Biologist and economist team up to talk about the environment

On their new cross-country speaking tour authors Jeff Rubin and David Suzuki made a stop in Winnipeg’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. The lecture was held at the John Hirsh Theatre in Winnipeg’s Exchange District on Oct. 1.

The two authors lectured to a sold out theatre on issues surrounding economics, of which Rubin specializes in, and ecology, which is one of Suzuki’s areas of interest.

The speaking tour, continuing on until Nov. 8, elaborates on the main points made in both of their newly published books, Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet, by Suzuki, which was published May of this year, and The Big Flatline: Oil and the No-Growth Economy, by Rubin, which is to be published Oct. 16, as a follow up to his previous book Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller.

The tour includes an additional eight more talks throughout six provinces, and will end with the last lecture in Victoria, BC on Nov. 8.

The Winnipeg lecture lasted a little under an hour and began with an introduction by CBC Radio host Terry MacLeod.

The speakers took turns at the podium, with Rubin up first followed by Suzuki, and ending with a question and answer period.

What makes this series of lectures interesting, as was pointed out by MacLeod, was the fact that both speakers “come from very different backrounds.” Rubin has his background in economics, being the ex-chief economist and managing director of CIBC World Markets, and Suzuki is mainly interested in ecological and environmental issues.
Rubin focused his portion of the lecture around the economics of oil and stressed the fact that oil prices have been, and will continue, to rise and that it should no longer be an energy source for us to rely on.

“Oil continues to remain the world’s largest source of fuel, and while we’ve been successful in using other things to replace oil, such as natural gas, we still rely on it heavily as a transit fuel.”

He continued, explaining the connections between the economic recessions the world has been experiencing and the fluctuation price of oil.

Rubin claimed, “every major global recession that we have had in that last four decades has been caused by oil [. . . ] If oil prices would have stayed at $30 a barrel Leman Brothers would have never gone under.”

Similar to that is the fact that, according to Rubin, “peak oil isn’t about how much oil you can drill its how much you can afford to extract [ . . . ] the very fuel that our economy runs on is way beyond our reach.”

Rubin concluded by calling for economic change for the sake of the environment.

“We need to accept that our economies cannot grow as rapidly as they have in the past, and our efforts to make them grow that fast are going to be counterproductive. It’s going the make the issue of triple digit oil prices that much more difficult.”

Suzuki spoke on our biological beginnings and how we have become detached from nature.

Suzuki said, “We no longer see the world in a way that allows us to see the reality of nature.” By that he meant that we have lost focus on how everything humans do has an environmental consequence.

“We seem determined to take over the entire biosphere and change it and shape it as we want.”

To illustrate, Suzuki made the point that “in only 100 years we have gone through an absolutely amazing change such that in Canada over 85 per cent of us now live in big cities, and over 50 per cent of us around the world live in big cities. We have become an urban-dwelling human-created environment.”

Along with our new urban dwelling tendencies, Suzuki claims that humans have also evolved such that we are heavy consumers of man-made products. This has resulted in extreme harms to the environment.

“We have become the most numerous living being on the planet. The very act of living leaves a huge ecological footprint,” noted Suzuki.