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About the Author
David Suzuki is an acclaimed geneticist and environmentalist and the founder and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is the author of more than forty books and is the recipient of the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environmental Medal, and the UNEP’s Global 500 award, and he has been named a Companion of the Order of Canada. In addition, he holds eighteen honorary degrees, and he has been adopted into three First Nations clans.
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty-five titles, including the novels The Handmaid's Tale (1983) and The Blind Assassin , which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her work has been published in more than forty languages. Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
Read an Excerpt
Foreword, by Margaret Atwood
What you’re about to read is David Suzuki’s Legacy Lecture. The term “legacy” has an ominous ring to it, a hint of departure: surely he isn’t going somewhere? Not so soon! He’s a landmark! No other living Canadian has done so muchnationally and internationallyto make us aware of the world we live in and of its precarious state. And no one else started this task so early and has taken so much flak for it.
It seems that David Suzuki has always been with us. He’s lived in the tradition of the great prophetsthose whose messages go unheeded because they tell us things we find uncomfortable. Time after time he’s gone up the sacred mountain, listened to the voice, understood that it is what it is, and brought the hard but true words back down, only to find us cavorting around shiny gods of our own devising. He’s been doing that in so many ways, over so many dayson Quirks and Quarks, a radio science program he started; on CBC television’s The Nature of Things, which he’s hosted since 1972; and through the David Suzuki Foundation, dedicated to making the world a sustainable place. It’s a wonder he never gave up on us. But he didn’t: after each potato flung his way, he trudged up the mountain again, rearranged the words to make them more understandable, and gave us another try.
As for his somewhat dire reputation“Dr. Doom and Gloom,” as he himself tells uslet’s consider the deeper meaning of the word “legacy.” A legacy is something you pass on, and it assumes there will be someone to pass it on to. That’s quite a leap of faith for Dr. Suzuki, considering the grisly facts he’s been facing. But as you’ll see, he makes the leap. Human intelligence and foresight got us into our present pickle by enabling us to invent such efficient ways of exploiting Nature that our population growth went into overdrive, and now human intelligence and foresight are all we can rely on to see us through the tight bottleneck we’re fast approachingthat narrowing chasm where far too many people are faced with far too little food and, very possibly, far too little air.
But, says Suzuki, we can do it if we really try, and we really will try if we can visualize the danger we’re in. Programmed as we are to grasp the low-hanging fruit, enjoy the present hour at the expense of the years to come, and ignore the storm until it’s almost upon us, we do have the capacity to learn from experience and to look ahead.
David Suzuki is by training a biologista scientistwhich to some people conjures up the image of a white-coated rationalist, devoid of emotion and bent on pure experiment. But no human being is really like that, not even economists. Neurologists tell us that purely rational thinking is an impossibility for us: instead we think-feel; we feel-think. David Suzuki came to biology the way so many have: through the emotions, a love of the natural worldthe world he then set out to explore using his intelligence. What he did with the love and the intelligence is a thing the human race has been doing to its advantage ever since the Pleistocene: he told stories about what he loved and what he discovered, stories that confer a benefit on those who hear them if only they will listen with care.
The “legacy” in this lecture is one of truthful words about the hard place we’re in, but it’s also one of hopeful words: our chanceif we will take itfor “opportunity, beauty, wonder, and companionship with the rest of creation.” My own hope is that we ourselves will emulate David Suzuki and leave legacies in our turn, and that the planet will through our efforts become a better and more liveable home than the rapidly deteriorating biosphere we find ourselves in right now. It’s the nature of gifts to pass from hand to hand; we should thank Dr. Suzuki for the gifts he has given and find within ourselves the grace to pass them on.
Table of Contents
Foreword Margaret Atwood vii
1 Evolution of a Superspecies 5
2 Finding a New Path 37
3 A Vision for the Future 69
Sources for Quotes 101
About David Suzuki 111
What People are Saying About This
"The 'legacy' in this lecture is one of truthful words about the hard place we're in, but it's also one of hopeful words: our chance if we will take it for 'opportunity, beauty, wonder and companionship with the rest of creation.' My hope is that we ourselves will emulate David Suzuki and leave legacies in our turn." Margaret Atwood