SUZUKI, David (1936- )




Author Tags: Environment, Essentials 2010, Japanese

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

One of the few British Columbians who needs little or no introduction is the geneticist-turned-broadcaster-turned-environmentalist David Suzuki—author or co-author since 1986 of more than 50 books.

Born in Vancouver in 1936, David Takayoshi Suzuki was interned with his family in Slocan, B.C., during WWII. He grew up in southern Ontario. Like many Japanese Canadians who were interned and had some of their family holdings confiscated or sold, Suzuki was both embittered and emboldened—seemingly intent on proving his worth to society beyond any doubt. In 1963, he joined the UBC Zoology Department and won the award for outstanding Canadian research scientist under the age of 35 three years in a row.

He brought science to the masses via television, starting with Suzuki on Science in 1971, leading to his long association with The Nature of Things on CBC, from 1979. “When I began to work in television in 1962,” he wrote, “I never dreamed that it would ultimately occupy most of my life and make me a celebrity in Canada.” As well, Suzuki hosted Science Magazine on CBC TV and served as the first host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks from 1975 to 1979.

David Suzuki titled his first autobiography Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life (1987) to echo his groundbreaking studies of mutations in fruit flies. It was expanded and reissued as David Suzuki: The Autobiography (2005), covering his accomplishments after age 50. In the second volume, Suzuki recalls how he proposed to his second wife, Tara Cullis, on Hollyburn Mountain in December of 1972. They have two daughters, Severn and Sarika. Suzuki also has three children, Tamiko, Troy and Laura, from a marriage that ended in 1964. “My children have been my pride and joy,” he writes, “but getting Tara to marry me was the greatest achievement of my life.” With Tara Cullis, he co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation and received countless honours including the Order of Canada in 1977 and the Order of B.C. in 1995.

With a foreword by Margaret Atwood, The Legacy (2010) is an expanded version of a lecture, released as a film, which offers “An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future.” David Suzuki argues that humans must join together as a species to respond to the problems we face, and accept that the laws of nature must take precedence over economics.

In terms of planetary influence, few B.C. authors can match or surpass David Suzuki. His politics are global and environmental—and he does things his own way. Still campaigning for change, he represents the best that British Columbia has to offer.


FULL ENTRY:

One of the few British Columbians who needs little or no introduction is the award-winning geneticist-turned-broadcaster-turned-environmentalist, David Suzuki. Born in Vancouver on March 24, 1936, David Takayoshi Suzuki grew up in southern Ontario after his family was interned in Slocan, B.C. during World War II.

Like many Japanese Canadians who were interned and had some of their family holdings confiscated or sold, David Suzuki was embittered and emboldened by his unfair incarceration, seemingly intent on proving his worth to society beyond any doubt.

David Suzuki studied at Amherst College and the University of Chicago, then taught at the University of Alberta. In 1963 he joined the UBC zoology department and won the award for outstanding Canadian research scientist under the age of 35 three years in a row. His educational television programs started with Suzuki on Science in 1971, leading to his long association with The Nature of Things on CBC, as of 1979.

“When I began to work in television in 1962,” he wrote, “I never dreamed that it would ultimately occupy most of my life and make me a celebrity in Canada.” As well, Suzuki hosted Science Magazine on CBC TV and served as the first host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks from 1975 to 1979. With his wife Tara Cullis, he has since co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation and received countless honours including the Order of Canada in 1977 and the Order of B.C. in 1995.

In his second volume of memoirs, Suzuki recalls how he proposed to his second wife, Tara, on Hollyburn Mountain in December of 1972. They have two daughters, Severn and Sarika. Suzuki also has three children, Tamiko, Troy and Laura, from a marriage that ended in 1964. “My children have been my pride and joy,” he writes, “but getting Tara to marry me was the greatest achievement of my life.”

Suzuki titled his first autobiography Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life (Stoddart) to echo his ground-breaking studies of mutations in fruit flies. David Suzuki: The Autobiography (Greystone 2005 $34.95) as an updated second instalment, expanding on material from Metamorphosis and covering his accomplishments after age fifty.

This breezy re-run doubles as a family photo album as Suzuki rubs shoulders with close friends Myles Richardson and artist Guujaaw of the Haida; entertainers Bruno Gerussi, John Denver, Sting, Graham Greene and Gordon Lightfoot; and he travels extensively to meet world leaders who have included Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and the Kaiapo chief Paiakan of the Amazon rainforest.

