David Suzuki Was Wrong…But at Least He Gets it Now


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 when 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.


Have you thought about whether or not there’s a soul? What about near death experiences? Should the Book of Revelation scare the pants off us? Find out what other religions and experts say with my new book The Home Stretch available online for your computer, kindle, kobo or iPad for the miserly sum of $9.99


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

12 thoughts on “David Suzuki Was Wrong…But at Least He Gets it Now

  1. Rafe you are right on about the transformation of Ms. Tzeporah Berman from (seeming) young eco-saint to a now mature, disappointing opportunist. Sad for the idealists who continue to struggle.

  2. Suzuki has done a great job of documenting the natural world, its beauty and its fragility. Not too far down The Road those documentaries will be all that the Human Zoo has to remind them of what the planet was like: For a great many folks that’s already happened.

    If we look closely for the real benefits of The Nature of Things we’ll find few. The majority of folks in three camps: it’s too late, or I can’t do anything of consequence to change things, or acknowledging and discussing the problem will force government to make all of our problems go away.

    The last camp is where most environmentalists can be found. “These days, for many people who consider themselves environmentally conscious, a vision of giant wind turbines in serried ranks as far as the eye can see fills a pivotal emotional need; it allows them to pretend, at least to themselves, that it’s possible to support today’s extravagant lifestyles on renewable energy – to have our planet, one might say, and eat it too.”

  3. Better late than never. Now if we can just hang on for one yr. a change in government might just benefit the enviornment.

    Better to have clean water & air & less money than all the money in the world & not have clean water to drink or air to breath.

    Great column as always.

  4. Suzuki’s mistake, like most of those trying to awaken an indifferent public to the on-going environmental destruction, is that he believes facts, figures and logic will somehow override emotion.

    It won’t. It never will. No one, particularly those in positions of public trust, is willing to yield pleasure for pain: Not Suzuki, not Mair, not Berman nor any of those on the populist environmental bandwagon. It’s part of our basic survival mechanism. The Sacred Balance is an illusion.

    As a result, environmental catastrophe will continue to mount until global economies implode. And that process is already underway.

    There’s a reason why govt’s are downsizing and decentralizing environmental stewardship. There’s a reason why Harper is trying to convince the public that we need to pump bitumen to China. There’s a reason why DFO is behind the fish farming industry. There’s a reason for shipping raw logs. We’ve created a growth dependent world which is quickly being confronted with the hard truth … we’ve overshot the planet’s carrying capacity.

    These are desperate measures by govt’s, industry and an all too eager public.

  5. Thanks for writing this article! I too wondered what the heck David Suzuki was thinking!

  6. Rafe,

    I admire the fact that you don’t get tired. I do.

    I’d like to see change. Like you, I actively supported the candidate I believed in during the last election. So what? Nothing changed. If anything, things are worse.

    I think there is something deeper here, something underneath words, something more profound than action. But I can’t find thinkers digging it out for us to see.

    Rhetoric clangs and actions aren’t permanent. Where did the Canadian thinkers go, the ones that opened the real paths to change?

    Dr. Suzuki has a right to enjoy his grandkids and the sands of beaches populated with huts serving cold beers. Surely, it is his turn. So who today, is picking up that mantle in BC and the country at large?

    I think we might work with that change agent.

  7. Wonderful article. I agree one hundred per cent. I love David and it sorely grieved me to see him so manipulated (or so I thought) by the foundation.Thank you, Rafe.

  8. As soon as Dr Suzuki backed Gordon Campbell he lost all credibility to me. The carbon tax has done little to stop carbon from going into the atmosphere taking money from our schools, hospitals and other needed government programs and given it to profital multinational corperations with little real effect. If there had been legislation to control GHG emissions and money to advance the science we would be much farther ahead. The destruction of our streams and rivers by daming them for run of river projects has done nothing except bankrupt BC Hydro and provide huge profits for more multinational corps. Meanwhile we now have powerlines and roads in what were pristine wilderness areas, loss of use of our rivers for recreation and wildlife. Dr Suzuki owes us all an appology.

  9. Many years ago, Dr. Suzuki advised, “Think globally and act locally.” For over 20 years, a number of people have worked to protect the amazing Fraser River delta estuary which includes habitat for salmon, orcas, raptors and millions of migrating birds of the Pacific Flyway. For issues such as Deltaport expansion, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, building on farmland , encroachment on Burns Bog, and tankers on the River, we have appealed to the David Suzuki Foundation for endorsement. They have never given us the time of day.

    The Suzuki Foundation has done some excellent research and reports but our governments are choosing to ignore good science. The advocacy, endorsement, and voice of David Suzuki remain very important. Dr. Suzuki can get through to the public and expose current destructive actions of the B.C. Government and the Government of Canada.

    We are losing not only precious farmland and habitat, but also our protective laws and democracy. Government ministries and unaccountable crown corporations, such as Port Metro Vancouver, are in bed with business interests who are exploiting public assets and tax dollars for personal gains.

    Please, Dr. Suzuki, Speak Out!

  10. from David Suzuki “Metamorphosis” 1987

    about Petrocan “I can understand the importance of control over national energy. I can understand the importance of Clark’s proposal as a political symbol of his government’s commitment to free enterprise and the ultimate good of marketplace forces. But I believe that people, through government, must have control of their own natural resources, so that public interest, not profit, sets the policy”

    about the CBC “Fighting the CBC, however, is difficult. For one thing, you don’t know who is sending out the edicts; you only know the people who deliver them”

    “Species extinction and habitat destruction are going on at a terrifying rate. It is an untenable conceit to believe that we can maintain our current rate of consumption of energy and amount of pollutants and debris we dump into it. It is a delusion to think that we know enough to control, manipulate and mange nature. All projections of human activity lead to predictions of energy depletion, massive species extinction and the disappearance of all wilderness by the first years of the next century”

    Substitute IPP’s for Petrocan, the BC E.A.O. for CBC..and Clark for Clark.

Comments are closed.