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BIO Magazine - David Suzuki Δεκέμβριος 2015
Δεκέμβριος 2015 No38

BIO Biography

David Suzuki
David Suzuki

David Takayoshi SuzukiCC  OBC (born March 24, 1936) is a Japanese Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist . Suzuki earned a Ph.in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961, and was a professor in the genetics department at the University of British Columbia from 1963 until his retirement in 2001. Since the mid-1970s, Suzuki has been known for his TV and radio series and books about nature and the environment. He is best known as host of the popular and long-running CBC Television science magazine, The Nature of Things , seen in over forty nations. He is also well known for criticizing governments for their lack of action to protect the environment.

A long time activist to reverse global climate change , Suzuki co-founded theDavid Suzuki Foundation in 1990, to work "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us." The Foundation's priorities are: oceans and sustainable fishing climate change and clean energy ,sustainability , and Suzuki's Nature Challenge. He also served as a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association from 1982 to 1987.

Suzuki was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2009. His 2011 book, The Legacy, won the Nautilus Book Award . He is a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2004, David Suzuki was selected as the greatest living Canadian in aCBC poll .

Early life

Suzuki has a twin sister named Marcia, as well as two other siblings, Geraldine (now known as Aiko) and Dawn. They were born to Setsu Nakamura and Kaoru Carr Suzuki in Vancouver , Canada. Suzuki's maternal and paternal grandparents had immigrated to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century from Hiroshima and Aichi Prefecture respectively.

A third-generation Japanese-Canadian ("Canadian Sansei "), Suzuki and his family suffered internment in British Columbia from early during the Second World War until after the war ended in 1945. In June 1942, the government sold the Suzuki family's dry-cleaning business, then interned Suzuki, his mother, and two sisters in a camp at Slocan in the British Columbia Interior . His father had been sent to a labour camp in Solsqua two months earlier. Suzuki's sister, Jenny[citation needed ], was born in the internment camp.

After the war, Suzuki's family, like other Japanese Canadian families, were forced to move east of the Rockies . The Suzukis moved to Islington ,Leamington , and London Ontario . Suzuki, in interviews, has many times credited his father for having interested him in and sensitized him to nature.

Suzuki attended Mill Street Elementary School and Grade 9 at Leamington Secondary School before moving to London, Ontario, where he attendedLondon Central Secondary School , eventually winning the election to become Students' Council President in his last year there by more votes than all of the other candidates combined.

Academic career

Suzuki received his B.A. in Biology in 1958 from Amherst College inMassachusetts , where he first discovered genetics study, and his Ph.D. inZoology from the University of Chicago in 1961.

Early in his research career he studied genetics using the popular model organism Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). To be able to use his initials in naming any new genes he found, he studied dominant temperature-sensitive (DTS) phenotypes. (As he jokingly noted at a lecture at Johns Hopkins University , the only alternative subject was "(damn) tough skin".) He was aprofessor in the genetics department (stated in his book Genethics: The Ethics of Engineering Life, 1988) at the University of British Columbia for almost forty years, from 1963 until his retirement in 2001, and has since been professor emeritus at a university research institute.

Broadcasting career

Suzuki in 2006

Suzuki began in television in 1970 with the weekly children's show Suzuki on Science . In 1974, he founded the radio program Quirks and Quarks , which he also hosted on CBC AM radio (the forerunner of CBC Radio One ) from 1975 to 1979. Throughout the 1970s, he also hosted Science Magazine , a weekly program geared towards an adult audience.

Since 1979, Suzuki has hosted The Nature of Things, a CBC television series that has aired in nearly fifty countries worldwide. In this program, Suzuki's aim is to stimulate interest in the natural world, to point out threats to human well-being and wildlife habitat, and to present alternatives for achieving a moresustainable society. Suzuki has been a prominent proponent of renewable energy sources and the soft energy path .

Suzuki was the host of the critically acclaimed 1993 PBS series The Secret of Life. His 1985 hit series, A Planet for the Taking, averaged more than 1.8 million viewers per episode and earned him a United Nations Environment ProgrammeMedal. His perspective in this series is summed up in his statement: "We have both a sense of the importance of the wilderness and space in our culture and an attitude that it is limitless and therefore we needn't worry." He concludes with a call for a major "perceptual shift" in our relationship with nature and the wild.

Suzuki's The Sacred Balance , a book first published in 1997 and later made into a five-hour mini-series on Canadian public television, was broadcast in 2002. Suzuki is now taking part in an advertisement campaign with the tagline "You have the power", promoting energy conservation through various household alternatives, such as the use of compact fluorescent lightbulbs .

