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Sacred Balance - Reader Reviews / Comments

Read and take notes from the following. Answer the questions following these reviews.

NB : When writing your essays beware of just making broad observations eg : "we really do not understand all the elements needed for the proper functioning of the environment". Make these statements yes, but support them with abundant direct quotes and specific references to the text!

An eye-opener, April 26, 2005
Reviewer: Lem Sportsinterviews (Montreal)

It is hard to say whether all Suzuki's facts are absolutely valid or not, especially when his discussion turns to what the Earth's true carrying capacity for humans is - but that is slightly beside the point here. The most important part of environmentalism is to wake people up and make them realize the effects that their everyday actions have on the world around them.

Suzuki does this by explaining

1) how everything in this world is connected;

2) pollution of one area will invariably affect another area;

3) we really do not understand all the elements needed for the proper functioning of the environment.

This should make any person reflect on their own actions. The world's environmental problems (which in turn are deeply connected to human problems) will not be solved by governments' imposing regulations and all this Kyoto b.s. (not that Kyoto is bad... it's just a very small step and it is disgusting to see that both USA and Canada are stalling), change will only come when each individual makes sure their OWN actions do not make the situation worse.

Buy organic when you can afford it, reduce or cut out meat entirely from your diet (I think 80% of farmland is used to keep livestock alive), buy local products, recycle, compost, reduce energy consumption.

This isn't hippy crap - hippies never had that much self-restraint - this is about being a responsible person so that your grandchildren will be able to go outside and play without gas masks. Suzuki's book was what opened my eyes when I was 17... and it should do the same for most reasonable people.

Excellent, enlightening and a "should read", March 24, 2005
Reviewer: Myles Delta Freeman "Myles" (Halifax, NS CANADA) -

This is an excellent and enlightening work about the general state of the planet, humanity as a species, where we belong on the planet and what it means to us in terms of sustaining us as a species for the long run.

Well-written and divided into chapters which could be summarized as humanity, air, earth, water, fire, community, love, spirituality and balance, this book paints an accurate state of the world picture with facts as well as metaphors. It always presents its concern about the greater picture without losing sight of the details. A great balance of general science and spirituality, with just enough facts and personal stories of many to make the points convincing, this book also is threaded with impacting and eye-opening quotes and poetry from a variety of sources and people.

A superb book, overall, from someone who has seen a lot of what he wrote about. This book should be on the curriculum for senior year high school so that the future generations can get a good grasp of the world as they become contributing adults in that world which they will own and determine, more impacting than ever, for future generations.

No matter how much or how little they will get from it, every bit helps at a time when that is truer than ever in the past from every one of us living today. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not the book that's profound. It's what you do with what you learn from it which will be.

Sane Science, September 30, 2004
Reviewer: Jeff W. Krueger (Portland, Oregon)

Humanity is creating problems of a size and magnitude unprecedented in Earth history. We are razing the forests, causing mass extinctions, and have befouled earth, sky and water with with deadly toxins. While clinging to faith in science and progress, deserts quietly creep in on our venerated civilization.

Within the human economy (community sounds too hospitable) as well, we see signs of collapse: some "800 million people go to bed hungry every night; and in wealthy industrialized nations, chronic unemployment, violence, social alienation, drug abuse, crime, unhappiness and the disparity between rich and poor appear to be rising. The sense that something is wrong is pervasive... People seem to feel helpless and pessimistic about the future." All of this, it must be added, in an era that many historians and pundits tout for "unprecedented scientific and technological progress."

Suzuki believes that, although abundant with information and technique, we lack a working worldview and have utterly disconnected ourselves from the living planet. "What we need," he says, "is a new kind of science that approaches the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities." What we need is a new story, sense of place, deep connection and meaning - and that's exactly what this book provides.

Suzuki's life-affirming narrative explains who we are, where we came from, and our proper place is in this complex, interdependent world. A beautiful blend of ancient wisdom and modern scientific thought, The Sacred Balance provides nothing less than the complete picture.

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki

Book Review by Jeff Cressman

David Suzuki is a fabulous writer with an urgent and strong point. This book entitled The Sacred Balance is a non-fiction book based on the heart and soul of what Suzuki believes. The first chapter attempts to help the reader realize humans are biological in nature and, as a species, have lost touch with our natural connections. He uses four chapters in this book to describe basic human needs and how intimately humans rely on the living Earth in every way.

One of these needs is air, which Suzuki talks about as the "matrix that joins all life together" and we as a society "need to acknowledge our responsibilities to protect the air we breathe".

