Photo: Japan's crisis is another reason to look at energy use

The need to assess our energy options is more important than ever. All have consequences and tradeoffs (Credit: Digital Globe-Imagery via Flickr).

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Communications and Editorial Specialist

The massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan are horrendous and heart-wrenching, and our thoughts are with the people of that country as they cope with the aftermath and the terrible losses they have suffered.

To make matters worse, the terrifying natural disaster has sparked a human-caused crisis, as radiation leaks from crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, sparking fears of a meltdown.

Although our immediate concern is for the people of Japan, we must also draw lessons from this misfortune. First, we can learn from the Japanese about being prepared. As horrific as the earthquake and its aftermath were, the situation could have been far worse if the Japanese people took the same complacent approach to disaster planning that many Canadians follow. But it's also another indicator that we have to take a close look at our energy systems.

Last year, the world watched another energy-related calamity unfold, as oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. Both the nuclear crisis in Japan and the oil spill in the Gulf focused our attention on the things that can go wrong in our insatiable pursuit of cheap energy. But the issues around our energy use are far more serious and persistent. They include pollution, political instability, rising costs, and climate change.

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Once again, our energy appetite has provoked a global nightmare. We can sink deeper into crisis, or we can use it as an opportunity to look at ways to achieve a sustainable energy future. Fossil and nuclear fuels are finite and therefore cannot be truly sustainable. They will run out, and we're already seeing one of the outcomes of depleting supplies: skyrocketing prices. Another consequence is that we will have to rely increasingly on oil from difficult sources (environmentally and politically) like deeper water, the tar sands, the Arctic, and volatile political jurisdictions. Using fossil and nuclear fuels also creates enormous problems now and into the future as greenhouse gases and radioactive and long-lived wastes accumulate.

In addition, fossil and nuclear fuels are not equitably distributed throughout the world. Oil deposits, for example, are often found in geopolitically unstable areas. And nuclear energy has proven to be incredibly expensive and time-consuming to get into production. If the money proposed to refurbish aging facilities and build new ones were put toward renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal, the impact would be immediate and would get us moving toward a truly sustainable energy future.

The need to assess our energy options is more important than ever. All have consequences and tradeoffs. Climate change caused by burning fossil fuels endangers our planet, nuclear disasters and nuclear waste are potentially significant threats to our health and ecosystems, and even renewable sources have impacts. It's time we took a close look at our energy use and sources in order to find better ways of providing for our needs. We can all start doing our part by using less.

Regardless of the path we choose, we must plan more carefully. A number of organizations in Canada are working to develop a national energy strategy — something that is surprisingly lacking in a developed country like ours.

For its part, the David Suzuki Foundation has joined with the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Trottier Family Foundation to consider Canada's energy options as part of the Trottier Energy Futures Project. We're looking at questions around what we can do to limit strain on our energy production system. How is our energy use leading to overinvestment in potentially dangerous energy sources and technologies? How can we factor in energy sources with fewer environmental impacts? We look forward to working with Canadians from all walks of life to develop a sustainable energy future for Canada.

We all hope the situation in Japan doesn't become more serious than it already is, but with that hope we must come to the realization that we can and must find ways to reduce the risks that come with our energy use and technologies.

March 22, 2011

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Oct 10, 2013
5:19 AM

this is so said i might cry :(:(:(:(:(:(:P(:((:((:(:(:(((:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:

Feb 09, 2013
7:16 AM

I have to do a news reprt on this Tsunami in Japan and this website is very helpful. However this is very sad though.

Dec 11, 2012
7:53 AM

omg this is so tragic i think i might cry :(

May 10, 2012
7:40 AM


Feb 02, 2012
10:55 AM

Your completely correct. We need a National Renewable Energy Plan. Why we Do Not have one is a real good question to examine. Our current energy trend is too destructive, oil spills and nuclear meltdowns to name a few. Guess what it is up to you to save the planet, each one of us individuals are responsible for the change we want to see. No power hungry greed monger is going to do it for us. bio fuel, solar power go!

Jan 03, 2012
8:48 AM

thank you for writing this. it was very inspirational. i have and will always be a big fan of you david suzuki, i hope we will find and help those in need of help, so they may be free and happy. <3 Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.


Aug 15, 2011
9:19 PM

thanks becoz i have to make a project about tsunami in japan

Aug 13, 2011
1:53 AM

hope it vont happen a gan

thanks 4 ur information

Aug 06, 2011
7:21 AM

Aug 06, 2011
7:19 AM


Jul 28, 2011
7:14 AM

If the death toll of japan after the massive distruction was [suppose 1000] then just think what would be the death toll in india if such a thing happened ! ! ! !

Jul 24, 2011
8:45 AM

Salute to david sir. I always depend on his notes and data provided by him for my school projects.

Jul 24, 2011
5:54 AM

god help JAPAN!!


Jul 03, 2011
1:42 AM

feeling so bad hope it again never occurs

May 31, 2011
2:05 AM

thanks for the information

May 29, 2011
1:03 AM

it was really so bad

May 18, 2011
12:11 AM

This disaster only gives us 1 understanding that if we can play wid nature it very well knows how to reply back.Dont test the Patience of Nature!!!!! Otherwise WORLD can be the next JAPAN!!!!