For the Discovery Channel, Suzuki also produced "Yellowstone to Yukon: The Wildlands Project" in 1997. The conservation-biology based documentary focused on Dave Foreman 's Wildlands Project, which considers how to create corridors between and buffer-zones around large wilderness reserves as a means to preserve biological diversity. Foreman developed this project after leaving Earth First! (which he co-founded) in 1990. The conservation biologists Michael Soulé and Reed Noss were also directly involved.

Climate change activism

In recent years, Suzuki has been a forceful spokesperson on global climate change . In February 2008, he urged McGill University students to speak out against politicians who fail to act on climate change, stating "What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there's a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they're doing is a criminal act."

Suzuki is unequivocal that climate change is a very real and pressing problem and that an "overwhelming majority of scientists" now agree that human activity is responsible. The David Suzuki Foundation website has a clear statement of this:

The debate is over about whether or not climate change is real. Irrefutable evidence from around the world - including extreme weather events, record temperatures, retreating glaciers, and rising sea levels - all point to the fact climate change is happening now and at rates much faster than previously thought.

The overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate change agree that human activity is responsible for changing the climate. The United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of the largest bodies of international scientists ever assembled to study a scientific issue, involving more than 2,500 scientists from more than 130 countries. The IPCC has concluded that most of the warming observed during the past 50 years is attributable to human activities. Its findings have been publicly endorsed by the National Academies of Science of all G8 nations, as well as those ofChina India and Brazil .

Suzuki says that despite this growing consensus, many in the public and the media seemed doubtful about the science for many years. The reason for the confusion about climate change, in Suzuki's view, was due to a well-organized campaign of disinformation about the science involved. "A very small number of critics" denies that climate change exists and that humans are the cause. These climate change “skeptics” or "deniers", Suzuki claims, tend not to be climate scientists and do not publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals but rather target the media, the general public, and policy makers. Their goal: "delaying action on climate change." According to Suzuki, the skeptics have received significant funding from coal and oil companies, including ExxonMobil . They are linked to "industry-funded lobby groups", such as the Information Council on the Environment (ICE), whose aim is to "reposition global warming as theory (not fact)."

In October 2012, referring to climate activism and reversal of human-induced climate change, Suzuki declared to Rebecca Tarbotton , "Becky, you know, we've lost."

Social Commentary


In L'Express, a French news magazine, Suzuki called Canada's immigration policy "disgusting" (We "plunder southern countries to deprive them of their future leaders, and wish to increase our population to support economic growth") and insisted that "Canada is full" ("Our useful area is reduced")This prompted Canada's Immigration Minster, Jason Kenney, to denounce Suzuki as "xenophobic", labelling his comments as "toxic".

Canadian Justice System

While interviewing with Tony Jones on Australia's ABC TV network in September 2013, Suzuki alleged that the Harper government is building prisons even though crime rates are declining in Canada. He wondered if the prisons were being built so that Stephen Harper can incarcerate environmental activists. Jean-Christophe De Le Rue, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, refuted the claims, emphasizing that the Canadian governments is not building any prisons, nor do they have plans to build any.

Carbon footprint

Suzuki himself laments that in traveling constantly to spread his message of climate responsibility, he has ended up "over his [carbon] limit by hundreds of tonnes." He has stopped vacationing overseas and taken to "clustering" his speaking engagements together to reduce his carbon footprint. He would prefer, he says, to appear solely by video conference.


Suzuki signing a copy of his work.

Suzuki is the author of 52 books (fifteen for children), including David Suzuki: The Autobiography Tree: A Life Story The Sacred Balance Genethics Wisdom of the EldersInventing the Future, and the best-selling Looking At Senses a series of children’s science books. This is a partial list of publications by Suzuki:

Awards and honours

Suzuki is the recipient of the Order of Canada , first as an Officer (1976), then upgraded to Companion status in (2006), the Order of British Columbia(1995), UNESCO 's Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science (1986) and a long list of Canadian and international honours.

In 2004, Suzuki was nominated as one of the top ten "Greatest Canadians " by viewers of the CBC. In the final vote he ranked fifth, making him the greatest living Canadian. Suzuki said that his own vote was for Tommy Douglas who was the eventual winner.

In 2006, Suzuki was the recipient of the Bradford Washburn Award presented at the Museum of Science in Boston , Massachusetts.

In 2007, Suzuki was honoured by Global Exchange , with the International Human Rights Award.

In 2009, Suzuki was awarded the Honorary Right Livelihood Award .

As of 2012, Suzuki had received 16 significant academic awards and over 100 other awards.


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