When Kaiapo and his family paid a reciprocal visit to the Suzuki home in 1989, they refused to wear any western clothes that were not new, and they required new sheets, fearing diseases. The six-week visit was fraught with misunderstandings, including the misguided notion that an airplane would be purchased for their use in Brazil.

Remarkably, Suzuki contacted Anita Roddick, creator of the Body Shop empire, and she wrote a cheque for $100,000. He then found a pilot named Al “Jet” Johnson, a friend of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who checked out a used Cessna Utility 206 in Texas—then flew it to Brazil in hurricane season to ensure Suzuki kept a promise that he had never made in the first place.

Not without a sense of humour—or vanity—Suzuki includes the naked ‘fig leaf’ photo of himself for the “Phallacies” show for The Nature of Things and wrily recalls his meetings with heavyweight thinkers Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader. Suzuki speaks fondly of Chomsky (“He is a superstar, and it was flattering to be acknowledged so generously”) and re-tells a curious anecdote about Nader (“Ralph is a very serious and intense person”).

When taken to a Lebanese restaurant in Vancouver, the puritanical Nader refused to acknowledge the gyrations of a belly dancer who approached his table, entreating him to stuff some bills into her bra. Nader kept talking, as if she didn’t exist, until the dancer left the table, unable to engage his attention in any way. “At the end of the meal,” Suzuki writes, “as we got up to leave, Ralph made no mention of the belly dancer but simply said: ‘That was a very nice meal. And no one overate.’”

It’s not easy to digest all of David Suzuki’s knowledge into one volume, but The David Suzuki Reader was an attempt to do so in 2003. It's subtitled the ‘collected writings from One of the Planet’s Leading Thinkers.’

One of the most prolific non-fiction authors of British Columbia, Suzuki has reportedly rejected offers to run for the New Democratic Party. His politics are global and environmental--and he does things his own way.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
David Suzuki: The Autobiography & The Big Picture: Reflections on Science, Humanity, and a Quickly Changing Planet

BOOKS:

2012 EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN
With Ian Hanington
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2010 THE LEGACY
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2010 MORE GOOD NEWS
With H. Dressel
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2010 THE DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE
With T. Cullis, R.Cavoukian, W.Davis, Guujaaw, Illustrated by M. Nicoll-
Yahgulanaas
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2009 THE BIG PICTURE
With D. Taylor
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2008 THERE’S A BARNYARD IN MY BEDROOM
Illustrated by E. Fernandes,
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2008 DAVID SUZUKI’S GREEN GUIDE
With D. Boyd
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2007 THE SACRED BALANCE, Updated and Expanded with A. McConnell & A. Mason
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2006 DAVID SUZUKI THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2006 GRASSROOSTS RISING
With E. Begley Jr. & R. McLean
Honour Group Publishing, Vancouver, Canada

2004 TREE A Life Story
With W. Grady
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2003 DAVID SUZUKI READER
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2003 THE SALMON FOREST
With S. Ellis, Illustrated by S. Lott
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2002 SACRED BALANCE: A Visual Celebration of Our Place in Nature
With A. McConnell and M. DeCambra
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2002 THE SACRED BALANCE, 2ND Edition, with new Introduction
With A. McConnell
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada

2002 GENETICS A BEGINNERS GUIDE
Guttman, B.; Griffiths, A.; Suzuki, D.; Cullis, T.
Oneworld Oxford England

2002 GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE
With H. Dressel
Stoddart Publishing, Canada
Allen & Unwin, Australia

2002 WHEN THE WILD COMES LEAPING UP
Edited by David Suzuki
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada
Also published in the USA

2000 ECO-FUN
with K. Vanderlinden
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada
Allen & Unwin, Australia (Children’s Book/Tape)

1999 YOU ARE THE EARTH
with K. Vanderlinden
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada
Also published in Australia (Children’s Book/Tape)

1999 FROM NAKED APE TO SUPERSPECIES
with H. Dressel
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia

1998 EARTH TIME.
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia

1998 TREE SUITCASE.
Sommerville House, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)

1997 A GLIMPSE OF CANADA’S FUTURE
with E. Battle, & B. Stipdonk
David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, Canada

1997 THE SACRED BALANCE: REDISCOVERING OUR PLACE IN NATURE
with A. McConnell.
David Suzuki Foundation & Greystone Books, Vancouver, Canada
Also published in Australia, U.S.A., England

