David Suzuki

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David Suzuki
Right Livelihood Award 2009-press conference-6.jpg
Suzuki in 2009
Born David Takayoshi Suzuki
(1936-03-24) March 24, 1936 (age 78)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Residence Vancouver, British Columbia
Institutions University of British Columbia
Alma mater Amherst College, B.A. (1958)
University of Chicago, Ph.D. (1961)
Notable awards Order of Canada, (1976, 2006)
UNESCO's Kalinga Prize (1986)
Right Livelihood Award (2009)
Signature

David Takayoshi Suzuki, CC OBC (born March 24, 1936) is a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist. Suzuki earned a Ph.D in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961, and was a professor in the genetics department at the University of British Columbia from 1963 until his retirement in 2001. Since the mid-1970s, Suzuki has been known for his TV and radio series, documentaries and books about nature and the environment. He is best known as host of the popular and long-running CBC Television science program, The Nature of Things, seen in over forty nations. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment.

A long time activist to reverse global climate change, Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, to work "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that does sustain us." The Foundation's priorities are: oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and Suzuki's Nature Challenge. He also served as a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association from 1982 to 1987.

Suzuki was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2009. His 2011 book, The Legacy, won the Nautilus Book Award. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2004, David Suzuki was selected as the greatest living Canadian in a CBC poll.

Early life[edit]

Suzuki has a twin sister named Marcia, as well as two other siblings, Geraldine (now known as Aiko) and Dawn. They were born to Setsu Nakamura and Kaoru Carr Suzuki in Vancouver, Canada. Suzuki's maternal and paternal grandparents had emigrated to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century from Hiroshima and Aichi Prefecture respectively.[1]

A third-generation Japanese-Canadian ("Canadian Sansei"), Suzuki and his family suffered internment in British Columbia from early during the Second World War until after the war ended in 1945. In June 1942, the government sold the Suzuki family's dry-cleaning business, then interned Suzuki, his mother, and two sisters in a camp at Slocan in the British Columbia Interior.[2] His father had been sent to a labour camp in Solsqua two months earlier. Suzuki's sister Dawn was born in the internment camp.[3]

After the war, Suzuki's family, like other Japanese Canadian families, were forced to move east of the Rockies. The Suzukis moved to Islington, Leamington, and London, Ontario. Suzuki, in interviews, has many times credited his father for having interested him in and sensitized him to nature.

Suzuki attended Mill Street Elementary School and Grade 9 at Leamington Secondary School before moving to London, Ontario, where he attended London Central Secondary School, eventually winning the election to become Students' Council President in his last year there by more votes than all of the other candidates combined.[4]

Academic career[edit]

Suzuki received his B.A. in Biology in 1958 from Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he first discovered genetics study,[5] and his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961.

Early in his research career he studied genetics using the popular model organism Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). To be able to use his initials in naming any new genes he found, he studied dominant temperature-sensitive (DTS) phenotypes. (As he jokingly noted at a lecture at Johns Hopkins University, the only alternative subject was "(damn) tough skin".) He was a professor in the genetics department (stated in his book Genethics: The Ethics of Engineering Life, 1988) at the University of British Columbia for almost forty years, from 1963 until his retirement in 2001, and has since been professor emeritus at a university research institute.[6]

Broadcasting career[edit]

Suzuki in 2006

Suzuki began in television in 1970 with the weekly children's show Suzuki on Science. In 1974, he founded the radio program Quirks and Quarks, which he also hosted on CBC AM radio (the forerunner of CBC Radio One) from 1975 to 1979. Throughout the 1970s, he also hosted Science Magazine, a weekly program geared towards an adult audience.

Since 1979, Suzuki has hosted The Nature of Things, a CBC television series that has aired in nearly fifty countries worldwide.[7] In this program, Suzuki's aim is to stimulate interest in the natural world, to point out threats to human well-being and wildlife habitat, and to present alternatives for achieving a more sustainable society. Suzuki has been a prominent proponent of renewable energy sources and the soft energy path.

Suzuki was the host of the critically acclaimed 1993 PBS series The Secret of Life.[8] His 1985 hit series, A Planet for the Taking, averaged more than 1.8 million viewers per episode and earned him a United Nations Environment Programme Medal. His perspective in this series is summed up in his statement: "We have both a sense of the importance of the wilderness and space in our culture and an attitude that it is limitless and therefore we needn't worry." He concludes with a call for a major "perceptual shift" in our relationship with nature and the wild.

