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The Legacy: An Elder's Vision for Our Sustainable Future [Paperback]

David Suzuki , Margaret Atwood
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 8 2011

Now available in paperback, The Legacy represents the culmination of David Suzuki's knowledge and wisdom and his legacy for generations to come.

If he had to sum up all that he has learned in one last lecture, what would David Suzuki say? In this expanded version of the lecture that he delivered in December 2009 and that will be released as a film in 2010, Suzuki, one of the planet's preeminent elders, explains how we got where we are today and presents his vision for a better future.

In his own lifetime, Suzuki has witnessed an explosion of scientific knowledge as well as a huge change in our relationship with the planet—a tripling of the world's population, a greatly increased ecological footprint through the global economy, and a huge growth in technological capacity. These changes have had a dire effect on Earth's ecosystems and consequently on our own well-being. To deal with this crisis, we must realize that the laws of nature have priority over the forces of economics and that the planet simply cannot sustain unfettered growth. We must also recognize the limits of scientific reductionism and the need to adopt a more holistic point of view. Perhaps most important, we must join together as a single species to respond to the problems we face. Suzuki ends by saying that change begins with each of us; all it takes is imagination and a faith in the inherent generosity of Mother Earth. Also available in paperback.

Published in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Geneticist, broadcaster, author, and social critic David Suzuki is one of the loudest voices in the global green community, and is surely the elder statesman of Canadian environmentalism. Suzuki adds to an already impressive body of work with The Legacy, framed as a photo-illustrated “last lecture,” because the septuagenarian host of CBC’s The Nature of Things is facing reality: “Now that my parents are gone and I too have become an elder, my mind turns to my own mortality. I hope I can approach my death with the dignity and acceptance my father did.”

A tie-in with Suzuki’s (carbon-weighty) world tour, The Legacy recapitulates and condenses decades of advocacy work. Writers repackage their oeuvres all the time, but how they do so is just as important as why. In this regard, The Legacy falters in significant ways. For one thing, although it is about the length of a novella, the book somehow manages to be internally repetitious.

No one could argue with Suzuki’s overall message, or indeed, with the many cogent points he makes. However, even well founded passion for the natural world – and distress at the uncontestable destruction our species is wreaking on it – could do with less anger and more warmth (and even a touch of levity). Citizens are bombarded with “do-this” and “don’t-do-that” imperatives every day, and resent being talked down to. In The Legacy, Suzuki pounds the podium less than in his 2009 essay collection, The Big Picture, but seems intent on taking himself every bit as seriously as a graduate student canvassing for Greenpeace.

Despite this stridency, he does close the book with a gentle, eloquent observation: if there is hope that humanity can change in time, it will be due to our love of the natural world, not just scientific understanding. Anyone would do well to leave behind a message like that.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The book reads as if Suzuki is speaking to you, taking you by the hand on a journey. —Green Living


Suzuki, one of the planet's best-known environmentalists, explains how earth got where it is today and presents his vision for a better future—The Legacy encapsulates Suzuki's thoughts, philosophies and hopes for a sustainable future. —Arabella Magazine


David Suzuki is one of the loudest voices in the global green community, and is surely the elder statesman of Canadian environmentalism. [He] adds to an already impressive body of work with The Legacy. —Quill & Quire


Suzuki locates his vision of natureís order even more deeply, as an 'elder,' in the healing resources of aboriginal wisdom . . . The imaginative reach of Suzuki's earth-vision grounded in scientific fact is astounding. Single sentences can change our perceptions of space and time ranging from the pre-Cambrian era to future millennia . . . to this reader, Suzuki's grasp of the magic, profound complexity of nature's underlying matrix is the strength of his new book. —Telegraph-Journal


The 'legacy' in this lecture is one of truthful words about the hard place we're in, but it's also one of hopeful words: our chance if we will take it for 'opportunity, beauty, wonder and companionship with the rest of creation.' My hope is that we ourselves will emulate David Suzuki and leave legacies in our turn. —Margaret Atwood


