Published in the Spring 2005 issue • Features
Severn Saves the World
Well, maybe we’re exaggerating slightly. But she’s definitely doing her part.
Continued from page 1
How can we build an inclusive environmental movement?
I don’t even really like to identify myself as an environmentalist because when I think of an environmentalist, I think of a North American, white, middle-class movement that is about conservation and saving the trees, with not as much regard for people who live within those areas designated for conservation, or the reality that human beings are part of the ecosystem, and we’re not going to go away.
The environmental movement in North America has to change. It has to join and strengthen and work with people and social justice movements and poverty issues and all those kinds of things, because otherwise I don’t think it’s going to succeed. I’ve been more interested in where the movements do connect.
People often point to overpopulation as an environmental issue, but many solutions to overpopulation infringe on human rights. Are there other ways to address this issue?
We definitely have a lot of human beings on the planet, but the problem is not the number of humans on the planet. The problem is the consumption by a handful of human beings, which is the 20 percent (of the world’s population) that we belong to.
We are setting an example for the rest of the world. We’re the “first world,” we’re the developed world, we’re what the rest of humanity aspires to be like. If China, India and other developing countries aspired to having one car, let alone two or three, per family, we’re all going to go down the tube.
You can’t just be at the top without having some responsibility, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We have the benefit of being at the top but we’re not showing any restraint or foresight for what’s going to come.
Are corporations or consumers responsible for the environment?
Corporations are run by people and we can’t forget that. We always talk about “the corporation,” but you know what? That’s a bunch of human beings. We forget that we, human beings, invented the economy. Consumer power is having an influence. Part of our responsibility is pushing for those changes.
Why are you studying ethnobotany?
I’m really interested in traditional ecological knowledge. There’s a lot of evidence that shows that (first nations people) have been managing many resources quite sustainably for a long, long time and I think that we could learn a lot from that. I think the key to finding our sustainable dynamic as Canadians hinges on our first nations people. I feel that in order to continue speaking out I have to develop an area that I really know what I’m talking about. And try to find the solutions as well as just raise the alarm, which is something my dad (David Suzuki) has also done for a long time.