Suzuki's The Sacred Balance, a book first published in 1997 and later made into a five-hour mini-series on Canadian public television, was broadcast in 2002.[9][10] Suzuki is now taking part in an advertisement campaign with the tagline "You have the power", promoting energy conservation through various household alternatives, such as the use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

For the Discovery Channel, Suzuki also produced "Yellowstone to Yukon: The Wildlands Project" in 1997. The conservation-biology based documentary focused on Dave Foreman's Wildlands Project, which considers how to create corridors between and buffer-zones around large wilderness reserves as a means to preserve biological diversity. Foreman developed this project after leaving Earth First! (which he co-founded) in 1990. The conservation biologists Michael Soulé and Reed Noss were also directly involved.

Climate change activism[edit]

David in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about his work.
At the 2007 Global Day of Action event in Vancouver, B.C.. The sign in the background refers to the Greater Vancouver Gateway Program.

In recent years, Suzuki has been a forceful spokesperson on global climate change. In February 2008, he urged McGill University students to speak out against politicians who fail to act on climate change, stating "What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there's a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they're doing is a criminal act."[11][12]

Suzuki is unequivocal that climate change is a very real and pressing problem and that an "overwhelming majority of scientists" now agree that human activity is responsible. The David Suzuki Foundation website has a clear statement of this:

Suzuki says that despite this growing consensus, many in the public and the media seemed doubtful about the science for many years. The reason for the confusion about climate change, in Suzuki's view, was due to a well-organized campaign of disinformation about the science involved. "A very small number of critics" denies that climate change exists and that humans are the cause. These climate change “skeptics” or "deniers", Suzuki claims, tend not to be climate scientists and do not publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals but rather target the media, the general public, and policy makers. Their goal: "delaying action on climate change." According to Suzuki, the skeptics have received significant funding from coal and oil companies, including ExxonMobil. They are linked to "industry-funded lobby groups", such as the Information Council on the Environment (ICE),[14] whose aim is to "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)."[13]

In October 2012, referring to climate activism and reversal of human-induced climate change, Suzuki declared to Rebecca Tarbotton, "Becky, you know, we've lost." [15]

Social commentary[edit]

Immigration[edit]

In L'Express, the French news magazine, Suzuki called Canada's immigration policy "disgusting" (We "plunder southern countries to deprive them of their future leaders, and wish to increase our population to support economic growth") and insisted that "Canada is full" ("Our useful area is reduced").[16] This prompted Canada's Immigration Minster, Jason Kenney, to denounce Suzuki as "xenophobic", labelling his comments as "toxic".[16][17]

Canadian Justice System[edit]

While being interviewed by Tony Jones on Australia's ABC TV network in September 2013, Suzuki alleged that the Harper government is building prisons even though crime rates are declining in Canada. He concluded that the prisons were being built so that Stephen Harper can incarcerate environmental activists.[18][19] Jean-Christophe De Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, refuted the claims, emphasizing that the Canadian government is not building any prisons, nor do they have plans to build any.[18] There was, however, an increase in federal spending on prisons, which included expanding existing prisons, in order to accommodate the growing inmate population. This is thought to be due to legislation such as the Tackling Violent Crimes Act which increases the length of sentences. [20][21] In 2010-2011, $517-million was "spent on prison construction". [22]

Carbon footprint[edit]

Suzuki himself laments that in traveling constantly to spread his message of climate responsibility, he has ended up "over his [carbon] limit by hundreds of tonnes." He has stopped vacationing overseas and taken to "clustering" his speaking engagements together to reduce his carbon footprint. He would prefer, he says, to appear solely by video conference.[23]

Personal life[edit]

David Suzuki married his high school sweetheart Joane,[24] fathered several children and went on to have five grandchildren.[25]

Publications[edit]

Suzuki signing a copy of his work.

Suzuki is the author of 52 books (fifteen for children), including David Suzuki: The Autobiography, Tree: A Life Story, The Sacred Balance, Genethics, Wisdom of the Elders, Inventing the Future, and the best-selling Looking At Senses a series of children’s science books. This is a partial list of publications[26] by Suzuki:

Awards and honours[edit]

