It’s indeed an overworked accolade but Dr. David Suzuki is a great man. In the Environmental world he is in that pantheon of heroes that include the likes of Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Cousteau. Dr. Suzuki is a scientist but is better known as the man who brought the environment into the living rooms of the world, explaining things in ways we all could understand.
In years it was unfashionable to be an environmentalist in Canada he, with the likes of Colleen McCrory, Mark Angelo, Joe Foy, Betty Krawczyk and so many others slowly but surely got the public’s attention. Dr. Suzuki’s impact is incalculable.
But great people make mistakes and usually they are great mistakes, bringing unforeseen consequences that should have been foreseen. Perhaps that’s because people are reluctant to challenge those held in such high esteem.
Dr. Suzuki not only hasn’t suffered fools gladly, he doesn’t suffer those who disagree with him. This caused great harm for those who believe that the Campbell/Clark government has done irreparable harm to BC’s environment. I’m one of those people.
I felt so strongly on this subject that I campaigned long and hard for the NDP in the May ’09 election. In that election Dr. Suzuki and the crass opportunist, Tzeporah Berman, supported the private development of rivers.
Dr. Suzuki now admits that he was wrong to think that private enterprise and environmentalists could work together to obtain the best of both worlds. In my opinion, Dr. Suzuki failed to understand that corporations don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment and only act responsibly when they’re forced to. As a former Environment Minister I could have told him that. Indeed, a corporation’s mandate is to make money for shareholders and for management and the directors to piss away profits on environmental concerns is actually a breach of the trust placed in them.
Dr. Suzuki made his commitment to capital/environmental cooperation in good faith but that doesn’t alter the fact that he wreaked great harm on the environment he has laboured so long and hard to protect.
Those of us active in trying to save rivers were in shocked disbelief when we learned of his position. In fact I was so shocked that in a public meeting I referred to him as a “pseudo-environmentalist”, a remark instantly passed on to him - but much as I admire David, I wasn’t sorry for the outburst.
How can I say that his position helped the Liberals win a close election?
Because I was there. I campaigned all around the province for the NDP and saw first hand what people thought. If David Suzuki thought that damming of our rivers to produce power was OK, well then it must be - those who disagree must be just shrill tree huggers.
The impact wasn’t, perhaps, so great in the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island but it was substantial in rural BC where many races were very close. As I spoke in rural ridings, Suzuki’s words provided an invisible critic of what I was saying.
I applaud Dr. Suzuki leaving his Foundation so that their neutral status required for them, as a charitable society, to get public funds, isn’t compromised. (As an aside, I wonder if the Fraser Institute has such a status or is bias OK for the far right?)
David Suzuki must make amends. He must look at the serious issues of fish farms, destruction of farmland, ruination of rivers for electricity we don’t need produced for the bank vaults of larger corporations, pipelines and huge tankers taking Tar Sands gunk through our precious environment and down our coast and out of Vancouver Harbour.
He doesn’t owe a damned thing to me or any other who has disagreed with his 2009 stance.
He does, however, owe a hell of a lot to his province and to the next generation and those to come.