Environmental activist David Suzuki was in Toronto this week, where he gave a keynote on sustainability in business. Suzuki spoke with ComputerWorld Canada afterwards about the IT industry’s role in an economy that depends on consumption and steady growth, and why the IT sector must agree that nature, not profit, is the bottom line.
ComputerWorld Canada: You said today’s economy depends so much on consumption and growth and that with the Electronic Revolution, people own many gadgets only to have vendors issue new version just a few months later. How is the IT industry contributing to this?
David Suzuki: One of the biggest problems is the products being produced are not designed with the notion of what happens to them when you’re done with them. The whole idea that resources are limited doesn’t come into it. I think there should be universal connectors to all them so they all have just one energy plug that you need or whatever. But the most important thing is they’ve got to be able to be dismantled and the parts used over and over again. If that doesn’t happen, it’s crazy. But I think also the number of them that we seem to need, the proliferation of the technology that we carry around. Where does it end? You just have to look at Steve Jobs’ enormous success from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. It’s the proliferation that is dependent on increased sales around the world. It can’t go on forever.
CWC: You spoke of companies wanting to continually grow the business. But you don’t think that is a sustainable model.
DS: Steady growth forever is cancer. I think we’ve got to get onto a different kind of model and that will be steady-state, carve out a niche. Of course there is a lot of survival of the fittest going on. You can’t just keep expecting that niche to keep growing.