Sunday, April 28, 2013

Upbeat Ecology with David Suzuki

During my prep work for a class, I looked at the list of required readings and groaned – “Not another environmentalist essay!” Why is it that no ESL student can get through a course without being subjected to ecology? I braced myself for a preachy and tedious reading.

Maybe you relate to my feeling that reading environmentalist stuff is about as much fun as spending an afternoon with Eeyore. But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. The essay was actually an excerpt taken from a book called David Suzuki’s Green Guide by the man himself. The title interested me because it suggested practical points of action at the personal level. I was also interested in reading something Canadian with more of a political edge.

I checked out the book from the library and it’s been my subway reading for a few weeks. It’s broken into chapters on home, food, travel, simplicity, and citizenship. Some of the suggestions are predictable – live close to your work, eat less meat, bike instead of drive, spend more time outside. There were many things, though, that surprised me:

·         Changing how you eat can have a bigger impact than switching from a gas to electric car 
·         Out of reduce, reuse, recycle, reduce is by far the most important
·         Raising livestock has a larger impact on the environment than the worldwide transportation sector
·         Producing beef requires 70,000 liters of water per kilogram
·         By 2006, the clever Swedes had reduced their greenhouse gas emissions to 7.2% below 1990 levels, surpassing their Kyoto target
·         A townhouse consumes 22% less energy than a detached house, and an apartment unit consumes 40% less energy
·         An article published in The Economist magazine stated that GDP is “badly flawed as a guide to a nation’s economic well-being.” It overlooks trust, community, rest, and, of course, the state of the environment. It’s not hard to see this point when you realise that the wealthiest person you know is not often the most satisfied with life.
·         In the long run, environmental choices almost always save you money

Another thing I appreciate about the book is the “Inspiration” sections sprinkled throughout each chapter. These show how people and companies and governments have put the principles into practice with great success. For example, the German government passed rigorous legislation to cut down on the packaging waste going to dumps and incinerators. Since the law came into effect (sometime in the 1990s), they have reduced waste by 70%.  Now that is a refreshing break from the Eeyores of ecology.

David Suzuki and David R. Boyd. David Suzuki’s Green Guide. Greystone Books: 2008.

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