Suzuki delivers dire warning, cautious hope over future of humankind

Jim Day
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David Suzuki was the guest lecturer Friday for the annual National Symons Lecture on the State of the Canadian Confederation.

David Suzuki's passion for preserving the planet he inhabits is explosive.

His language can be, well, quite passionate as well.

Nothing, though, seemed to convey his great angst over the self-destructive path that he believes humankind is on more dramatically than his emotional reaction Friday to hugging a child.

Following the embrace, the country's most recognizable scientist choked up on stage in front of an enthralled crowd that packed the main theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

"I have two young grandsons who are everything in the world to me,'' he said, fighting back tears.

"It's all about them.''

Before the award-winning Canadian broadcaster took to the stage to deliver a call to action to save the planet from ruin, Suzuki sat down with The Guardian for a chat not short on colorful wording or alarming assessment.

"The crux of my message is we're in a big crunch,'' he said.

"In the next few years, what we do or do not do is going to determine whether we survive as a species and it's not like thousands of years from now.''

He told the largest crowd to ever gather for the annual National Symons Lecture on the State of the Canadian Confederation that the dire forecasts of many experts are both frightening and realistic.

Sir Martin Rees, one of the eminent scientists in England, gives the unsettling odds of 50/50 that any human beings will be left on earth by 2100.

While Suzuki wouldn't offer his own forecast, he was clear in hammering home his scientific view that the path we all are currently traveling needs to change course dramatically.

"If you look at what we have not done even though the warnings have been coming for 40 years, you have to conclude we are a suicidal species,'' he told The Guardian.

"We are just going right over the edge of the cliff.''

He struck a somewhat softer tone in concluding his speech to the more than 1,000 people crammed into the Homburg Theatre and the audience tuning in to a live web stream.

"There is a great deal of hope but it's urgent that we get going on it,'' he said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Suzuki says individuals can do plenty to reduce their own environmental footprint, such as conserving water and turning off lights.

But what he most wants to see is the public get "very involved'' in politics.

Governments must realize, he warns, that the economy cannot trump ecology or the environment.

Clean air, clean water and clean soil, he stresses, is essential to our survival. So air, water and soil cannot continue to be used as toxic dumps.

"We live in the biosphere. It is finite.''

Suzuki is a scientist clearly disgusted and disillusioned with the current federal government, particularly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He calls Harper's government the most hostile he has ever encountered.

Suzuki says Harper, the only prime minister to decline him a personal meeting, continues to demonstrate an "astonishing display of insensitivity'' towards critical environmental issues like climate change.

He says Harper has turned Canada into "an international outlaw" by turning its back on the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement linked to the United Nations framework convention on climate change.

Premier Robert Ghiz even took a shot from Suzuki who noted Islanders bombarded him with requests to speak out against Plan B. He told the crowd he is not familiar with the issue than turned to the premier to deliver a jibe.

"Mr. Ghiz, it's your problem, not mine,'' he said, drawing a loud burst of laughter and applause.

Organizations: The Guardian, Confederation Centre, Canadian Confederation Homburg Theatre Kyoto Protocol United Nations Islanders

Geographic location: England, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Gene
    November 24, 2012 - 21:42

    Judging by some of these posts the gene pool is really getting thin. Fixing that should be our top priority.

  • Kumon
    November 23, 2012 - 23:02

    who cares. Jesus will clean it all up when he comes back.

  • Island Guy
    November 23, 2012 - 20:16

    Clearly climate change is real, and is attibutable to mankinds industry. The real problem is that there are 10 times more people on this planet than it can support. Since no one is willing to hurt their economies, curtain the petro-chemical industry etc, the only solution to save mankind, I guess, is to nuke all of Asia and Europe, so that North America can go on....better them than us.

    • jiminy
      November 23, 2012 - 22:58

      I wish the walking dead was real, that would solve climate change.

