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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November Theme: "Unique Perspective"
Volume 2 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Connecting the Dots
by David Suzuki PhD

The headlines are all there - "National water crisis forecast," "Ridiculous gas prices soar again." But missing from these stories is any sense of connection between them, leaving the readers with a disjointed and incomplete view.

What is the connection? Well, the missing piece of the puzzle is the relationship between our lifestyles and the health of our environment - and how that, in turn, affects our personal health and well-being.

The University of Alberta's David Schindler, (one of Canada's leading ecologists) warns; climate change, pollution and habitat destruction are leading the country into a water crisis. Yet people are outraged about "ridiculous" gas prices and provincial politicians are pointing fingers at the federal government for not doing something about them.

While nobody likes to pay high prices at the pump, the transportation sector is responsible for one-third of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. Meanwhile, highway expansion and suburban sprawl are destroying habitat, and increasing numbers of vehicles on our roads are creating air and water pollution.

So if we're being led into a national water crisis by climate change, pollution and habitat destruction, and our extensive use of fossil fuels is greatly contributing to these problems, shouldn't gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels be expensive? Water - clean water - is an essential element of life. Cheap gasoline is not.

Why then does the federal government continue to provide tax breaks, subsidies and other incentives to the fossil fuel industry? And why is Canada the only developed nation in the world that does not provide any meaningful federal funding for public transportation? Wouldn't it be better to restructure taxes to take into account a product or service's true cost to society? How about reducing the GST while increasing fossil fuel taxes? Many European nations are heading this way, using taxation creatively to encourage good things for society like wages, while discouraging activities like wasteful use of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are an amazing source of power. They pack a tremendous amount of energy punch in a small, easily transported form. That convenience drove the industrial revolution, and brought with it tremendous prosperity. But we're burning them, literally, like there's no tomorrow.

Part of the problem is because cheap gasoline and other fossil fuels have been around long enough for us to build a huge infrastructure based on them. Our cities are decentralized and, lacking adequate public transit, people often have no choice but to drive. Meanwhile, the auto industry spends billions marketing the "safety" and convenience of gas-guzzling SUVs. Coal continues to be subsidized, dug out of the ground and sold at unbelievably low prices. And our food supply has become "globalized," relying on cheap fossil fuels to provide irrigation, fertilizers and transportation. It's a vicious circle.

But there is a way out. We have to stop looking at the environment as something we live in rather than something we are a part of. When we dump vast quantities of pollutants into our air, waters and soils, they do not simply disappear. The Earth can only absorb so much and, as Dr. Schindler explains, we've well surpassed those limits in many areas.

The headlines may be disjointed, but we can connect the dots. To avert a water crisis, slow global warming, reduce pollution and habitat destruction, we have to look at making changes as individuals, as government, and as private industries. We're learning the hard way, when we degrade the planet's health, we aren't just doing it to the "environment," we're doing it to ourselves.

David T. Suzuki PhD, the Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. David has received consistently high acclaim for his thirty years of award-winning work in broadcasting; explaining the complexities of science in a compelling, easily understood way. He is well known to millions as the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's popular science television series, The Nature of Things. Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

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