“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.” – David Suzuki
By Doug Draper
Posted March 24th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
I’ve been hearing on the news for days now that this Thursday, March 24th would mark David Suzuki’s 80th birthday, yet I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this guy I first saw wearing faded jeans, sandals, beads and long wavy hair has reached that milestone number of years.
My first encounter with Suzuki was way back when he was so much younger then, and I was a young student at Brock University in Niagara where he was invited to speak on the topic that still consumes so much of his life today as a scientists, author, host of the CBC television program, ‘The Nature of Things’, and head of his own David Suzuki Foundation.
That topic is the threatened state of our water, our air, our forests and other life-sustaining resources on our planet, and the urgent need to protect what is left of those resources before it is too late for present and future generations.
I encountered David Suzuki again when I was participating on a panel of environmental reporters on the state of the Great Lakes at an annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Ann Arbor, Michigan and he participated, later in the day, as a keynote speaker.
A year or so later, I spent an hour or two interviewing him for one of his books, a signed copy of which I still display proudly on a shelf in my home.
“What horrifies me,” said Suzuki during that October 1987 interview, “is that throughout the history of human life on this planet, people have had children believing that their kids may have a better life than they did. …”
“Now, for the first time in the history of human society,” he continued, “we know for sure that our children will have a worse life than we have. They will be poorer, the rate of species extinction that is going on now is astonishing and our children will grow up in a work much poorer in species diversity. … Our forests are disappearing. And the pollution of our water, groundwater and air is a ticking time bomb.…. That infuriates me.”
Unfortunately, all these years later, there is still cause for that infuriation. Right here and now in Niagara, Ontario, we have a Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority that has had its conservation mission compromised by senior administrators and a board that is toying with the idea of destroying natural wetlands, on some pitch to the public that it can see them reconstructed somewhere else, to make way for housing and other sprawling development.
On larger, national and global scale, we have communities of aboriginal people in Canada with water supplies as rancid as any you would find in a Third World country, and we have powerful interests and governments, like we’ve had with the Harper government in Canada for the past 10 years, doing everything possible on behalf of their corporate masters to avoid addressing climate change.
David Suzuki has been vilified for years by industrial polluters and their pawns in and outside of government but he has never let that stop him from putting truth to words every chance he can get.
Recently, in an interview with a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine, Suzuki said former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who thankfully lost another term in the PM’s office in the October 2015 federal election, should go to jail for failing to take action on climate change during his 10 years in power.
“I really believe that people like the former prime minister of Canada should be thrown in jail for willful blindness,” he told one of the magazine’s reporters.
While some may find Suzuki’s statement outrageous, it makes all the sense in the world when one considers that one person who ran a water treatment facility for Walkerton, Ontario was sentenced to a year in jail and another to nine months of house arrest for failing to responsibly deal with a water contamination incident in that community 16 years ago that caused the death of seven people and made thousands of others ill.
In the case of Harper and other members of his former government – including Rona Ambrose, who served Harper in the environment and later the health portfolio, and is now serving in his place as the federal Conservative Party’s interim leader – they chose to stand by their corporate pals in the tar sands and ignore overwhelming scientific evidence that the burning of oil and other carbon fuels is contributing to higher frequencies of severe weather, including drought, flooding and extreme heat, that has already caused billions of dollars of damage to property and the economy and has resulted in a number of deaths along the way.
If that isn’t a crime that deserves time in prison, what is?
And if there is a future for our children and grandchildren to celebrate, I am sure they will remember David Suzuki as the eco hero he is – as one who was on the right side of history. His critics, to the extent they are remembered at all, will be cursed.
Happy 80th Birthday David Suzuki and thank you for your many years of courage and passion in the struggle to stop short-sighted stupidity and greed from destroying the only place we have for life in the universe.
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