  • Captain Canuck
    November 19, 2012 - 08:46

    David Suzuki has been warning us for 30 or more years. Some of you posters are saying that is a bad thing - as if the truth becomes wrong if you keep saying it over too many years for your taste. To you people - you are defective. Others who dismiss Dr. Suzuki say that to back up his words, he should consume NO fossil fuel! What would he wear? Look, it's not "all-or-nothing". To those who think it is: you are fools. He does not need follow St. Francis of Assisi's lead and run province-to province naked and on a bike. Heck, it requires fossil fuels to make a bike too. Suzuki is trying to get us to take care of ourselves - fools and defectives we are.

  • David Hendry
    November 18, 2012 - 09:41

    Gash it's fun to read all the noise associated with this. The fact is simple. Suzuki may in fact be more negative than is really needed. We may find a way to alter our behavior and stop the degradation of the planet but if we keep doing what we have been doing for the last century we, humanity will suffer not the earth. THe earth will correct this imbalance. It has done things like that in the past and will again. the argument is not whether the earth will survive but whether man will. The fact is we will not unless we change how we interact with the environment.

  • Flat earth society
    November 18, 2012 - 07:10

    After reading these flat earthers and trolls it is easy to understand Suzuki's lack of hope. Personally I think Susuki has insight into this issue that are accurate and his comments timely. He is not alone in his analysis. But the rightwing flat earthers can go on with the kind of life style options that one would expect from such a crew while the earth be damned.

  • David Suzuki
    November 17, 2012 - 23:02

    Leave piet hein alone he is so enamored with me I don't even have to spit on it anymore then I whisper climate talking points into his ear and send him back down the mountain..

  • siamdave
    November 17, 2012 - 22:39

    Imagine PEI as Green Island - leading the way to a peaceful, prosperous peaceful country and world. (although not without some resistance from the current feudal lords, of course) - Green Island (or ask for it at the Confed Center or UPEI libraries)

  • Laughing at you
    November 17, 2012 - 21:49

    Suzi - a small man who is no longer relevant And he absolutely hates being ignored Which most intelligent people are now doing

  • John Jenkins
    November 17, 2012 - 18:37

    I have not yet figured out what a fruit fly scientist knows about climate science

  • Piet Hein
    November 17, 2012 - 18:36

    Actually Mike, if you dig even deeper into the story (and I doubt you bothered to read past the head line) you would see that some commenters have said the British met office has officially protested the story and say their data has been misrepresented in this particular story. When will you become the president of the Flat Earth Society? They really need science deniers like you.

  • Piet Hein
    November 17, 2012 - 18:14

    Mike, did you read the whole story or just the heading? Did you get to the last paragraph where it says that yes global warming is real and at least some of it is caused by CO2 emissions, but it may be happening at a slower pace than previously thought, but it is real. I think not. You saw the heading and for you that was enough. All the scientists are wrong except the ones you like. That is why you are a member of the Flat Earth Society. You are incapable of critical thought and for you science is something to be feared unless it tells you exactly what you want to hear.

  • chicken Little
    November 17, 2012 - 17:58

    The Sky is Falling...The Sky is Falling be david Suzuki says so. Funny the sky has been falling for years and we have yet to get hit by a flling cloud. Would this guy just go preach is garbage maybe on another planet where maybe they will listen to him and believe him. Problem is he has been saying the same thing for years and it has yet to happen. I guess if the sky falls anytime in the next 50 million years then Suzuki can take credit for predicting it. Why people would pay to listen this man and his dribble is beyond me except to say "a fool and his money are soon parted".

  • Dick Penderyn
    November 17, 2012 - 16:45

    Yes lets hear something new from Mr Suzuki. Like people have listened and acted in a responsible manner towards our environment and things are improving. If you want to hear something positive then it is up to you to respond, saying (Bla, Bla, Bla) is some what childish and irresponsible.

