Listen to the CFRA radio interview between John Counsell and Tom Harris minutes after the Suzuki presentation.
September 27, 2010: Dr. David Suzuki, co-founder of the environmental activist group, The David Suzuki Foundation, is now touring Canada promoting his new book, "The Legacy - An elder's Vision for our Sustainable Future". The speech he gave this evening in Ottawa at the Dominion Chalmers Church was essentially a summary of the book, with much of the book's text used verbatim in the presentation.
The book, and to a considerable extent the presentation, is a strange combination of environmental mysticism, science and folklore that leaves one wondering what is real and what is simply David Suzuki’s imagination. While both the book and his presentation are superb works of communication, they contain far too much native environmental spirituality, and significant science mistakes, to be of much use to most western readers who need a serious, rational basis for the important decisions about the environment and society that we must make today.
First, his focus on the "sacredness" of nature is foreign to most people. He promotes the concept that the air, the soil, the water and fire are all sacred. Suzuki writes, “biodiversity, the web of life itself, should be considered a sacred element, in addition to the other four elements.” It is unclear whether or not he actually believes this or simply says this to try to get people to care for natural things more. Perhaps it is both. Regardless, it may very well originate with his father who, Suzuki writes, "found great strength in the Japanese tradition of nature worship.”
Some of the The Legacy delves into what one may consider environmental mysticism. Saying that, because air is in and around us, we are air and since we all share that air, then “I am you”. Because plants and animals ultimately come from the soil and we eat plants and animals, then “we are earth.” In referring to animals and plants, Suzuki says, “All life on Earth is our kin. And in an act of generosity [a strange concept to attribute to species other than humans], our relatives create the four sacred elements for us.”
There are many science mistakes in the book too numerous to list here but one alone is all that is needed to demonstrate how far Suzuki has strayed from a rational assessment of main stream science (p. 17):
"We have become a force of nature ... Not long ago, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, forest fires, even earthquakes and volcanic explosions were accepted as "natural disasters or "acts of God." But now, we have joined God, powerful enough to influence these events." He said essentially the same thing in tonight's presentation.
During the presentation tonight, Suzuki also strongly, even angrily, promoted the human-caused climate catastrophe hypothesis - no one dared contest him in the question period.
Due to his prominence in society, Suzuki has the opportunity to be a unifying force in Canada between those of different approaches and across the political spectrum. He could help bring us together to work sensibly on our real environmental problems. Instead, by taking a dogmatic, anti-intellectual point of view on many issues and demonizing those who disagree with him (though not much in this particular book), he has become a polarizing force, taking us further from the crucial compromises that are needed to pave the way to real environmental progress in a democracy. His absolute “I am right, period” approach may work in the sort of environmentalist dictatorship described by science-fiction writer Larry Niven in his book Fallen Angels, but it will never gain traction with enough of our population to move us forward to a worthwhile plan of action.
Unless, David Suzuki can engage in a more balanced, scientific approach, working with his intellectual opponents instead of trying to beat them up, then he needs to leave the public stage. Dr. Suzuki has accomplished a good deal in the form of environmental consciousness raising over the years but his recent aggressive and now mystical approach is simply alienating more and more Canadians.