Jane Hutcheon interviews David Suzuki

One Plus One: David Suzuki

Updated Fri 31 Jan 2014, 10:38am AEDT

Environmentalist David Suzuki talks to Jane Hutcheon about the things that motivate his life on this planet.

View the interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-31/one-plus-one-david-suzuki/5230012

David Suzuki

Biography

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David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way.

Dr. Suzuki is a geneticist. He graduated from Amherst College (Massachusetts) in 1958 with an Honours BA in Biology, followed by a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He held a research associateship in the Biology Division of Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Lab (1961 – 62), was an Assistant Professor in Genetics at the University of Alberta (1962 – 63), and since then has been a faculty member of the University of British Columbia. He is now Professor Emeritus at UBC.

In 1972, he was awarded the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for the outstanding research scientist in Canada under the age of 35 and held it for three years. He has won numerous academic awards and holds 25 honourary degrees in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. Dr. Suzuki has written 52 books, including 19 for children. His 1976 textbook An Introduction to Genetic Analysis(with A.J.F. Griffiths), remains the most widely used genetics text book in the U.S.and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Greek, Indonesian, Arabic, French and German.

Dr. Suzuki has received consistently high acclaim for his thirty years of award-winning work in broadcasting. In 1974 he developed and hosted the long running popular science program Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio for four years. He has since presented two influential documentary CBC radio series on the environment,It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His national television career began with CBC in 1971 when he wrote and hosted Suzuki on Science. He was host of Science Magazine (1974 – 79) then created and hosted a number of television specials, and in 1979 became the host of the award-winning series, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. He has won four Gemini Awards as best host of different Canadian television series. His eight part television series,A Planet for the Taking, won an award from the United Nations. His eight partBBC/PBS series, The Secret of Life, was praised internationally, as was his five part series The Brain for the Discovery Channel. On June 10, 2002 he received the John Drainie Award for broadcasting excellence.

Dr. Suzuki is also recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology. He is the recipient of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environment Program Medal, UNEPs Global 500 and in 2009 won the Right Livelihood Award that is considered the Alternative Nobel Prize.

For a more complete list of David’s professional accomplishments and awards, please refer to his full CV here (31.5Kb PDF). To read some of Dr. Suzuki’s latest writings, please visit the Science Matters Archive. Each week in Science Matters, Dr. Suzuki examines how changes in science and technology affect our lives and the world around us. You can also take a look at his book list with Greystone books.

Read an essay by David Suzuki: Biotechnology: A geneticist’s personal perspective (PDF).

Publishers

Greystone Books — David Suzuki’s Canadian Publisher (English)
Éditions du Boréal — David Suzuki’s Quebec Publisher (French)
Allen & Unwin — David Suzuki’s Australian Publisher

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/david/

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Out of darkness, the light

January 9, 2014 | Leave a comment

Photo: Out of darkness, the light

Change is never easy and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. (Credit: Frank Wuestefeld via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

Nelson Mandela, who died last month at age 95, was sentenced to life in prison in 1962 because he fought for justice, equality and democracy. He was finally released 27 years later, in 1990. South Africa’s racist apartheid system fell and Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999. The tributes after his death rightfully celebrated him as a forgiving, compassionate humanitarian and great leader.

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Closer to home, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parksrefused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white person. She was arrested for violating Alabama’s segregation law. It wasn’t the first challenge to U.S. racial policies and prejudice — it wasn’t even her first — and that act alone didn’t change laws and attitudes. But it catalyzed the civil rights movement that led to massive social change.

In Canada, in 1965, Everett George Klippert was sentenced to “indefinite” imprisonment for having sex with other men. Then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau later said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” and sexual activity between same-sex, consenting adults was decriminalized in 1969 (although Klippert was imprisoned until 1971). Now, same-sex couples can get married in Canada.

We pride ourselves on our democratic traditions, but in Canada, women couldn’t vote until 1918, Asians until 1948 and First Nations people living on reserves until 1960.

We’ve come a long way. It’s hard to fathom that such widespread, often state-sanctioned discrimination occurred so recently — much of it in my lifetime. My childhood memories include a time when the government confiscated my family’s possessions and exiled us to a camp in the B.C. Interior, just because my grandparents were from Japan.

We still have discrimination and many other problems, but these examples show change is possible — often quickly, after reaching a critical mass of public support.Studies show discrimination, murder and other violent crime rates and death from war have all declined over the years.

Throughout history, we’ve faced challenges and adapted to changing conditions. We’ve renounced practices that, in hindsight, seem foolish and often barbaric. We’ve overturned economic systems that no longer meet our needs or that our increasing wisdom tells us are destructive or immoral.

Often, resistance to calls for greater social justice or environmental protection is based on economics. When momentum to abolish slavery in the U.S. started building in the mid-1800s, many feared the economy would fail without free human labour. People fought a war over what they believed was a right to enslave, own and force other human beings to work under harsh conditions for free — in a democratic country!

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed sanctions against apartheid South Africa in part because of concerns about trade. Fortunately, Canada’s Prime Minister Brian Mulroney stood firm on sanctions, despite pressure from his allies.

Economic arguments are also often used to stall environmental progress — something we’re seeing with climate change, and pipeline, mining and fossil fuel projects, among other issues. They were employed in the 1970s, when scientists found that chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were contributing to a weakening of the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s rays. Despite opposition, world leaders signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987, and today, it’s starting to recover.

We now face many other global challenges in addition to regional ones. Our impacts have multiplied as population, trade and communications have grown to encompass the planet.

World events viewed in isolation may make it appear as though humanity is moving backward. We still suffer wars, unimaginable violence, prejudice, environmental devastation, foolish politicians, greedy industrialists and selfish individuals. But we also have new ways to communicate widely at lightning speed, wisdom acquired from millennia of experience and people everywhere reaching out to encourage respect and kindness for each other and all life sharing our planet.

Change is never easy and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. Those are the lessons from Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and all those who refuse to give up in the face of adversity when the cause they pursue is just and necessary.

Happy 2014!

News from David Suzuki & David Suzuki Foundation

Tahltan’s Sacred Headwaters defence has deep

roots

 

September 19, 2013 | Leave a comment

Photo: Tahltan's Sacred Headwaters defence has deep roots

Unblemished by dams, clearcuts or mines, and with an abundance of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, caribou and the world’s largest population of stone sheep, the Sacred Headwaters has been called the Serengeti of the North. (Credit: Claudio Contreras courtesy of the International League of Conservation Photographers)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola

Few places on our planet have been unaffected by humans. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above Earth reveal a world irrevocably changed by our land use over just the past few decades.

From Arctic tundra to primeval rainforest to arid desert, our natural world is being fragmented by ever-expanding towns and cities, roads, transmission lines and pipelines, and pockmarked by mines, pump jacks, flare stacks and other infrastructure used to drill, frack and strip-mine fossil fuels.

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Areas that have remained relatively free of industrial development have thus taken on a special significance. They’re places where a wide range of animals feed, breed and roam in large numbers, where rivers run wild and indigenous people fish, hunt and practise traditional ways.

In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the boreal forests ofPimachiowin Aki straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border, Gwaii Haanas off Canada’s West Coast and the Sacred Headwaters (called Tl’abāne in the local Tahltan language and pronounced Klabona in English) in northwestern B.C. The latter is the birthplace of three of the continent’s great salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.

The rivers of the Sacred Headwaters originate close together, as small streams percolating from beneath rich meadows on the high plateau. Fed by waters from the surrounding mountains and valleys, they drive toward the North Pacific Ocean with great force, shooting through gorges that rival the Grand Canyon in grandeur and cascading over breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls.

Unblemished by dams, clearcuts or mines, and with an abundance of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, caribou and the world’s largest population of stone sheep, the Sacred Headwaters has been called the Serengeti of the North.

Places like the Sacred Headwaters owe their continued existence to indigenous peoples who have lived there for thousands of years, and who have consistently resisted incursions of industrial development that would harm their ancestral lands — often putting their own bodies on the line to block trucks, earth-movers and drilling equipment.

But while Pimachiowin Aki and Gwaii Haanas are now thankfully protected under law, the Sacred Headwaters is not. It remains at risk from a multitude of proposed mines, railways, transmission lines and other projects that will eviscerate the landscape if approved.

The projects include a 44-square-kilometre open-pit anthracite coal mine that would level Klappan Mountain, at the very heart of the Sacred Headwaters. The mine, proposed by Fortune Minerals, a small company based in London, Ontario, would devastate land the B.C. government led the Tahltan Nation to believe would be protected.

The Tahltan are not opposed to all industrial development, and have partnered with many resource companies to generate jobs and economic opportunities for their community. But they believe some places, like the Sacred Headwaters, are too important to be developed and should be safeguarded. The Tahltan earlier stopped one of the world’s largest corporations, Royal Dutch Shell, from fracking the areafor coalbed methane gas. On August 16, they issued Fortune Minerals an immediate eviction notice.

As I write, the Tahltan, including elders who were arrested while keeping Fortune Minerals out of the Sacred Headwaters a decade ago, have gathered at their usual hunting camp on Klappan Mountain to peacefully oppose the mining company, which began test-drilling earlier this summer, with the government’s approval.

Tahltan First Nation members have been joined by non-aboriginal allies, such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. With the support of the wider community, which has brought food, water, firewood and other essentials, the Tahltan are vowing to stay on Mount Klappan until Fortune Minerals leaves the Sacred Headwaters for good.

American poet Gary Snyder has been quoted as saying, “The most radical thing you can do is stay home.” The phrase has come to have many associations, most notably to describe a sense of place and the profound power of communities coming together to protect it.

Snyder’s poetic description of what is a radical is an appropriate portrayal of the Tahltan’s peaceful defence of their Sacred Headwaters home. The word “radical” originates with the Latin for “root” or “having roots”. The Tahltan’s presence in the Sacred Headwaters is ancient and deeply rooted and will not easily be removed.

Videos about Sacred Headwaters

Short documentary about the Sacred Headwaters

Song and video by award-winning singer-songwriter Rachelle Van Zanten

TED talk by ethnobotanist Wade Davis

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2013/09/tahltans-sacred-headwaters-defence-has-deep-roots/?utm_campaign=Science%20Matters&utm_medium=email&utm_source=SM0920&utm_content=Link_ReadAndShare&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonsqXOZKXonjHpfsX56%2BUsW6O0lMI/0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4DTcRhI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFS7jNMbZkz7gOXRE%3D

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Ontario’s wildlife needs continued protection

       May 23, 2013             | Leave a comment

Photo: Ontario's wildlife needs continued protection

Witness the sage grouse in Alberta: almost 90 per cent of its Canadian population died off between 1988 and 2006 because of habitat destruction caused mainly by oil and gas development. (Credit: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario Science Projects Manager Rachel Plotkin

In the early 1970s, a significant shift occurred in the relationship between North Americans and the world we live in. People started to recognize that nature’s bounty isn’t bottomless and that human activities often strain the Earth’s limits. Across Canada and the U.S., faced with society’s perpetual penchant for economic growth as an end unto itself, many people started to advocate for protecting nature lest it be irreparably broken by our actions.

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A 1970 Vancouver benefit concert against nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska, launched Greenpeace. Earth Day also started that year. The famous picture taken from space by Apollo 17 astronauts, revealing the Earth to be a finite and vulnerable ‘blue marble’, was shared with the world in 1972.
In 1973, the U.S. recognized that resource extraction, development and land conversion were destroying wildlife homes and ranges to the point that their continued existence was at risk. It passed the Endangered Species Act, to protect plants and animals from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.”
Canada’s Species at Risk Act wasn’t passed until 2002. But Ontario, in keeping with the trend of the times, introduced legislation in 1971, and then revised it, passing an improved Endangered Species Act in 2007, which scientists and conservationists now consider the gold standard of wildlife protection law in Canada and beyond. Unlike the U.S., much of our country is crown land, managed by provincial governments on behalf of citizens. In other words, government stewards nature on our behalf.
The primary mandate of these acts is to protect the areas species need to survive. In Canada, habitat loss and degradation are the primary causes of decline for more than 80 per cent of listed species.
Sadly, we seem to be entering a new phase: environmental deregulation. Now, when habitat needs to be protected to ensure the survival of a species, government and industry often balk and backpedal. This signals a failure to understand that we depend on nature for our well-being and survival. The web of living things cleanses, replenishes and creates air, water, soil and photosynthetic energy. Species in danger of extinction inform us that our activity is undermining the very life support systems of the planet.
Witness the sage grouse in Alberta: almost 90 per cent of its Canadian population died off between 1988 and 2006 because of habitat destruction caused mainly by oil and gas development. But the Alberta government refuses to curb economic growth and protect the areas it needs to survive and recover. Witness the changes the federal government made last year to the Fisheries Act, controversially weakening the law so only a few select categories of fish will receive legal protection from industrial development. And now, Ontario is poised to weaken its Endangered Species Act by creating a range of exemptions so industry will not have to follow its habitat-protection requirements.
A recently released scientific study proves that endangered species legislation really works. According to the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity’s report, scientists estimate that, were it not for the Endangered Species Act, at least 227 species would likely have gone extinct. The report notes the act wasn’t merely saving plants and creatures from extinction; it also facilitated recovery for more than 100 at-risk species, including the American crocodile, whooping crane and black-footed ferret.
Despite the evidence that endangered species laws are effective, governments in Canada are proceeding with deregulation and abdicating their responsibilities for wildlife habitat protection, often quietly. After all, only a few environmental watchdogs such as the David Suzuki Foundation are looking out for creatures that otherwise have no voice.
But our governments underestimate the public. The federal government likely wagered few would pay much attention when it stripped protections from the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act. But concerned citizens not only noticed, they protested loudly across the country.
Now, we have an opportunity to be heard before a change is made, as the government of Ontario has not yet passed its proposed exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. Politicians need to know that people care about at-risk plant and wildlife populations. You can make a difference by calling cabinet ministers or MPPs to let them know you oppose the deregulation trend. Visit http://www.protectendangeredspecies.ca/  to learn more.

