“Humankind is an asteroid on its way to completely destroying the earth,” said David Barsamian in a seminar titled “Ecocide: The War on Nature” on Tuesday, November 3 at UFV’s Abbotsford campus. Barsamian is the founder and director of the award-winning radio show Alternative Radio, as well as a journalist, writer, and activist. This was his second presentation at UFV; the first was in 2014.
The seminar, which was organized by the faculty of science, the Centre for Environmental Sustainability, and English professor Prabhjot Parmar, took place in the lecture hall in B building, where Barsamian gave his presentation with his books and a UFV poster in the background. His lecture focused on the effects of humanity on nature, and the ignorant behaviour of major corporations and the media in response to this important issue.
To begin his lecture, Barsamian highlighted how this past July the Fraser Valley experienced not only a drought, but the highest temperatures on record to date. Emphasizing that we “cannot put a stock market price on fresh air, water, or untouched land,” he argued that these extreme changes were due to climate change, and that immediate action is required in order to prevent more forest fires.
Barsamian is also known for his work with political commentator Noam Chomsky, with whom he shares a critical view of modern consumerism and the power of the media as a manipulative force. He described the capitalist economic system as being “on a crash course with the world” and referred to the media as a “weapon of mass distraction.” He predicts that “we will ultimately choke on fumes from our own waste” because modern society is too distracted by the overload of entertaining but useless information in modern life, rather than paying attention to what matters. For example, one of Barsamian’s points that shocked the audience was that the world’s biggest fracking companies are situated right here in Canada. This information was unknown to most of the audience.
According to Barsamian, the distracting force of the media prevents society from deciding, as a united front, to take action in defence of the environment. He fears it will only be when “Granville Island is completely submerged in water” that it will dawn on people that the planet’s climate is changing because of humanity’s reckless misuse of resources. Near the end of the discussion, there was a 20-minute question period during which Barsamian was inundated by questions from audience members wanting to know about the possibilities of solar energy, the correlation between agriculture and climate change, and how they could make a change.