  • Piet Hein
    November 17, 2012 - 16:15

    I see the Flat Earth Society has taken over posting on this story.

  • charni
    November 17, 2012 - 15:56

    The earth will take care of itself. It has for billions of years. Fear mongering by the likes of Suzuki will not alter the future path. Suzuki would do much better with his celebrity status to deal with the suffering of the poor on this earth by speaking of positive ways to enhance economic growth. He should concentrate on their needs instead of worrying about caribou and polar bears. Climate change is part of the nature of cyclical earthly changes - the human condition potentially adds a paltry enhancement to climate change. Remember most of North America was subtropical without any human intervention in the distant past. Scientists can alarm the same as any other religious zealots.

  • Dan Baron
    November 17, 2012 - 15:54

    Suzuki's main concern is the Liberal party of Canada. He needs Liberals for funding and his future seat in the Senate. A socialist cannot survive without government money. His main function at the CBC is politics, not science. This article has the main leftist tactics, fear monger and provide the liberals as a savior. No that we are rid of the liberals we have no need for the CBC.

    • Time to open our eyes
      November 19, 2012 - 07:23

      'A socialist cannot survive without government money . . ." In regard to Plan B, the ultimate ironic statement given the corporations that are sucking Islander's tax dollars for useless pavement. The redistribution of money is a necessary feature of our economy; the question is who controls it and for what purpose?

  • sampson
    November 17, 2012 - 12:13

    I'd believe the words of David Suzuki over those of a politician or a bumpkin off the streets any day. PEI - an island of limited resources - could be a metaphor for the planet. How we treat both and attempt to preserve the natural capital that human beings haven't touched will be the debate of the 21st century. Robert Ghiz and his pathetic mismanaged and misguided approaches have shown the way not to do it. I tend to look at J. Angus MacLean as the only truly educated premier we have had in the last 100 years who GOT IT and who did so many things in his short premiership to benefit the environment. And guess what? J. Angus had a Bachelor of Science degree... Funny eh?

    • Janet Gaudet
      November 17, 2012 - 14:38

      You are so right. I think the people who don't realize how much damage is being done to this beautiful province environmentally by this government are very selfish and uncaring. J. Angus MacLean cared deeply about P.E.I. I think he would be heartbroken if he could see the damage that is being done in Bonshaw with plan B. I'm very concerned about what is going to be here for future generations. Considering that Premier Ghiz has 2 young children, you would think that he would care but apparently he doesn't.

  • Mayan Scribe
    November 17, 2012 - 11:12

    It won't matter come December , Mayan Calendar says it's all over anyway !

  • Randy
    November 17, 2012 - 10:58

    David Suzuki's hypocrisy knows no bounds. enough said.

    • Mike
      November 17, 2012 - 15:40

      Well said Randy! This guy is a thief just like his buddy Al Gore. Al Gore, the man that said Nova Scotia and California would be under water in fifteen years. Then bought a 5 million dollar home in Malibu

    • Piet Hein
      November 17, 2012 - 16:09

      Randy, just like you I am going to make a statement and provide no proof of what I will now post. You are an uneducated, low class moron who I would say probably did not get past Grade 3 because your hillbilly parents did not believe in schooling. You give idiots a bad name.

    • Ulfric
      November 17, 2012 - 17:05

      Randy - Anyone with half a brain knows when calling someone out, one sentence with nothing to back it up is not enough. NUFF SAID

  • Twiggy
    November 17, 2012 - 10:16

    Glad to see Ghiz looking like a donkey's rear quarters for the Plan B autobahn b.s. patronage project. Very nice.

  • D.G.. Macro
    November 17, 2012 - 09:25

    When you read comments from the likes of Ace Freely, Time Flys, Karma Jimmy and Have A Say, you know the world is in trouble - not only from cllmate change, but also from rampant inbreeding.

  • Piet Hein
    November 17, 2012 - 09:21

    I notice that most of the commenters on here are the type who dance around a witches cauldron and chanting as they throw eye of newt into the pot. Science scares these people and that is why they attack scientists like Suzuki. Stephen Harper and most conservatives do the same thing. If you deny something bad is happening like climate change then you don't have to do anything to stop it. Just carry on as if nothing is happening and hope it will all go away. Meanwhile, the temperatures are rising, the ice caps are melting , storms are getting bigger and we are pumping more and more harmful gasses into the atmosphere. And then when scientists point to facts that we are in trouble the mob wave their pitchforks in the air and run the scientists out of town on a rail.

    • Mike
      November 17, 2012 - 16:18

      Piet Hein: Are YOU afraid of proof? Are YOU prepared to admit you are wrong about the temperatures rising? Probably not, as delusions are usually fixed.

  • johnthames
    November 17, 2012 - 08:56

    Brilliant, as usual. Revealed Harper, Ghiz and their policies/approach to democracy as a sham. A brilliant Canadian who tells it like it is.

    • Peter
      November 17, 2012 - 10:55

      It is easy to label someone as brilliant so long as you agree with them . I am betting if this were about someone you didn't agree with ,they would be labeled as an Idiot? Suzuki is a smart guy ( not so sure about brilliant) but he has an agenda like all politicians.. And yes he is more politician than scientist in my opinion,actually maybe more of a cult leader type

  • jimminy
    November 17, 2012 - 08:53

    There is no sense in arguing with david suzuki or other envirowackos. They are religious fanatics, only the earth represents their God. Mr Suzuki is the equivalent of their Benny Hinn.

    • Gordon Lee
      November 17, 2012 - 14:29

      if their are any other Gods than the earth , please let me know.

    • Dick Penderyn
      November 17, 2012 - 16:32

      If as you write "only the earth represents his God" it is at least tangible not like other religious fanatics whose God is a figment of their imagination and a kin to tales from long ago times, when people thought the world was flat and nations would go to war to defend the belief in their imaginary God. The earth will be here a lot longer than any human being because we are seeing to it that we are creating an environment which will not support us indefinitely.

  • don
    November 17, 2012 - 08:31

    If I could ask David Suzuki one question, it would be How did he get to PEI? Did he bike it? Hypocrite.

  • Have A Say
    November 17, 2012 - 08:01

    People, don't feed the trolls. This issue is too serious to be wasting time on them. If Ghiz doesn't hang his head in shame now I'm not sure what it's going to take. Mr. Ghiz, do you honestly think that highway in Bonshaw, those hills in Borden and all the other foolish things you give priority to are more important to this island than life itself? YOU are contributing to the destruction of this planet ways that can't be reversed. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM in the biggest way possible. Do you sleep well when you think about the planet? Oh yea... you don't think about the planet.

  • David Suzuki
    November 17, 2012 - 08:00

    Please don't run down Ace he is absolutley right Paul and I sometimes are narrow minded self promoting bumbling jackarses.

  • dfc
    November 17, 2012 - 07:48

    So what solutions does mr. suzuki offer? Slow or reverse economic growth? Shut down all industry? Forced sterilization of half the world? Considering we have half a chance of surviving into the next century, drastic steps obviously must be taken. This guy, and those groups which collect money from their fearmongering, are nothing more than snake oil salesmen.

    • goody
      November 17, 2012 - 15:31

      Exactly!! If they weren't getting wealthy from all the fear mongering it may be a little more believable.Look how wealthy Gore is from his scare mongering .

  • cromwell
    November 17, 2012 - 07:43

    More of the same from Suzuki, the self-promoting 'eco warrior' who panders entirely to the socialist trolls. Perhaps he can be asked if he is such a paragon of conservation why he has multiple houses and drives a gas guzzling RV to his many paid appearances. He must really rack up the frequent flyer miles, which speaks volumes of his commitment to his personal carbon footprint.

    • Ulfric
      November 17, 2012 - 17:15

      He's not Amish, he's David Suzuki. Green Peace own boats and SUV's and RV's and I don't hear anyone calling them out. He does more than you ever will at leaving any sort of footprint on this earth and that's enough. You want him to ride a horse everywhere? I bet his multiple houses are solar powered and RV causes less emissions than whatever you drive. Some food for thought, don't throw stones in a glass house. Do you bash people for eating, who are also supporting starving children? enough said.

  • hammike
    November 17, 2012 - 06:26

    I couldn't help but notice the Guardian did not print Suzuki's comments regarding the Plan B highway project. He had lots to say and none of it was supporting the project.

    • There is no Plan B anymore . . .
      November 17, 2012 - 08:50

      The Guardian rarely, if ever, uses the "Plan B" term anymore. They use "Realignment Project". I guess it's better for commerce . . .

  • dm
    November 17, 2012 - 04:16

    How friging dumb do you have to be not to believe this man, everything he says is true and science backs it up so.... but when we live in a world that brainwashes us to think everything is fine, but christmas is coming soon so lets all worry about that instead of trying to save our planet.

    • don
      November 17, 2012 - 08:46

      ....and you dont think what mr suzuki is doing is not brainwashing?

  • David
    November 17, 2012 - 01:32

    This guy is like all retired people who think they know everything and everyone should listen to them. Suzuki had hsi time to talk and tell people how they should live and now he is retired and should shut up and let the next generation talk and move things forward. There is nothing worse then someone who doesn't know when they should let got and retire and accept the fact that the world will get along fine without them. Suzuki has been precahing for years and we are still here and so is the earth.

  • karma
    November 16, 2012 - 23:30

    So keep on donating folks - it funds a pretty nice life style and, even though it is illegal to do so for chariites, campaigns against politicians they don't like.

    • don
      November 17, 2012 - 09:01


  • The Plant
    November 16, 2012 - 22:58

    Freely, you really are dumb. Captain Walker??????

  • Big Jim Colrobby
    November 16, 2012 - 22:56

    Hey Ace, way to make a fool out of yourself. The name is Watson and not Walker. Someone as dumb as you should be seen and not heard. Better yet, not see either.

  • Bob Canyon
    November 16, 2012 - 22:54

    Ace Freely, if you are going to be such a troll by trying to stir up the pot then please try to wise up. It's Capt. Watson and not Walker. Idiots like you should be kept under lock and key.

  • Piet Hein
    November 16, 2012 - 22:51

    Ace Freely, i hope you are not as big a moron as your post suggests because if you are then you should not be walking around loose. You should be kept in your mother's basement. You are calling Capt. Paul Walker a half wit and you being such a half wit to not even know his name is Watson and not Walker. Tell me, who is the half wit?

  • eileen macdougald
    November 16, 2012 - 21:48

    The previous two comments demomstrate why we are in the middle of this crisis.

    • Janet Gaudet
      November 17, 2012 - 08:27

      Eileen, you are so right. David Suzuki has been warning people for years about what's going to happen, and it's happening right now. Hurricane Sandy is a clear indication of that. David Suzuki can now say "I told you so". People who don't believe that are probably the same ones who are still watering their lawns, washing their driveways, and are in favour of plan B. We'll just have to excuse them as they don't know any better. Ignorance is bliss. It's a folly to be wise.

  • adophus
    November 16, 2012 - 21:18

    What a great summer - if you liked heat! And just think, we're cutting grass in November! Global warming isn't happening. Duh.

  • Ace Freely
    November 16, 2012 - 21:06

    Pea off David..... You sold out long ago. You are no longer even the premier eco-terrorist. Captain Paul Walker and his band of half wits even have their own show! The world has been ending since the 70's according to the good doctor. Hey, headline pay the bills.

  • time flys
    November 16, 2012 - 20:33

    Bla Bla Bla lets hear something new from Suzuki same old dire forcasts