1996 THE JAPAN WE NEVER KNEW
with K. Oiwa
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia, U.S.A.

1995 THE BACKYARD TIME DETECTIVES
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)

1994 CRACKING THE CODE
with J. Levine
Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd. Australia

1994 IF WE COULD SEE THE AIR
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)

1993 NATURE IN THE HOME
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)

1993 THE SECRET OF LIFE
with J. Levine
WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, MA., U.S.A.
Also published in Germany

1993 TIME TO CHANGE
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia

1992 WISDOM OF THE ELDERS
with P. Knudtson
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in U.S.A., Australia

1991 DID YOU KNOW, ABOUT FOOD AND FEEDING
with L. Suzuki & P. Cook
General Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia (Children’s Book/Tape)

1991 DID YOU KNOW…ABOUT SHAPES AND SIZES
with L. Suzuki & P. Cook
General Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia (Children’s Book/Tape)

1990 IT’S A MATTER OF SURVIVAL
with A. Gordon
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia, England, U.S.A., Montreal

1990 DID YOU KNOW…ABOUT LIGHT AND SIGHT
with L. Suzuki & P. Cook (Children’s Book/Tape)
General Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Published in Australia)

1990 DID YOU KNOW…ABOUT INSIDES AND OUTSIDES
with L. Suzuki & P. Cook
General Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia (Children’s Book/Tape)

1989 LOOKING AT THE ENVIRONMENT
with B. Hehner
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Australia, U.S.A., Quebec

1989 INVENTING THE FUTURE
Stoddart Publishing, Ltd., Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia, England

1988 GENETHICS: THE ETHICS OF ENGINEERING LIFE
with P. Knudston
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in U.S.A., Australia, England

1988 LOOKING AT WEATHER
with B. Hehner
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Australia, Spain, U.S.A.

1987 LOOKING AT THE BODY
with B. Hehner
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Australia, Spain, Portugal, USA

1987 METAMORPHOSIS: STAGES IN A LIFE
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada
Also published in Australia, Spain

1987 DAVID SUZUKI TALKS ABOUT AIDS
with E. Thalenberg & P. Knudtson
General Publishing Paperbacks, Toronto, Canada

1986 LOOKING AT INSECTS
with B. Hehner
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Quebec, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Portugal, USA

1986 LOOKING AT PLANTS
with B. Hehner.
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Quebec, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Portugal and U.S.A.

1986 EGG CARTON ZOO
with H. Blohm
Oxford University Press, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)

1986 SCIENCESCAPE: THE NATURE OF CANADA
with H. Blohm, & M. Harris
Oxford University Press, Toronto, Canada

1986 LOOKING AT YOUR SENSES
with B. Hehner
Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, Canada (Children’s Book/Tape)
Also published in Quebec, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Portugal, USA

1986 British Columbia: FRONTIER FOR IDEAS
with H. Cullis
Western Education Development Group, Vancouver, Canada

1986 FROM PEBBLES TO COMPUTERS: THE THREAD
with D.T., Beer & H. Blohm
Oxford University Press, Toronto, Canada

1976 AN INTRODUCTION TO GENETIC ANALYSIS
with A.J.F. Griffiths
W.H.Freeman and Co., San Francisco, CA., U.S.A.
2nd edit. 1981; 3rd edit. 1986; 4th edit. 1989; 5th edit. 1993; 6th edit.
This is the most widely used genetics textbook in the U.S. and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Indonesian, Arabic, French and German.

[BCBW 2012]

David Suzuki: The Autobiography (Greystone $34.95)
Article



The outspoken geneticist-turned-broadcaster-turned environmentalist David Suzuki recently came in 5th in CBC’s Greatest Canadian contest—the highest among living nominees. Born in Vancouver in 1936, David Suzuki grew up in Ontario after his family was interned in Slocan, B.C. during World War II. Like many Japanese Canadians whose families had some or all of their holdings confiscated or sold, David Takayoshi Suzuki was embittered and emboldened by his unfair incarceration, seemingly intent on proving his worth to society beyond any doubt.
David Suzuki studied at Amherst College and the University of Chicago, then taught at the University of Alberta. In 1963 he joined the UBC zoology department and won the award for outstanding Canadian research scientist under the age of 35 three years in a row. His educational television programs started with Suzuki on Science in 1971, leading to his long association with The Nature of Things on CBC, as of 1979.
“When I began to work in television in 1962,” he wrote, “I never dreamed that it would ultimately occupy most of my life and make me a celebrity in Canada.” As well, Suzuki hosted Science Magazine on CBC TV and served as the first host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks from 1975 to 1979. With his wife Tara Cullis, he has since co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation and received countless honours including the Order of Canada in 1977 and the Order of B.C. in 1995.
In his second volume of memoirs, Suzuki recalls how he proposed to his second wife, Tara, on Hollyburn Mountain in December of 1972. They have two daughters, Severn and Sarika. Suzuki also has three children, Tamiko, Troy and Laura, from a marriage that ended in 1964. “My children have been my pride and joy,” he writes, “but getting Tara to marry me was the greatest achievement of my life.”
Suzuki titled his first autobiography Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life (Stoddart) to echo his ground-breaking studies of mutations in fruit flies. David Suzuki: The Autobiography (Greystone $34.95) is an updated second instalment, expanding on material from Metamorphosis and covering his accomplishments after age fifty.
This breezy re-run doubles as a family photo album as Suzuki rubs shoulders with close friends Myles Richardson and artist Guujaaw of the Haida; entertainers Bruno Gerussi, John Denver, Sting, Graham Greene and Gordon Lightfoot; and he travels extensively to meet world leaders who have included Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and the Kaiapo chief Paiakan of the Amazon rainforest.
When Paiakan and his family paid a reciprocal visit to the Suzuki home in 1989, they refused to wear any western clothes that were not new, and they required new sheets, fearing diseases. The six-week visit was fraught with misunderstandings, including the misguided notion that an airplane would be purchased for their use in Brazil.
Remarkably, Suzuki contacted Anita Roddick, creator of the Body Shop empire, and she wrote a cheque for $100,000. He then found a pilot named Al “Jet” Johnson, a friend of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who checked out a used Cessna Utility 206 in Texas—then flew it to Brazil in hurricane season to ensure Suzuki kept a promise that he had never made in the first place.
Not without a sense of humour—or vanity—Suzuki includes the naked ‘fig leaf’ photo of himself for the “Phallacies” show for The Nature of Things and wryly recalls his meetings with heavyweight thinkers Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader. Suzuki speaks fondly of Chomsky (“He is a superstar, and it was flattering to be acknowledged so generously”) and re-tells a curious anecdote about Nader (“Ralph is a very serious and intense person”).
When taken to a Lebanese restaurant in Vancouver, the puritanical Nader refused to acknowledge the gyrations of a belly dancer who approached his table, entreating him to stuff some bills into her bra. Nader kept talking, as if she didn’t exist, until the dancer left the table, unable to engage his attention in any way.
“At the end of the meal,” Suzuki writes, “as we got up to leave, Ralph made no mention of the belly dancer but simply said: ‘That was a very nice meal. And no one over ate.’” 1-55365-156-1

[BCBW 2006]


Sacred Balance
Press Release (2007)



David Suzuki sends a message to Members of Parliament

October 23, 2007 – Vancouver, Canada – As Members of Parliament are about to vote on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Throne Speech – a mandate that includes a bold-faced reneging of its Kyoto targets – Dr. David Suzuki sends each MP a copy of the tenth anniversary edition of his seminal book, The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature (Greystone Books: A division of Douglas & McIntyre • 978-1-55365-166-6 • $22.95 pb).

“I hope these government leaders will find time in their busy schedules to read it and mull over its contents,” says Suzuki. “MPs are responsible for making important decisions that affect not just Canada but the fate of the world itself. Even as the environment has re-emerged as an issue of great concern, I’m worried that they will continue to ignore the root causes of our destruction of the planet and won’t implement the kinds of solutions that can put Canada on the path to a sustainable future.”

In the 10 years since The Sacred Balance was first published, the evidence that climate change has kicked in is overwhelming and Suzuki has revised his bestselling book to show how an increased concentration of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity is now today’s most pressing environmental issue. The extensively updated new edition of The Sacred Balance represents an important and much-needed re-examination of our place in the natural world in light of the environmental changes of the last decade.

“We can’t go on skirmishing over the planet and fragmenting it bit by bit,” writes Suzuki in the introduction to the new edition of The Sacred Balance. “The environment is so fundamental to our continued existence that it must transcend politics and become a central value of all members of society.”

The Legacy (Greystone $25)
Interview


from Elizabeth Godley
We’ve been hearing gloomy messages about the environment ever since Rachel Carson published her ground-breaking revelations about the effects of DDT, The Silent Spring, in 1962.

Much has changed since then—for the worse. But David Takayoshi Suzuki, like Martin Luther King, has a dream. He hangs onto that dream despite the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Canada’s continuing commitment to the oil sands project. “How about a world where the air is clean, and kids don’t get asthma?” he says. “A world as it was when I was a child.