Other such basic needs for humans include water, of which we are 60% by weight; the life providing medium of soil; the relentless downpour of energy from the sun, which Suzuki calls "The Divine Fire"; and the cyclical properties of nature with increasing importance for sustained life concerning biodiversity.

Suzuki goes on to talk about the next level of human need, this being love and spiritual needs. "These needs are absolute, inalienable, and where they are not met we suffer, even perish."

In the final chapter of this book Suzuki outlines a few outstanding examples of people who are attempting to restore the balance in their communities. He also goes on to give examples of ways in which we can live our lives in order to improve the fragile and deteriorating plant Earth.

Suzuki makes his point well: "Each of us as the ability to act powerfuly for change; together we can regain that ancient and sustaining harmony, in which human needs and the needs of all our companions on the planet are held in balance with the sacred, self-renewing processes of Earth."

This book could be utilized as an excellent teaching tool. It is intimately entwined with biological aspects some of which are somewhat advanced. Suzuki attempts to explain them so a person without any background might be able to understand. The ideas in this book are that of respect and dignity for the environment that we live in. Many lessons can be learned from Suzuki’s words for not only young students but also for all of humanity. I would seriously consider studying this book with a high school science class over the course of a semester. Suzuki demonstrates a very "down to Earth" view of today’s society.


This last one from Perth.

Educational, enlightening and frightening, March 11, 2004
Reviewer: binnsie "binnsie" (Perth, Western Australia) -

Not many science books have been written which are able to captivate its readers and hold their attention like "The Sacred Balance". Almost like a mystery thriller, it compels you to turn each page and keep on discovering amazing facts about the world we live in.

We learn about the origin of the planet and the painstakingly slow but methodical evolution of all the life forms which inhabit it. The atmosphere, the seas, the soil, the plants, the animals and the interdependent web they form, is described in a logical manner such that you think it is so obvious. David Suzuki is clearly not just a brilliant scientist but a very good educator. His description of an ecosystem is "a complex of community of producers, consumers, decomposers and detritivores, which interact within boundaries imposed by their physical surroundings to cycle energy and material through the web of life."

It is surprising to read that the ozone layer is only as thick as a sheet of newspaper. A quick independent check confirmed that it is indeed only about 2-3 mm thick. The diameter of the sun at 1.4 million kilometres wasn't surprising enough for me to rush off and check, but it is pretty awesome. Each second the sun burns 637 million tonnes of hydrogen to create 632 million tonnes of helium while releasing some 386 billion billion megawatts. The sun has been aflame for 5 billion years and is about half way through its own life cycle.

"Sacred Balance" tells us that mankind's technological ability to exhaust the planet of its natural resources at an alarming rate and the associated increase in demand on food, water, trees, the land and the atmosphere threaten to modify the sacred balance to such an extent that our survival is under threat. A frightening picture is painted by conjuring up a time-lapse film taken from space over the last ten thousand years so that each millennium passes in one minute. For the first 7 minutes the movie looks like more like a still photo as nothing changes. Gradually, as time progresses, forests and greenery begin to disappear in parts of Europe, Central America, China and India. 12 seconds from the end, 2 centuries ago, the thinning spreads more intensely until with 6 seconds to go eastern north America is deforested. The action accelerates in the last 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 3 seconds and so on until in the final fractions of a second it looks as if a plague of locusts has descended on the planet. Seen this way the planet's forests are being irrevocably lost in a mere tick of the geological clock. Plotted on a chart this forest devastation leaps almost straight off the page in our own lifetime.

Finally a series of "good news" stories are told which serve to give us hope that even an individual with a will can make a difference. From mangrove planters in Kuwait and Vietnam to the "Clean up Australia Day" campaign which has grown to become "Clean up the World" good things are happening. However, a lot of momentum is going to have to shift if the cycle is to be reversed and the sacred balance of our fragile and wonderful planet preserved.


  1. What do these reviews identify as Suzuki's purpose in writing The Sacred Balance ?

  2. List any quotes which state the PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED BY SUZUKI.

  3. List any quotes which state the SOLUTIONS IDENTIFIED BY SUZUKI.

  4. List any quotes which express

    • attitudes,

    • values (not the same as attitude),

    • reasons we should read the text.


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Feel free to access these resources for study purposes or classroom use. However where they have been directly dowloaded for distribution or copied and provided as notes, please acknowledge as a courtesy. John Watson