Occasionally we encounter someone who appeals to the better angels of our nature and reminds us of values we once held dear. For me that person was David Suzuki. It was a privilege and a joy collaborating with him on this project for the past two years and I take great pride in the result. —Sturla Gunnarsson


With environmental crises facing the planet—climate change, ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity, to name a few—Suzuki says this is the time to act. The Legacy is part autobiography, part history, part basic science—and above all, a plea for the planet. Buy it. —National Post


Readers . . . will find Suzuki's tangential musings on subjects like argon molecules, shrinking swordfish, or the role of salmon in fertilizing forests some of the book's best reading . . . at the core of his writing lurks a scientist's wonder at the world, and a compelling sincerity that makes you believe—or at least, want to believe—[there is] still some hope for this muddled planet. —Winnipeg Free Press


We should publish stories about the future we want, gets kids to write about the future they want. Then I realize I'm still holding on to The Legacy, and that my panic has been replaced by wild excitement, and I think, 'Thank you Dr. Suzuki. Thank you very much.' —Alternatives Magazine


The expanded version of a lecture given by Suzuki in 2009, The Legacy is a discussion on population growth, technological developments and globalization, as well as the basic facts about existence: earth, air, fire and water. —Globe & Mail


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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Compelling Read! Aug. 29 2010
By just me
A very compelling book... I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting!

A lifetime of wisdom is contained within its 113 pages. From the state of the environment and why it matters to economics, relationships, spirituality, and more, its a profound journey through the eyes of a man who has seen much. Yet the book is hopeful as Dr Suzuki remains optimistic about our shared future.

It's the kind of book that stays with you long after you've read it.

I'd definitely recommend "The Legacy" to all readers. In fact, I've already ordered copies for my friends and family.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Summation Nov. 1 2010
The Legacy is based on the documentary film Force of Nature produced by Laszlo Barna and directed by Sturla Gunnarson. It is a short book, a series of summaries of the key points from the film and a distillation of the most important things that Dr. Suzuki has learned and wants to offer as his gift to the future. To me the book reads like the summation of the argument in a trial (and it is all of us and our civilization that it on trial). It is easier to understand the summation if you have followed the arguments and seen the evidence, and the summation is best understood if one can also hear the other side of the argument. (I would be happy if people can suggest other books that do a good job of presenting the other side of the case in the comments.)
The case, as I understand it, is that

- Humans have developed into a superspeices that is reordering other natural systems in its own short-term interests.

- This new order is not sustainable, it is consuming non-renewable resources (burning down its capital) and destroying the information and feedback loops it needs to self correct.

- Homogenizing metrics (my term) such as GDP (or the idea that the sole purpose of the corporation is to maximize short-term shareholder value) do not direct cultures and economies in directions that optimize sustainability, resilience or human well being.

- We need to widen our frame of reference and learn from traditional societies that lived within their means for many generations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read March 14 2011
By Chris
A very good read by a top scientist who is not afraid to
add his own philosophical thoughts to his writing.
I find it funny that one of the bad reviews is by a
raving climate denier who cannot be classed as a scientist;
Tom Harris of the International Climate Science Coalition

I personally enjoyed the book very much as I have enjoyed
The Nature of Things for decades.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life Well Lived Jan. 12 2012
A wonderful life summary of a great scientist, public figure and friend of sensible and sustainable development. From his childhood to life in his 70's, this movie takes us on a journey of a life well worth living and one that will go down in the history books. It is also worth pointing out that Tom Harris of the International Climate Science Coalition's comments should be taken with a grain of salt. Mr. Harris works for a major organization that is apparently still skeptical that humans have any connection to the scientifically accepted concept of climate change. His organization is closely connected with big oil, particularly the Exxon corporation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent, passionate, informative May 11 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An eloquent and moving description of this scientist's direct experience with the disastrous impacts of global warming on the fish, birds, and other creatures which depend on the ocean.
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