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Suzuki warns of human-made environmental crises

Famed broadcaster speaks at Rotary District conference in Surrey
Environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki spoke to District 5050 Rotarians at their annual conference at the Sheraton Guildford, on May 6. (Anna Burns photo)

Internationally esteemed scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki stressed the importance of foresight and responsibility in acting to preserve the environment as he delivered one of the keynote addresses as the cross-border regional Rotary District 5050 hosted its 2023 conference May 5, 6 and 7 at Surrey’s Sheraton Guildford.

An ambitious overarching theme for the conference, ‘Imagine a Peaceful and Inclusive World’ had been set by outgoing district governor, and White Rock resident, Raj Rajogopal.

Subject themes included preserving the environment; maintaining peace at home and abroad; and encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion.

Suzuki told some 200 Rotary members and guests on May 6 that human foresight is in danger of being lost in our current era.

“The ability to look ahead, recognize danger and opportunity and deliberately choose to avoid hazards and exploit opportunities was our great advantage, and the importance of that foresight was understood,” he said.

“It’s enshrined and embedded in many cultures in their stories and their legends and their myths.”

Suzuki warned that the anthropocene era – in which humans have become all-powerful – presents clear dangers for the planet.

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“Not long ago, hurricanes, drought, tornadoes, floods and forest fires were called natural disasters or acts of God,” he said.

“Well, today they are not natural and we have become the gods…we are now the primary factor altering the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale.”

Among those who also spoke on environmental themes were David Brown, immediate past president of the Rotary Club of North Delta; Hillary Franz, commissioner of public lands for Washington State; Pamela Zevit, biodiversity conservation planner for the City of Surrey, and Lise Townsend, climate program lead (sustainability and climate action) for Surrey.

Christiana Flessner, chair of the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation spoke about disability and accessibility issues while South Surrey resident Stephanie Cadieux, a past B.C. government minister appointed last year as the Government of Canada’s Chief Accessibility Officer, provided an overview of the Accessible Canada Act, as well as an update on latest developments, including the release of potentially culture-changing accessibility plans from numerous federal departments.

Speaking on peace were Al Jubitz, past president of the Rotary Club of Portland and co-founder of the Rotary Peace Action Group, who is also president and founder of the Jubitz Family Foundation, and oversees its grant-making and partnerships with organizations that foster peace-building and environmental stewardship.

Also among speakers was Dr. Keith Carlson, a professor and director in Indigenous and Community-Engaged History at the University of the Fraser Valley’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre.

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