Earth Day protest

David Suzuki looks back on more than 50 years of Earth Days

David SuzukiDavid Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Nature of Things and author of more than 30 books on ecology (co-written by Tara Cullis).


Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 — 53 years ago.  Since then, the human population has more than doubled, from 3.7 billion to almost eight billion. Our drive toward endless population and economic growth has led to the destruction of massive swathes of pristine forest through clear-cutting, burning and flooding for agriculture and industry, and millions of species have been pushed to extinction. 

Political and business leaders would do well to take time to consider how we got here. The rise of the Industrial Revolution gave science and its servant, technology, the power to move mountains. Linear, analytic “left-brain” thinking became dominant over the collaborative, holistic thinking associated with the brain’s right hemisphere. Economics became the dominant “science.” 

The First World War positioned the U.S. as the world’s leading economy, but trouble in the agriculture sector and stock markets brought it crashing down, sparking the Great Depression. 

Production and mobilization during the Second World War brought the U.S. and other countries out of that calamity. After the war, manufacturing, especially in America, turned from tanks, boats, guns and planes to cars, refrigerators, TVs and toasters — many designed to have limited lifespans.

In the 1950s, consumerism and credit kept the postwar economy burning. But to maintain it, we had to get hooked on growth, to feed our debt.

Then the ’60s hit — “right-brain” thinking rose against the “left-brain” creep of the preceding decades. It was an age of rebellion from those who rejected injustice and lifted up noble ideals. 

It gave birth to an explosion of music and the civil rights, feminist and peace movements and to the environmental movement, sparked by Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring in 1962. They rose in part from a transformative shift to balance the “left-brain” dominance of western thinking. 

More than 50  years after the first Earth Day, let’s rededicate ourselves to the power that harmonizes “left-” and “right-brain” thinking. Let’s not fall into the trap of trying to solve the great problems of this world with only half a brain. That’s what got us into trouble in the first place. 

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO