Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The wise, the young and the big. An evening with David Suzuki.

Doom and I went to church. Quite an unusual thing for both of us to do as neither of us follows a particular religion. But it was an exceptional occasion; an evening spent in the presence of esteemed geneticist, broadcaster and writer David Suzuki. 
David Suzuki's Legacy project 
David Suzuki Foundation 
 We briefly debated if we should drive or ride our bikes to the downtown church. The evenings are drawing-in earlier and it’s getting chilly but then, this is probably Canada’s best-known environmental activist so the bikes won more votes.  Fortunately we pre-ordered our tickets (which were very reasonably priced at $15) because the queue stretched far around the block outside the Knox United Church in downtown Calgary.
We took our seats at the pew and I surveyed the packed crowd to get a sense of who might be attracted to this type of event. I would say Doom and I were at the lower end of the age bracket; most people seemed to range from mid-forties to mid-fifties. A gentlemen in his eighties, hunched over with one leg missing, leaned on his cane next to me. I was concerned he wouldn’t be able to see over the heads in the rows before us but he said he was fine. I was somewhat disappointed there were fewer younger faces in their twenties there to be inspired; after-all, they potentially have a longer time to live on the planet and deal with the consequences of our actions or inactions.
David Suzuki stood at the altar. He himself is seventy-four years old and as he began to talk he gave me the impression that this might be his final curtain call. This tour was in part to promote his latest book, The Legacy; An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future. But to watch the man with a head-full of grey hair, nimbly waving his arms in the air as he spoke intently about his hopes for the future and the legacy of his foundation, I have the feeling it will be a while before we have seen the last of this great man.
It was haunting and ironically fitting to be in a church; to hear a self-declared atheist give a sermon on how humans have become a potent force of nature, how we’ve gone beyond “acts of god.” Collectively, we are just as powerful and more destructive than hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes to the long-term health of every bio-system our lives, never-mind the rest of the planet, depend on.
I think the most poignant moment was when at the end he took some questions from the audience and a young girl asked, what is the one thing principles at schools can do to implement change. Suzuki took a deep breath and gently answered. To paraphrase, he said; Many principles are aware but perhaps it's your parents that need to change. So go home and ask them to do everything in their power to ensure that the forests, the soil and the water that your life depends on will be there for you in the future. If they really loved you, this would be more important to them than showering you with gadgets and stuff that eventually will be thrown away.
Doom and I each left with a signed copy of his books. Up close, Suzuki came across as a slightly cantankerous ol' geezer but then after all the stupidity he's seen at his age, he’s probably entitled to be that way at 10 pm on a Tuesday night.
However, the evening did not end there and as it’s rare for me to be out on the town, I was in an unusual mood to associate with other people and spread the good word around.
We went to the Ship and Anchor for a bite to eat but it was packed to the rafters with all those twenty-something persons. We squeezed into a table with five others that had spotted it just at the same time we did. I took this as a sign that this was my opportunity to engage their thoughts on detrimental human excesses. It didn’t take long for them to basically say they felt they had no power over things so why bother. Why not start with your own health and quit smoking, I suggested to the girl who kept arising out of her seat every ten minutes to smoke outside. I guess she didn’t like my preaching, because after the third cigarette break, she didn’t come back. One of the guys worked up in the oil sands took the view that environmentalists blow things out of proportion and there isn’t any real reason for concern, at least not in his lifetime.  Doom, meanwhile tried to keep everything on a lighter note and asked; so, how goes those Flames?

But in the end I could say if I had an award to hand out named “There is hope” it would go to the bouncer at the door of Morgan’s Pub. Doom and I were outside queuing up to see the live music by glam rockers, Broken Toyz.  A spontaneous decision as we were decked out in clothing suitable for riding bikes on a cold night and not for a glitzy night out on the town. I watched this mammoth guy, whose head alone was probably as big as Doom and mine’s combined, check the shivering girls’ ID in front of us. I got ready to fumble in my bag for my ID but when it was our turn he didn’t ask for it. I was very disappointed. But he said instead, he needed to check inside our backpacks. Doom told him all he'd find would be signed copies of David Suzuki’s books. This big bouncer looked at us agape, and then asked how we got such items. He was truly awed but rather bummed out that he hadn’t heard about the event, he would have loved to have been there. After all, he’s majoring in sustainable economics. Who would have thunk that? But he did have tickets to see Jane Goodall. Now I was in awe. I had only just mentioned to Doom that would be another legendary person to see. Meanwhile the crowd behind us was swelling so finally the bouncer waved us through the doors without charging us any money.