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Tiny Bhutan redefines “progress” By David Suzuki

       May  9, 2013

Photo: Tiny Bhutan redefines

The people of Bhutan see that money and hyper-consumption aren’t what contribute to happiness and well-being (Credit: Christopher Michel via Flickr)

My parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s and were profoundly affected by it. They taught us to work hard to earn a living, live within our means, save for tomorrow, share and not be greedy and help our neighbours because one day we might need their help. Those homilies and teachings seem quaint in today’s world of credit cards, hyper-consumption and massive debt.

Society has undergone huge changes since the Second World War. Our lives have been transformed by jet travel, oral contraceptives, plastics, satellites, television, cellphones, computers and digital technology. We seem endlessly adaptable as we adjust to the impacts of these new technologies, products and ideas. We only become aware of how dependant on them we are when they malfunction (work comes to a standstill when the network goes down) or don’t exist (when we visit a “developing country”). Most of the time, we can’t even imagine a way of living beyond being endlessly occupied with making money to get more stuff to make our lives “easier”.

But some people have had the benefit of directly comparing a simpler way with the accelerated societies we’ve created. In the mid-20th century, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, hidden deep in the Himalayas between China and India, emerged from three hundred years of isolation. In 1961, the third king of Bhutan started sending students to schools in India. From there, some went on to Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and other universities. The first of their nation to encounter Western society after three centuries of separation, those young people clearly saw the contrast in values. Upon returning to Bhutan, they expressed shock that, in the West, “development” and “progress” were measured in terms of money and material possessions.

At a 1972 international conference in India, a reporter asked Bhutan’s king about his country’s gross national product — a measure of economic activity. His response was semi-facetious: He said Bhutan’s priority was not the GNP but GNH – gross national happiness. Bhutan’s government has since taken the concept of GNH seriously and galvanized thinking around the world with the notion that the economy should serve people, not the other way around.

In 2004, Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who became king in late 2006, said, “There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent — if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings.”

In July 2011, Bhutan introduced the only resolution it has ever presented at the United Nations. Resolution 65/309 was called “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development.” The country’s position was “that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and “that the gross domestic product…does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people.” The General Assembly passed the resolution unanimously. It was “intended as a landmark step towards adoption of a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet.”

That empowered Bhutan to convene a high-level meeting. I was delighted when its leaders asked me to serve on a working group charged with defining happiness and well-being, and developing ways to measure these states and strategies. Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley even cited the David Suzuki Foundation’s ‘Declaration of Interdependence’ as an inspiration for the proposal.

The Bhutanese understand that well-being and happiness depend on a healthy environment. They vow to protect 60 per cent of forest cover in their country, are already carbon-neutral (they generate electricity from hydro) and have vowed to make their entire agriculture sector organic. They have snow leopards, elephants, rhinos, tigers and valleys of tree-sized rhododendrons — and know their happiness depends on protecting them.

The people of this tiny nation see that money and hyper-consumption aren’t what contribute to happiness and well-being. I’m proud to be part of the important initiative they’ve embarked upon, and look forward to the work leading up to a presentation to the UN by 2015.

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2013/05/tiny-bhutan-redefines-progress/?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRonuKTBZKXonjHpfsX56%2BUsW6O0lMI/0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ATsVqI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFS7jNMbZkz7gOXRE%3D