ability to learn and re-imagine how we live. Our potential for sustainable life is only limited by our ability to believe we can do it. Just like the fish, birds and bears, we evolved and are capable of adaptation. Suzuki [ who I wish I was on a first name basis with by now, but calling him David just doesn’t seem right ] reminds us that ‘Our great evolutionary advantage was the ability to line our sights and look ahead, to imagine the world as it could be and then make the best choices to move toward that vision’. It’s just a matter of ensuring that the vision we are working our way toward is a responsible, ethical and sustainable one.
The writing flows beautifully and it was an easy read; both educational and inspiring.
If you’re still unsure – would you like to read my copy? Because I believe in passing a good thing on. Leave a comment if you’d like a chance and I’ll choose someone to mail my copy to – happy reading!