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Suzuki behind Whistler’s sustainability initiative

World famous scientist, environmental advocate urges everyone to get involved at Whistler presentation

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"We got this letter from David Suzuki that said ‘Dave, wake up – you’ve got SUVs in your fleet, what are doing?’" said Forseth.

"This is a tough issue for us. We have a couple of real mountains here and we need trucks to get up and down, but we gave the issue our attention and went to General Motors, our partner, and told them about this issue.

"Soon afterwards they announced a new pilot project with Whistler-Blackcomb. Shortly we’ll have a new hybrid truck in our fleet, and we can see how it works on the mountain."

According to Forseth the mountains have already replaced a third of their snowmobile fleet with more efficient machines, reducing emissions by about 50 per cent.

"That’s good for the environment, and it’s good for business. We still have a long way to go, but thanks to people like David Suzuki we’re at least on the right path," said Forseth.

The main problem, according to Dr. Suzuki, is the fact that people are disconnected to the environment, that we’ve forgotten our fundamental connection to the earth, and don’t see how our actions are affecting the planet.

"People have been desensitized to the causal relationships between what we do and the consequences of our actions," he said.

He referred to an incident that occurred when taping his CBC show The Nature of Things. The topic was the national asthma epidemic that’s affecting one out of every five children in Canada, and getting worse.

According to Dr. Suzuki they hung out in Toronto, waiting for a smog alert day, then headed to the emergency room of a central hospital to watch the flood of elderly people and children having asthma attacks.

"People were scared, you could see the concern for their children in their faces – yet they drove up to the hospital in SUVs. I realized that they haven’t put together that the way they’re living, the car they’re driving, is the very cause of the crisis they’re having with their loved ones," said Dr. Suzuki.

SUVs came up frequently during Suzuki’s talk as a prime example of unsustainable thinking in society today.

"SUVs are the root of something we ought to be ashamed of. The gas mileage of the North American fleet (of vehicles today) is less than the gas mileage of Henry Ford’s Model T in 1912. That engine got 25 miles to the gallon, our average is now 23 miles to the gallon, and that’s because half of that fleet is SUVs," said Dr. Suzuki. "If the best we can do in a hundred years is just slightly better than the efficiency of a Model T, that’s a shame."