|PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos Islands:
One of the world’s most vocal environmental activists delivered an impassioned plea to delegates at the 10th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Tuesday: minimize our footprint on the Earth before it is too late.Dr David Suzuki, the Canadian geneticist, best-selling author and television host, opened the conference as its keynote speaker before a capacity crowd, which included heads of state from various Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) member countries. Suzuki challenged these leaders, and all gathered in the room, to not sacrifice the future for short-term economic gain.
|Dr. David Suzuki
“Sustainability is finally being taken seriously by governments and corporations,” said Suzuki. “Sustainability is about living within our means and not compromising opportunities for future generations. Unfortunately in the past neither politicians nor the corporate sector have made this a priority. Politicians have to get re-elected, corporations focus on bottom line profits and children don’t vote, so their future tends to drop off the agenda.”
According to Suzuki, “Island people, better than most, understand limits, and that resources are finite. Looming ahead for the entire world is the great crisis of our economy, peak oil, the moment when available oil supplies are all known and being exploited so that supplies will inexorably fall.
“The twin crises of ecological degradation and falling oil supplies will have massive repercussions for all countries, but none more so than those of the Caribbean and especially the tourism industry” said Suzuki.
Suzuki cited the challenges facing the airline industry in the coming years. “Air travel leaves the heaviest carbon footprint among all modes of transportation and skyrocketing fuel prices are already having explosive effects,” he said.
Suzuki is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, whose mission is to promote energy efficiency and ecological fiscal reform. He rose to international fame in 1979 as host of The Nature of Things, an award-winning science programme syndicated in over 50 countries. His efforts to educate the public on issues such as climate change have been recognized by the Canadian government, The United Nations, and numerous universities. Dr. Suzuki has authored over 40 books, including the best-seller The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Planet in Nature.
“In the 3.9 billion years that life has existed on Earth, we are the first species capable of such destructive power that we are changing the biological, physical and chemical features of the planet on a geological scale,” observed Suzuki. “We are altering the chemistry of the atmosphere with 30 percent more carbon dioxide in the air now than 150 years ago. It is dissolving in oceans as carbonic acid, acidifying water and threatening plankton.”
Suzuki, in part, blamed unchecked growth and unrealistic economic expectations for the threat the Earth faces today.
“Unfortunately, economists believe economies can grow forever to meet this population’s needs,’ said Suzuki. “They can’t. With that belief system we must eventually ask ourselves, how much is enough? Are we happier with more stuff?”
Citing some alarming statistics, Suzuki warned of the dire consequences of continued abuse of the environment.
“Over half of the planet’s forests are gone and in 30 years we may have no large, intact forests left,” he said. “An estimated 50,000 species become extinct every year and the oceans are being depleted. Every large commercial marine species has been reduced by 90 percent. If this continues there will be no commercially useful fish species by 2048.”
Despite the challenges, Suzuki praised the delegates for their efforts to address the environmental issue at the conference and offered hope for a brighter future.
“Are there solutions? Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve just forgotten the most important lesson. We are animals, connected to the rest of nature. Like other animals, we need clean air, water, food – all the elements – to survive.
“We need to focus on our eco-footprint today,” said Suzuki. “The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. We can either look at the forest as sacred ground or timber as pulp to be milled for money. Economists think tourism can continue to grow into infinity. But we have to realize that nothing can grow forever. This unchecked growth only accelerates us on a suicidal path.”
The 10th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism runs though May 1, 2008 at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa (by Sandals), a Green Globe Certified hotel. The conference, organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization in collaboration with the Turks & Caicos Tourist Board and the Caribbean Hotel Association, is designed to provide attendees with information on the development and implementation of tourism practices in a responsible manner.
More than 150 delegates registered for this year’s conference, an increase of 50 percent over the previous year.