COLUMN: Rediscovering our place in nature

Consumerism has taken the place of citizenship, writes David Suzuki

David Suzuki

David Suzuki | Contributed

For thousands of years, small communities of people ensured relative tranquillity while providing for the social needs of their members. The explosive rate at which our species has been converted to an urban creature has been accompanied by a deterioration of the social fabric that held people together.

The 20th century witnessed an unprecedented shift from predominantly rural community living to big city living.

In cities, distanced from nature and the primary means of production like agriculture, fishing, logging and even manufacturing, we accept that it is the economy that provides our needs. Technology has enabled us to travel rapidly and communicate over vast distances, while television, computers and portable entertainment devices sever the shared activities with neighbours and communities.

Consumerism has taken the place of citizenship as the chief way we contribute to the health of our society. Economic rather than social goals drive government and corporate policies. The resulting high levels of unemployment produce stress, illness, and family and community breakdown. Stable communities and neighbourhoods are a prerequisite for happiness, for productive and rewarding lives, for a crucial sense of security and belonging. They are a bottom line for the health and happiness of human beings. It is not economics that creates community but love, compassion and co-operation.

Those qualities exist in individuals and are expressed between people. And they cannot be fully expressed in isolation, without context, cut off from their place in time and space, their source in the natural world.

The stability of family — whatever its form — within a community provides an environment within which a child develops curiosity, responsibility and inventiveness. Ecological degradation — deforestation, topsoil loss, pollution, climate change and so on — destabilizes society by eroding the underpinnings of sustainability. This consequence was graphically illustrated in 1992, when all commercial fishing of northern cod in the Canadian province of Newfoundland was suspended. Overnight, 40,000 jobs were lost as the foundation of that society for five centuries vanished.

All across Canada, towns boomed as forests were clearcut around them, only to crash when the trees were gone. The coast of British Columbia is dotted with villages that once supported fishing fleets and canneries but were abandoned as salmon populations declined. Ecological health is essential for full community health.

War, terrorism, discrimination, injustice and poverty mitigate against that social stability that is so important. Chronically high levels of unemployment, such as those found in the Atlantic provinces in Canada, on American Indian reservations or in Australian Aboriginal communities today, result in despair, alcoholism, illness, even death. The need for meaningful employment is critical to the well-being not only of family but of community.

Besides the economic benefits to government and individuals, there are compelling reasons to seek full employment as a social goal.

An economy was once created to serve people and their communities. Today economic rationalists contend that people must sacrifice and give up social services for the economy. As we reflect on our fundamental needs as social animals, it is clear that families and communities assured of biodiversity, full employment, justice and security constitute the real non-negotiable starting point in the delineation of a sustainable future.

From family to neighbourhood, from neighbourhood to nation, out into the commonwealth of our species — the connection seems to attenuate as it becomes more inclusive. But as we explore the continuum of relationships in any human life we start to see that the circle of inclusion extends further still; the “continent” of which we are each a part encompasses the Earth.

The “law of love” is as fundamental, and as universal, as any other physical law. It is written everywhere we look, and it maps our intimate connection with the rest of the living world.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Opinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia’s Float the Boat fundraiser campaign is underway. The goal is to raise $25,000 in donations to help with the cost of running virtual programs and onsite operations. (Courtesy Maritime Museum of B.C.)
Maritime Museum of B.C. looks to Float the Boat in Victoria

Fundraiser proceeds will support multitude of virtual programs and onsite operations

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read