All life exists in the biosphere, the zone of air, water and land that envelops the planet. The biosphere, astronomer Carl Sagan used to say, is as thick as a layer of varnish painted on a basketball.

Humanity has become so numerous and powerful that we are now altering the biological, physical and chemical makeup of the biosphere.

And we often don’t recognize it because of globalization.


When I get up in the morning, I stagger into the kitchen where I perform my ritual of grinding a few coffee beans for a wakeup shot of caffeine before hitting the shower.

As I wait for the coffee to steep, I don’t reflect on the fact Canada is a northern country. So where did the coffee come from? How were the beans grown? What were the conditions and incomes of the people who picked the beans? How did the beans get to my home?

The act of purchasing an item means we are supporting a host of activities, ranging from digging the raw materials out of the planet, to processing, manufacturing, transporting and selling. Yet the ecologically destructive or socially exploitive costs of our products are seldom visible.

Globalization obliterates the identity of local ecosystems and local communities. The entire planet becomes a source of raw materials while the “market” is no longer a local village place.

Living as we do, divorced from the production of the goods we purchase each day, it is easy to forget how interconnected we are to the rest of the world. Economic globalization has meant that even a northern country like Canada can benefit from products like coffee from far away places in different seasons.

We devote a considerable amount of our lives working to earn the money to buy stuff. But in this globalized world, there should be a responsibility that accompanies our purchases, a responsibility to understand the ecological, social and spiritual repercussions of each item. The biosphere depends on it. And we depend on the biosphere.

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at

Dr. David T. Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

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