This past Monday, October 6th, I had the opportunity to attend the “Evening with David Suzuki” event at the Center in the Square in downtown Kitchener. This stop was a part of Mr. Suzuki’s much larger and longer-term quest to get Canadians to stand up for their right to a healthy environment.
The ask is simple to understand, but quite massive in realization and scope. Basically, it aims to include the right to a healthy environment – i.e. our systems of air, water, land, and sustenance – in an amended Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a movement that will start with local communities passing municipal declarations, followed by attention and action at the provincial and finally federal levels.
Funding for the tour is provided by Nature’s Path, Roots Canada, and Ascenta Health. There is also a massive vein of support from volunteers and passionate activists across Canada – you just have to skim through the website’s Latest News to feel the passion-infused power building behind this cause.
I enjoyed the event, which included musical and poetry performances by artists like Danny Michel, Joe MacInnis, Shane Koyczan, and Whitehorse. I also very much appreciated the perspective taken by Mr. Suzuki; essentially, that you can fight individual environmental causes for years and never see the kind of broad, systemic, perceptual changes that come with real paradigm shifts. Legal protection can provide the closest thing to ‘real change’ in the public and political consciousness, as it demands compliance from governments and organizations over time.
I do think that, superficially, the movement’s focus on the ‘people’s right’ to a healthy environment perpetuates our human-centric view of the world. Mr. Suzuki attempted to balance out this issue in his presentation, emphasizing the nesting of our human lives and communities on this blue dot which provides our life-support systems. Despite my academic belief that nature should have tangible rights and values separate from human livelihoods, I have more recently (through my work with REEP Green Solutions) come to respect the necessity of mobilizing people to action through very practical, real-world concerns.
45,571 Canadians have joined their local movement – you can, too, by connecting on the Take Action portion of their website!