As one of the world’s leading educators on environmental awareness, David Suzuki is shifting his focus from broadcasting and research to activism.
The man who sounded the alarm
David Suzuki has been one of the most influential people involved in the campaign to raise awareness around climate change and our mindset, which has led us into the position we are in today. His credentials as a widely acclaimed scientist lend validity to the arguments he presents, and he has been celebrated for decades for the work he has accomplished.
He has had a strong connection to nature for most of his life, and as the years have gone by, he has dedicated more and more of his time to spreading awareness of how we have found ourselves in our position concerning our environment. He recently retired from his critically acclaimed and widely viewed show, “The Nature of Things,” to focus on sharing his wisdom and knowledge as an ‘elder’ and an eco-activist.
The work behind the words
Born on March 24, 1936, Suzuki began his life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Despite being born in Canada as a third-generation Japanese-Canadian, he and his family suffered from the racist and discriminatory policy of asset seizure and internment during the second world war. They, and thousands of others, were forcibly relocated to a camp in the 1940s. After the war, like many Japanese-Canadians, he and his family bounced around east of the Rockies for many years until finally finding their footing in London, Ontario.
In interviews, he credits his father for inspiring in him a curiosity and interest in nature and the natural world. Perhaps as a result of said inspiration, he pursued a bachelor of arts degree in biology, achieving such in 1958 from Amherst College in Massachusetts. He also achieved a doctor of philosophy degree in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961.
He was also a professor for almost 40 years, first as an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, then as a full professor at the University of British Columbia, beginning in 1963 and ending in 2001.
While having a few stints as a broadcaster in the ‘70s, he became widely known beginning in 1979 when he took over hosting “The Nature of Things,” a documentary television series broadcasted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Throughout the course of his career as a broadcaster, he has consistently stressed the importance of the environment in our world and our lives, with this focus growing as the awareness around climate change and our impact on the environment have grown.
He has called for many years a “perceptual shift” in how we view the environment, as how we see ourselves and our world has led directly to the degradation of our world. In 1991, he founded the David Suzuki Foundation, which aims to protect nature while balancing human needs.
Dr. Suzuki has led a long and important career in broadcasting and education with an activist legacy to boot, and as now, he has officially retired from broadcasting for the CBC. He aims now to fulfill a role he describes as an ‘elder’ in the environmental movement, providing wisdom and guidance to the youth who are heading the charge to take action regarding our ecosystems.
In an interview with Mongabay, he said, “The thing about elders that’s different in society is they don’t have to kiss anybody’s ass to get a job, or a raise, or a promotion.” He believes he and others in his age range are in a position with an interesting perspective continuing, “They’re beyond worrying about money or power or celebrity so that they can speak a kind of truth…To me, hope is action.”
David Suzuki is continuing on in a different way.
As a widely loved and respected figure in the environmental and scientific communities, it is sad to see that he is no longer the voice and face of a widespread show that has reached 40 different countries worldwide.
However, he has stressed the importance of building coalitions with the young, the old, and the indigenous peoples of our world. He is free now, with the show’s responsibility lifted to focus on building unity within the movement to change our world for the better. He is maintaining hope, as he believes that acting reflects a belief that we can change the world for the better, and as such, acting to change the world reflects such hope.