“We would just drink water out of any river or lake? A world that is covered with forest, and we can log it forever because we are doing it the right way?”
You may say he’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.

“We’ve got to make our cities more people-friendly and less car-friendly,” he says, during an interview at his headquarters in Kitsilano. “We’ve spent millions and millions of dollars on roads and bridges.”

The geneticist-turned-environmentalist is a big fan of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s efforts to increase cycling in the city. But Suzuki says there are culprits who continually vapourize dreams, such as politicians who are fixated on re-election, and company CEOs driven to maximize profits in the shortest possible time while ignoring the environment.

To articulate his vision, Suzuki, now in his 70s, has published, The Legacy (Greystone $25), subtitled “An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future.” With a glowing foreword by Margaret Atwood, the book argues that humans must join as a single species to respond to the problems we face, and accept that the laws of nature must take precedence over economics.
The Legacy is possibly Suzuki’s final book among 40 titles he has published since 1988, and he is particularly pleased by it. “I love this book. Most of my books I’ve co-written—someone else has researched it, done a lot of the writing, because I don’t have time. This one I wrote completely myself, but I did it over months and months … so it’s much more organized. Usually when I write, I just blast, you know—I’ve got the idea and I write it down. But this one I took time, I honed it, I shaped it.”

Suzuki expanded The Legacy from a December 2009 lecture he gave at the University of B.C., a traditional activity for retiring professors. Accompanied by a National Film Board of Canada film and Greystone Books’ first simultaneous e-book, The Legacy sums up Suzuki’s global and environmental philosophy developed over a lifetime.
He says human beings have always been able to look into the future and “dream of a world that is yet to come—it’s one of our distinguishing features … And because we’ve been able to do that, we’ve been able to see where the dangers are, where the opportunities lie, and deliberately choose a path that will avoid the dangers and exploit the opportunities.

“That has been our survival mechanism—if I go this way, I know there are sabre-toothed tigers out there, and they’ll eat me … We’ve done that since the beginning of time.”
There are some bright spots. In Sweden, the carbon tax is now set at $110 a tonne. And Bolivia’s new constitution includes flora and fauna, not just humans. So our present course can be averted.

“All I have is hope,” Suzuki says. “We still don’t know anything about how Nature works. So I don’t think anyone has the right to say it’s too late. How can we say that if we don’t know how Nature works? I hope Nature is filled with surprises—and some of them will be good surprises.

“But there’s no question we’ve got to get off our asses and make some big changes,” he says. “And there are no quick fixes. There are environmentalists around who talk about ‘100 easy ways to save the planet,’ or ‘10 easy ways.’ Well, there are no easy ways. We are heading right over a cliff.
“I’m enough of a scientist to know, if you just follow the curves of how we’re going in terms of population, well, by 2050, there will be no fish in the oceans. But I can still dream of a better kind of world, and I know we could get it—if we start today and work towards it.”

To encourage us to join together and overcome our environmental crisis, Suzuki harkens back to the 1950s when he was attending Amherst College in Massachusetts. The Soviet Union had electrified the world by launching a Sputnik satellite in 1957. Russia proceeded to launch a dog into space, then a man, then a team of cosmonauts, then the first woman to orbit the earth.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy boldly announced Americans would be first to land on the moon. It appeared preposterous. But it was done. Suzuki believes a similar level of commitment can be mounted to confront our ecological challenges.

Suzuki quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back . . . The moment one definitely commits, then Providence comes, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred . . . Whatever you can do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” 978-1-55365-570-1

[BCBW 2010] by Elizabeth Godley

DAVID SUZUKI RECEIVES 18th GEORGE WOODCOCK LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Press Release (2011)



(Vancouver, B.C.) – David Suzuki, voted one of the top ten Greatest Canadians, Companion of the Order of Canada and author of 52 books, is the 18th recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding literary achievement in British Columbia.

The award will be presented to Dr. Suzuki on February 3 by Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood, a long-time friend of Dr. Suzuki and an honorary Board member of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Mayor Gregor Robertson will attend the award ceremony and read a proclamation in Dr. Suzuki’s honour.

"David Suzuki is a trailblazer and it is an honour to recognize him with the prestigious George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award," said Mayor Robertson. "Dr. Suzuki has transformed the way we view our planet and ourselves. His books will continue to inspire, inform and educate people for many years to come."

