"We are at a critical point in human history," prominent Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki told an audience of about 500 people at a public forum at Sydney University, on September 25.
"What we do or do not do in the next period will determine the future of the human species and the planet,” he said.
The meeting, called "The challenge of the 21st century: Setting the real bottom line”, was sponsored by the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney. It was part of a series of talks and media appearances by Suzuki on his Australian visit.
"Human beings have become a geological force, changing the face of planet Earth, and leading to scientists describing this as the 'anthropocene epoch,'" he said. "They have been warning us for 40 years that we are heading down a dangerous path.
"The new Australian federal government is now turning its back on climate science. Canada has been going down this road for years.
"'The economy' has now been elevated above the survival of the planet. The challenge now is to change the way we see the world.
"The environment movement has mounted major campaigns, and has had some wins and losses. But we have failed to re-educate the people that we need to change the basic paradigm.
"In Australia, like in Canada, governments are subjected to the will of the corporations. We must rein in the power of the big corporations if we are to save the planet.
"We need to put the 'eco' back into 'economics.' We need to massively reduce consumption in the developed world.
"Can we build a better way of living? There are many examples and experiments. Three countries come to mind."
Suzuki spoke about the examples of Bolivia, where indigenous President Evo Morales has given Pachamama (Mother Earth) the highest priority; Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa has enshrined the rights of Pachamama in the country's constitution; and Bhutan, where the king said many years ago that the Bhutanese people are not interested in measuring Gross National Product, but Gross National Happiness.
Concluding a lively question time, Suzuki told a young boy that "environmentalism is not a speciality, but a state of mind. Go outside and fall in love with Mother Nature, because we only fight to protect what we love."