May 10, 2011
12:30 AM

More than sixty years have passed since ‘uncontrolled nuclear’ reactions were unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The thousands of individuals who survived the initial blast-effects effects succumbed later to radiation trauma because there was no specific therapy available.

What is the current status of the therapy for the treatment of victims subjected to a similar catastrophe.

Today the status for treatment of radiation trauma is essentially the same as in 1945.

. In 1962, a unit at the Naval Medical Research Institute [NMRI] published a procedure for isolating a factor [heat-stable protein] which increased the survival of subjects exposed to near-lethal levels of X-radiation to 650/1000 for the treated subjects compared to 350/1000 for the untreated controls. Pharmacological studies demonstrated that the mechanism of action was to accelerate the regeneration of the hematopoietic tissues [hemoglobin formation] and the lymphatic tissues [immune systems] — which are the primary essentials for the survival and recovery of these victims. This research was terminated in mid-experiment due to the activation of [AFRRI] Armed Forces Radiation Research Institute [1962] which was assigned the mission of developing a therapy for the treatment of victims of an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. AFRRI in its 40 years of existence has had no success in this area .. Attempts to present these research findings to a scientifically competent research group[s] in USA have met with indifference. .

[1] Katz, S. and Ellinger, F. ” Isolation of a Radiation-Mortality Reducing Factor from Spleen” NATURE, 197, 397 [1963].

[2] www.

[3] Search: nuclear catastrophe

[4] Check: Google — AFRRI

May 06, 2011
3:46 PM

I’m a Canadian living in Japan. Everyday, there are hundreds of people searching for a new home and land to grow safe vegetables and drink clean water around the globe. Here in Japan this was thought to be a problem for “poor, underdeveloped countries”, facing water shortages, war, epidemics….. but this time it’s a reality for so many facing radiation leak in their own backyards…..Canada having so much space and a chance for clean sustainable energy needs to focus on these issues and be a leader in the world to start the changes!!!!

Apr 28, 2011
6:41 AM

i feel ashamed of being a human b’coz humans only forced nature to behave such with us.

Apr 15, 2011
12:16 AM

it’s a start to distroy world

Apr 08, 2011
11:11 AM

Now that we know to a certain degree that we are allowed to know about from world leaders and the experts..that our Oceans are going to become a dead zone thanks to the recent nuclear disaster in Japan. I’d like to know what/ or if anything is seriously being done about this? I’d also like to know what it’s going to take for humans to realize that Nuclear is not the way to go for energy???

I’m a firm believer that ALL NUCLEAR should be closed down and banned from the planet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that our planet is going through MAJOR changes and having those facilities active anywhere on this planet is not safe for any living thing. Humans are fallible creatures and so are the things we make= Nuclear IS dangerous on a planet that is quite unpredictable.

I wish people would WAKE UP and put away their selfishness before everything is destroyed!!

Apr 08, 2011
12:14 AM

I feel so sorry for japan

Apr 06, 2011
12:36 AM

saving the world starts from ourselves.. by showing even a simple disciplne each and everyone.. be a model in doing something that helps to reduce trajedy..

Apr 03, 2011
1:11 AM

I believe this is a time for all of us to pray to the almighty God for intervention.

Mar 29, 2011
8:15 PM

As a grade one teacher I too wonder what I can do to make an impact on human lifestyle and it’s consequence on the environment. I came across an influential quote that will help me to educate others the other day. My goal is to reflect on that quote everyday to someone and point out an observation nearby while talking about it. The quote suggests that if humans enhance their lives through leisure, social interrelationships and nonconsumerism we will change our cultural values and find a new direction steering away from the materialist consumption of plastic junk. Here is the quote by Alan Durning, “How much is enough? “If the life-supporting ecosystems of the planet are to survive for future generations, the consumer society will have to dramatically curtail its use of resources—partly by shifting to high-quality, low-input durable goods and partly by seeking fulfillment through leisure, human relationships, and other nonmaterial avenues.” Now I am challenging myself to teach those I greet in a kind way to value friendship, leisure activities and non-materialistic consumption so that we can cultivate and mold a new design for human existence that is substantial and desirable yet moves away from the desire to accumulate better, more and elaborate belongings.

Mar 27, 2011
7:24 PM

Hi David I am very concerned about our enviroment and the path it is taking. I have watched the news as long as i could remeber. It is only untill recent years i really took in what they were saying. They may say the enviroment is getting better but where I live, I can only see it getting worse and more abnormal. There is not as much snow and the fresh water is decreasing rapidly. My main point in sending you this is too see if you have any tips or pointers to help out with the enviroment and the energy use we have today. But keep in mind that alot of people are on a very small budget with all the prices rising, including food. Sincerly: Terry Cutting

Mar 26, 2011
1:53 PM

Good afternoon everybody! My name is Catti and I live in Mexico, I’m a nurse and I work in a hospital but also I’m very interested in Ecology and natural sciences. I’m really worried about our world and I try to make conscience to other people in order to keep our Earth healthy. Those news about Japan are really scaring to me: 1) because the general environment will be affected to all the world, 2) My boyfriend Soichi lives there and 3) I want to help everybody as I can because love is the most important thing. So, can you tell me how I can help Japan? or what duty I must do? Have a nice day With love Catti chan

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