For his work popularizing science and environmental issues, Dr. Suzuki has been awarded 23 honorary degrees. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1976 and upgraded to Companion status (the highest level) in 2006. He has also received the Order of British Columbia, UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for science and a long list of Canadian and international honours.

In 2004, Dr. Suzuki was nominated as one of the top ten Greatest Canadians by CBC viewers. In the final vote he ranked fifth and revealed that his own vote was for Tommy Douglas, the eventual winner.

"I accept this important award, but it really should be on behalf of the Canadian public who read, watched and listened to my work and supported me to make it possible to get my message out,” said Dr. Suzuki. “If the public had not been there for me, believe me, I would have had no career in writing or broadcasting. I hope we can take this to the next step which is to act on what I have written over the years."

Dr. Suzuki is one of the few British Columbians who needs little or no introduction, said Alan Twigg of the Pacific BookWorld News Society.

“David Suzuki argues that humans must join together as a species to respond to the problems we face and accept that the laws of nature must take precedence over economics,” said Mr. Twigg.

“In terms of planetary influence, few BC authors can match or surpass David Suzuki. His politics are global and environmental and he does things his own way. Still campaigning for change, he represents the best that British Columbia has to offer.”

Dr. Suzuki’s books, audio recordings and videos are on constant loan to Vancouver Public Library users, said City Librarian Sandra Singh.

“From books for children, to how-to volumes on reducing your ecological footprint and memoirs that explore the effects of being born in Vancouver, interred by your own government and using that experience to excel and prove yourself, David Suzuki has given us literary gifts that will guide and impress generations for many years to come,” said Ms. Singh.

“Vancouver Public Library is proud to co-sponsor this annual award and we are delighted that a native Vancouverite whose influence is worldwide and whose heart has always been at home is the recipient of this year’s prize.”

The City of Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library and the non-profit Pacific BookWorld News Society initiated the annual George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 at the official opening of the Library Square complex. This year’s award is also supported by The Writers Trust of Canada and Dr. Yosef Wosk.

Dr. Suzuki’s name will be inscribed on a plaque to be added to Writers Walk on the northeast plaza of Library Square and the award includes a $5000 cash prize.

Previous award recipients include Alice Munro, P.K. Page, W.P. Kinsella, Anne Cameron and Chuck Davis.

David Suzuki will receive the award at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on February 3 in conjunction with a Writers Trust of Canada event that Ms. Atwood will attend.

Suzuki Receives Woodcock Award
Article (2010)



Updated: Fri Feb. 04 2011 7:52:16 AM

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — For two-thirds of his life, noted Canadian scientist David Suzuki has rooted all his efforts in crusading for the environment and being a wellspring of scientific knowledge about the natural world.

Yet even as he received a lifetime achievement award Thursday in Vancouver, the 74-year-old said the planet is in "far worse shape" today than when he began spreading his message almost 50 years ago.

"We've gone backwards," he said in an interview. "I would dearly love to be wrong in everything I've said. I take no pleasure in a recognition like this in view of the fact the challenge is getting bigger and bigger."

Suzuki began putting Mother Earth in the spotlight when he started his television career in 1962, chipping away at the notion the world's resources would never run out. Since then, he's watched carbon flood into the atmosphere, massive oil spills in the oceans and development pave over thriving ecosystems.

Despite such devastation, the Vancouver native still hangs on to a "very slender thread" of hope -- he's got grandchildren and doesn't believe preaching fire and brimstone will inspire them to act. So in the years he calls his "death zone," Suzuki said he's got an "enormous responsibility" to do the "most important" work of his life.

"I am freed from any desire for fame or money or power and now I can speak the truth that comes from my heart," he said. "I believe that's the role of elders, to look back over a lifetime lived and to try to distill lessons learned in that lifetime to try and pass on to future generations."

Literary icon Margaret Atwood, who's been friends with Suzuki for more than 30 years, presented him with the George Woodcock lifetime achievement award at a gala fundraiser for The Writers' Trust of Canada. It's the 18th annual award for outstanding literary achievement in British Columbia, and is handed out by the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Public Library and the non-profit Pacific BookWorld News Society.

Suzuki popularized science and environmental issues by authoring 52 books, hosting CBC-TV's long-running The Nature of Things and co-founding the David Suzuki Foundation. He's been awarded the Order of Canada, about 25 honorary degrees and received an "Alternative Nobel" prize from the Right Livelihood Foundation.

But in his early days of talking science, Suzuki didn't always put a positive spin on what the average Joe or Jane could do to help the planet, Atwood said.

