Seven questions for David Suzuki


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How's this for eco-tourism: Canada's pre-eminent environmental activist, David Suzuki, is logging some serious carbon-offset miles, criss-crossing the globe on a multi-country book tour that will take him across Canada and to Australia and Japan this fall.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/09/2010 (4566 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

How’s this for eco-tourism: Canada’s pre-eminent environmental activist, David Suzuki, is logging some serious carbon-offset miles, criss-crossing the globe on a multi-country book tour that will take him across Canada and to Australia and Japan this fall.

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is bringing the iconic scientist and broadcaster to speak at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue next Sunday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m., as part of its EcoShift event. Tickets are $20 at or through the Jewish Federation. In the meantime, we caught up with Suzuki to pick his brain on economics, the environment, and where he gets all that energy.

Q: You’re 74. You have three books out this year and a zillion speaking dates, plus your foundation, your media appearances, and more. Most people at your age are thinking a Club Med sounds pretty good. Where do you get your energy from?


A: I’m really compelled by my grandchildren. When I look at (my youngest grandchild) and see the enormous potential in his life, but realize the constraints that (environmental decline will) impinge on him, I grieve for that. I have no illusions that I’m going to save the world, but I want to be able to look at my grandchildren on my deathbed and say, “I did the best I can.”


Q: So who is going to save the world? Who is your eco-hero right now?


A: My big eco-hero is Rachel Carson. In 1962, her book Silent Spring changed my life. She made me realize that… in the real world, everything is interconnected. You spray in a field to kill bugs, and you end up spraying fish and birds and human beings. If you ask who’s going to bring about the changes (now) — polling indicates that women in their 20s to their 60s, that’s the group listening and ready to act. Women tend to think more in terms of children and futures. They’re not as focused on corporate bottom lines.


Q: On that note… you once said that what some leaders are doing to the environment is a “criminal act.” Who are the eco-villains?


A: The (oil billionaire) Koch brothers, who’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars in a campaign to discredit scientists and support the idea that climate change isn’t real. Those are really bad guys. It’s all tied into this right-wing, neoconservative faith in the free market and capitalism. We’ve elevated the economy, this human-created thing, as if it’s more (real than nature)… That’s suicidal.


Q: Barack Obama’s been talking about moving towards a green technology economy. So there is a way to marry the two.


A: Barack Obama’s been a breath of fresh air after eight horrific years of George W. Bush. Bush has been very, very destructive in terms of the ecological policies of that country. And we (in Canada) have a government that for four years has been following the same line, muzzling government scientists from talking about climate change. That’s what Bush started, and that’s the road we seem to be going down.


Q: Winnipeggers often joke that we’re looking forward to global warming. You know our winters. Want to dash our hopes that we’ll be relaxing on tropical beaches in 20 years?


A: This seems to be the policy of the government as well. “It’s gonna warm up, the Arctic’s gonna melt, there’s diamonds there, there’s oil… look at the economic opportunity!” That doesn’t look at the ecological consequences of sudden change. We’re not suddenly going to be able to start farming in the far North because suddenly we have a longer growing season.


Q: So what you’re saying is, no tropical beaches for us.


A: I think that’s very foolish in terms of, “Oh boy, warmer winters, the summers will be great!” and all of that. Winnipeggers sure as hell know the consequences of mosquitoes. What kind of other insects will flourish under that new regime?

Q: In your new book Legacy, you reflect on the global changes you’ve seen in your lifetime. If you took a time machine back 50 years ago to tell your younger self about the present… what would have shocked you the most about what our species is up to?


A: If someone from the year 2010 were to go back to the year 1950 and say “Hey, do you want cities where you can spend two to three hours a day just going to work? Would you want cities where you have smog alerts at least once a week? Would you like a city where you’d have to buy bottled water?” I think people in 1950 would be astonished. People would not accept what we have become. If they thought ahead, they could have avoided this.

So if you start here and say what would you like to be 50 years from now, most people would say “Gee, we’d like a world where 15 per cent of kids don’t get asthma, because the air is clean… a Canada where you can catch a fish and never worry about consulting a book to see what chemicals are in it.” If we start doing that, we’ll develop a vision for what we want Canada to be. And we can achieve it if we start now.


Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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