Earth Matters

Thoughts on Perpetual Growth

“Perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell!”

These are words from Dr. David Suzuki’s address to the MASH sector stakeholders at an engagement event I attended last month regarding “Energy Conservation Through Collaboration”. (The MASH sector includes municipal, academic  schools & hospitals.) In his speech, Dr. Suzuki challenged us to think of other ways to measure our success other than perpetual economic growth. He proposed we consider instead whether our fundamental needs of survival are being met: do we have clean air to breath, clean water to drink and healthy food to eat?

I wanted to share this powerful analogy through this week’s Earth Matters blog because I feel that we can easily to relate to the harmful effects of a growing cancer in the health care sector and I always like to draw parallels between environment and health. This was my second time listening to Dr. Suzuki, whom I have long admired for his work as an environmentalist and climate change activist and I’ll admit that I did not realize until recently that his background is in biology and genetics. I am not surprised that these are the same fields one studies in healthcare and cancer research as there are many lessons in human health that can be applied to the health of our environment as well.

My favourite part of his talk is when he shares his famous analogy of “exponential growth in a test tube” . A tale of unsuspecting bacteria, happily growing and multiplying without regard any for their limited resources within the test tube. Can you guess how it ends? If you haven’t heard it before, I recommend you watch it for yourself.

David Suzuki

You can watch Dr. David Suzuki explain the “Test Tube” analogy here:



cancer cells dividing

more about cancer cell division here:


About the author

Laura Berndt

Laura Berndt (Hough) is the Manager of Energy & Sustainability in Plant Operations at Sunnybrook.