"I felt he needed to understand the fact that people can't absorb too much doom and gloom unless there's something you can do about it at the end," she said in an interview prior to handing him the award. "The last five minutes have to be 'But -- if you do this, then this awful thing won't happen.'

"And he has come round much more to that way of presenting things."

Atwood, an honorary board member of Suzuki's foundation, said he's gained Canadians' trust because he's dedicated himself to the cause from Day 1 and he knows how to communicate "the right stuff."

"Some scientists can't do that," she said. "They can do their science but they can't explain to people why their science is important."

Those skills have ensured millions of Canadians watched his shows over the decades, empowering him, and politicians understand that, Suzuki said.

He urged Canadians to seize the opportunity of a likely upcoming federal election to voice what they care about with policy-makers by simply voting. He contends that for the past five years, the Conservative government has "deliberately not supported our attempts to try and do something about climate change."

"If Canadians don't care about that, then we get the governments that we deserve and we get the fate that we deserve," he said.

Ultimately, Suzuki said citizens must drive home the importance of sustainability so that every party makes it part of their platform.

"These fundamental issues, they're not political," he said. "They lie at the heart of what we are as a species."

18th George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award
Acceptance Speech (2011)



Thank you very much.

My mother and father would have loved this very much.

I just want to thank all the people who were responsible for getting me up here. I mean calling myself an author always seems such a presumptuous thing for me to do.

MARGARET ATWOOD

You know, many may not know that Margaret Atwood—I’m so thrilled to receive this from her hands—has been a long champion for the kind of causes I’ve been interested in. It’s built right into her DNA, from her mother, her father—who I knew of but never met—and she really has been an inspiration for me, a warrior for a just society, a person who has tried to live up to our stated ideals. So thank you very much.

I did want to say one thing that many people probably don’t know, which is that Margaret has been a long-time supporter of me and my work at the David Suzuki Foundation. She gave us a significant chunk of her Booker Prize when she won it. She has donated her talents, her time, to events that we’ve had, and wrote a wonderful forward to my latest book, The Legacy.

Thank you very much for that, Margaret.

[To Margaret Atwood directly] Of course, being memorialized in your latest book as St. David strikes me as being very sacrilegious—to sanctify a lifelong atheist. But I thank you for that anyway.

GEORGE WOODCOCK

I was such an ignoramus that, although I had heard, of course, of George Woodcock, I
didn’t know until very recent years what a remarkable man he was. For people to say that I am of the same stature as George, I don’t feel that. I feel a pygmy beside George Woodcock.

I have to tell you that I am totally embarrassed by my only experience with George. It was in the early 1990s, and he called me at home and introduced himself. I had a vague idea of who he was. He wanted me to get involved in something—I think it had to do with seals—and I just tore a strip off him and said, “This is so poorly thought out.” Totally didn’t agree with him. He listened very politely and then said “thank you” and hung up. Of course I was instantly sorry that I treated him that way. I never heard from him again. But somehow I feel, knowing more about him, he would have appreciated that more honest answer from me than me just mincing and sucking up to him.

SCIENCE

I did want to use this occasion to say a few words, because we’ve never needed words—serious words— more than we need them now. I returned to Canada after eight years getting an education in the United States. That was in 1962. I took a position at the University of Alberta, and I was absolutely stunned and appalled by the level of ignorance in Canada about science that was demonstrated by a total lack of a coherent government science policy, by the unbelievably sad state of funding for scientists, especially in areas of basic research as I was doing in the study of fruitflies.

So when I was invited to give a talk on a television show that the university had on a community channel—it was called Your University Speaks—I gave one lecture on genetics. They loved it so much that I ended up doing eight lectures, and that—although I didn’t know it at the time—was the beginning of my second career, in genetics.

My hope in becoming involved in television in those early years was that, by showing the excitement and the importance of science, I could inform Canadians about this vital area so that they could become empowered to actually make important decisions and do something about the way science was applied. You see, if you were to judge what the important issues that Canadians really care about are— let’s say that you look for a week at the number of inches devoted to different issues in papers or the number of minutes spent on different issues in television news—you’d quickly see that Canadians’ priorities are politics, business, celebrity, and sports. And yet none of those can match the significance of science.

Science is by far the most important factor shaping our lives and society today: science when applied by industry, medicine and the military.

CHILDHOOD

I was born in Vancouver in 1936. When I was growing up as a boy, my parents never
had to worry that I was running up a big bill text-messaging, or that I was playing too many video games or watching too much television, because, of course, none of that existed when I was a boy.

