Last week I had the privilege of listening to a special lecture by Professor D. Suzuki for the Distinguished Lecturer series from the University of Wisconsin. Prof. Suzuki is a geneticist and ecologist from the University of British Columbia, and is very well know for his hosting of the television science show The Nature of Things, on the Candian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) since the late-1970s. He is also renowned for his strong support of the environmental movement and his activism toward influencing governmental policy regarding the environment. I can still remember watching his show in the 80s while living in North Dakota (as we received the CBC in our television line-up). He really did inspire a love for nature and science for me.
That evening, he did not disappoint (a few summary points that stuck with me):
ECO is derived from the Greek oikos, meaning “home”
ecology is the study of the home
economy is the management of the home
“It’s time to put the ‘eco-’ back in economics.“ Exponential constant growth is unsustainable, and the ecology should guide the economy–not the reverse.
People used to say think globally, and act locally. But “thinking globally” is too overwhelming, and people just throw up their hands and say, ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. The problem is just too big.’ Instead, we should really do as David Barry says: ‘think locally, and act locally’, because then the problem becomes more tangible, and people feel less intimidated by the prospect of bringing about change.
MY THOUGHTS: His suggestion to link the schools of economy with those of environmental studies and ecology really hit home. In that system, I believe there is a natural opportunity for linking materials science and technology into the process. In such a way, the materials produced are guided by with environmentally aware design and marketing of that product to an economy that understands the concept of a limited reservoir of energy, water, and materials on Earth’s accessible crust. In an educational sense, this means incorporating coursework in ecology and geoscience into the fields of economics and materials science. I have a strong hunch that environmental engineering will be a passing term on the way to the next generation of modern society. Very soon, ALL engineers and scientists will be required to be environmental engineers in the context of their own discipline, just out of the influence of limited reserves.
Please note: Prof. Suzuki has a foundation to address sustainability and global climate change: the David Suzuki Foundation. This site is a wonderful tool for education on issues of sustainability. The site also contains simple, easy personal changes that will help diffuse the footprint of modern human society on Earth.
* Image copyright Ronica Skarphol Brownson (2006)