Suzuki receives the Right Livelihood Award from Jakob von Uexkull
  • In 2004, Suzuki was nominated as one of the top ten "Greatest Canadians" by viewers of the CBC. In the final vote he ranked fifth, making him the greatest living Canadian.[34] Suzuki said that his own vote was for Tommy Douglas who was the eventual winner.
  • In 2006, Suzuki was the recipient of the Bradford Washburn Award presented at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts.[35]
  • In 2007, Suzuki was honoured by Global Exchange, with the International Human Rights Award.
  • As of 2012, Suzuki had received 16 significant academic awards and over 100 other awards.[37]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Suzuki has received numerous honorary degrees from over two dozen universities around the world.[38]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Environmentalist David Suzuki has words of warning for ancestral homeland Kris Kosaka, April 25, 2009, The Japan Times.
  2. ^ Gordon, K. (2007) The Slocan Valley - Our History, Slocan Valley Economic Development Commission. Retrieved on July 28, 2007.
  3. ^ Panorama (May 3, 2007). "May is Asian Heritage Month". Metroland Media. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Wong, Jan (1997-02-20). "Lunch with Jan Wong: Free clams, an eyeball and Suzuki's world view", The Globe and Mail, p. E1.
  5. ^ https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/magazine/bookclub/featurehome/bio
  6. ^ "David Suzuki's profile". Greenfestivals.org. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  7. ^ "CBC website on Nature of Things". Cbc.ca. 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2011-02-21. [dead link]
  8. ^ Review of The Secret of Life 25 September 1993 New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  9. ^ "Broadcast schedule of The Sacred Balance". Sacredbalance.com. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  10. ^ "Production Team of The Sacred Balance". Sacredbalance.com. 2002-10-13. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  11. ^ Babbage, Sarah (2008-02-04). "Jail politicians who ignore science: Suzuki". Canada: The McGill Daily. Archived from the original on 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  12. ^ Offman, Craig (2008-02-07). "Jail politicians who ignore climate science: Suzuki". Canada: National Post. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  13. ^ a b "Climate change deniers". Climate Change Science and Policy. The David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  14. ^ The Heat is Online. "The Coal Industry's "ICE" Campaign (1999)." Retrieved on: 2011-08-13.
  15. ^ Becky Tarbotton, RAN, REVEL2012. "Time: 1:50" Retrieved on: 2013-01-28.
  16. ^ a b "David Suzuki and Jason Kenney amplify each other". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 2013-07-15. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  17. ^ "Jason Kenney slams ‘xenophobic’ David Suzuki after environmentalist claims Canada is ‘full’". National Post. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  18. ^ a b "Suzuki: Harper is building prisons for eco-activists". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  19. ^ "Suzuki: Harper is building prisons for eco-activists". Chatham Daily News. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  20. ^ "Critics say Harper government throwing prison expansion money away". Toronto Star. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  21. ^ "Harper government to announce more prison expansions". iPolitics.ca. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  22. ^ "Prison costs soar 86% in past five years: report". National Post. Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  23. ^ Cernetig, Miro. "Suzuki gets the irony as popularity increases". Vancouver Sun (CanWest Global). Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  24. ^ Personal life
  25. ^ David Suzuki grandchildren
  26. ^ Books and Sound Recordings by David T. Suzuki David Suzuki Foundation. Complete Book List. Retrieved on: September 20, 2010.
  27. ^ "More Good News - D&M Publishers". Dmpibooks.com. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  28. ^ "Force of Nature, The David Suzuki Movie : The Nature of Things with David Suzuki : CBC-TV". Cbc.ca. 2011-03-29. Retrieved 2011-10-31. [dead link]
  29. ^ "| Arapahoe Library District". Arapahoelibraries.org. 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  30. ^ Force of Nature at the Internet Movie Database
  31. ^ "Received Order of Canada". Davidsuzuki.org. 2011-02-03. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  32. ^ "Received Order of British Columbia". Vpl.ca. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  33. ^ "Received UNESCO prize". Cbc.ca. 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2011-02-21. [dead link]
  34. ^ "Microsoft Word - Great_minds_in_science_7.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  35. ^ "The Unlikely Activist". The Unlikely Activist. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  36. ^ "Right Livelihood Award: 2009 - David Suzuki". Rightlivelihood.org. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  37. ^ https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/magazine/bookclub/featurehome/bio ... URL will need updating when archived on that site
  38. ^ Host: Dr. David Suzuki, CBC, 2010
  39. ^ "Recipients of Honorary & Degrees". Trent University. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  40. ^ "In The News | Lambton College - The Bridge to Your Future". Lambton.on.ca. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  41. ^ CA (2010-03-20). "Université Sainte-Anne to honour Suzuki - News - The Vanguard". Thevanguard.ca. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 

Notations[edit]

  • John C. Phillipson. "David Takayoshi Suzuki" in The Canadian Encyclopedia: Year 2000 Edition, James Marsh, ed. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1999. p. 2277. ISBN 0-7710-2099-6
  • David Suzuki. Metamorphosis. Toronto: Stoddart, 1991. ISBN 0-7737-5509-8

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]