When I was a child my parents wouldn’t let me go swimming in public pools or to
the movies in the summer because they were afraid I would catch polio. When I
was a child hundreds of thousands of people every year died of smallpox. It was a
scourge. Smallpox has been extinct for over thirty years.

When I was a child there were no computers, jet planes, transoceanic phone calls, birth control pills, genetic engineering or xerox machines. I could go on with an enormous list. All of these things have become a part of our lives since I was a child, and each of these innovations has transformed the way we live. Indeed, they have changed the way we think of ourselves and what our needs are.

When I tell children what the world was like when I was a child, they stare at me
in absolute amazement. They can’t believe anyone could be that old! The first thing
they ask is always, “Well what did you do!?” To a child today, a world devoid of all
they take for granted is an ancient civilization, long extinct. And, of course, they are absolutely right. We are impacted enormously by what is discovered and invented and applied from science.

ENVIRONMENTALISM VS. POLITICS

In the 1970s I joined a group in Ontario that did a survey of members of parliament in Ottawa. I doubt that much has changed very much today. Over 70% in the survey came from two areas: they came from business and they came from law. I think that the primary reason for that is that they are two of the groups that can afford to run for office, and lose! Most of us can’t afford to do that. We then gave a very simple test for comprehension of science terms and concepts—a very, very simple elementary test—and applied it to 50 different MPs. And guess what?

It was business people and lawyers who scored absolutely rock bottom. If they were in my genetics class I’d have to have a special section for slow learners. And these are the people who are making decisions right now about stem cells, about genetically modified organisms, about climate change, about species extinction, about endocrine disruptors, cloning, intelligent computers, and on and on. Can you imagine Ralph Klein, or even Minster of Finance Jim Flaherty, making informed decisions about these? Or Stockwell Day, who doesn’t even believe in evolution? These are the people who are incapable of assessing the kinds of advice they get, and so decisions are made that are not informed decisions. They are made for political expediency, and our futures, then, are out of control. What is happening now is absolutely terrifying.

In 1988, a group of scientists meeting in Toronto (and I know this because Stephen Lewis was asked by Brian Mulroney to chair some of the sessions), over 300 climatologists, concluded the evidence is in: Humans are a part of the warming trend we are seeing and which is being driven by fossil fuel use. The scientists issued a press release that said, at that time, “global warming represents a threat to human survival second only to all-out nuclear war.” And they called for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 15 years.

Think if we had taken the warnings seriously and done it. We would be way past the Kyoto target. In 1988 Brian Mulroney was re-elected and appointed his brightest star to be the minister of the environment, Lucien Bouchard. I interviewed Lucien several months after he was appointed. I said, “Mr. Bouchard, what do you think is the most important environmental issue Canadians face today?” And right away his answer was “global warming.” That was impressive! So I said, “How serious is it?” And his answer was, “it threatens the survival of our species. We have to act now.”

So there you have it. The science was in, the scientists spoke out and the politicians had got the word. I’m not going to explain why nothing actually happened. But I can tell you that the fossil fuel industry, the auto sector, and neoconservatives like the Koch brothers in New York began to invest tens of millions of dollars in a campaign of deception. You can find the evidence, the best documentation of this, in James Hoggan’s book, from Vancouver, Climate Cover-Up, and in Naomi Oreskes’ book, Merchants of Doubt. And you see the incredible campaign to confuse the public about climate change. They called it ‘junk science,’ supported by a handful of naysayers, to say it was a natural occurrence. And it worked.

So now we seem to have the public opinion on this driven by organizations like the Fraser Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. You just have to read the National Post and you’ll never have to change your mind on climate change; you’ll know that it’s baloney. You only have to listen to the Rush Limbaughs and the Anne Coulters and the Glenn Becks to dismiss the vast majority of scientists around the world.

THE FUTURE

And so we are in a terrible state.

I began my career in television believing that through education—through writing books, through television and radio programs—that we would have a better-informed public. But in fact we’re going backwards. The level of trust of scientists—where you have phoney-baloney issues like Climategate—the level of trust of scientists, especially in the United States, is dropping radically. And if we can’t trust scientists, then what do we turn to? The Koran? The Bible? Or all of these right-winged pundits who we read? Where do we turn?

Those of us who are interested in ideas and the importance of books in conveying them, are losing big-time, and it’s a big challenge. We have no choice but to take it on because eco-crisis is urgent.

I thank you very much for this award.

[Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, February, 2011]