David Suzuki

Dr. David Takayoshi Suzuki

Suzuki in 2007
Born March 24, 1936 (1936-03-24) (age 74)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Residence Kitsilano, Vancouver, Canada
Citizenship Canadian
Nationality Canadian

David Takayoshi Suzuki, CC, OBC, Ph.D LLD (born March 24, 1936), is a Japanese Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist. Suzuki earned a Ph.D in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961, and was a professor in the genetics department of 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 syndication 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 the David 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 David Suzuki's Nature Challenge. He also served as a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association from 1982-1987.


Early life

Suzuki has a twin sister named Marcia, as well as two other siblings, Geraldine (now known as Aiko) and Jenny. 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.[1]

A third-generation Japanese-Canadian ("Canadian Sansei"), Suzuki and his family suffered internment in British Columbia during the Second World War from when he was six (1942) until after the war ended. 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.[2] His father had been sent to a labour camp in Solsqua two months earlier. Suzuki's sister, Jenny, was born in the internment camp.

After the war, Suzuki's family, like other Japanese Canadian families, was forced to move east of the Rockies. The Suzukis moved to Islington, Leamington, and London, Ontario. David 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, where he attended London 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 BA from Amherst College of Massachusetts in 1958, and his Ph.D in zoology 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 Drosophila temperature-sensitive phenotypes (DTS). (As he jokingly noted at a lecture at Johns Hopkins University, the only alternative was "damn tough skin".) He was a professor 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.[3]

For his work popularizing science and environmental issues, he has been presented with 22 honorary degrees.

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 programme Quirks and Quarks which he also hosted on CBC Radio One from 1975 to 1979. Throughout the 1970s, he also hosted Science Magazine, a weekly programme 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.[4] 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 more sustainable 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.[5] 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 Programme Medal. 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.[6][7] 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. This project Foreman developed after leaving Earth First! (which he co-founded) in 1989. The conservation biologists Michael Soul and Reed Noss were also directly involved.

Climate change activism

At the 2007 Global Day of Action event in Vancouver, B.C.. The sign in the background refers to the Greater Vancouver Gateway Program.

In recent years, Suzuki has been a forceful spokesperson on global climate change, not always without controversy. 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." [8][9]

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.[10]

The consensus includes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, consisting of over 2,000 scientists from 100 countries. The findings of the panel have been approved by the National Academies of Science of each of the G8 countries, along with those of China, India and Brazil.[10]

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 band 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. Suzuki says that they are linked to "industry-funded lobby groups to - in the words of one leaked memo – 'reposition global warming as theory (not fact).'"[10]

Carbon Footprint

The David Suzuki Foundation has implemented a carbon neutral program in its offices. The Foundation states that this is part of its "ongoing commitment to sustainability." The program is designed to show that "taking responsibility for one–s greenhouse gas emissions is straightforward and inexpensive," It uses a guide by the World Resources Institute to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. Because of problems with tree planting projects, the Foundation purchases carbon offsets from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.[11] Suzuki himself laments that in traveling constantly to spread his message of climate responsibility, he's "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.[12]

In 2007, Suzuki made a cross-country tour in a diesel bus, speaking to Canadians about climate change and urging compliance with the Kyoto Accord. Gold Standard carbon offsets were purchased by the David Suzuki Foundation for all bus travel and tour activities.[13] The Foundation's "David Suzuki's Nature Challenge"[14] and "David Suzuki's Nature Challenge for Kids"[15] suggest simple steps people can take to protect nature and improve their quality of life. Suzuki's spokesman said he used the diesel bus because using biodiesel would have voided the bus' warranty. [16]

David Suzuki has given talks to the NDP, Liberal, and Green Parties of Canada, but does not belong to any political party. The David Suzuki Foundation is non-partisan, in accordance with the rules governing non-profit charities in Canada. [17]


Suzuki signing a copy of his works.

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

Awards and honours

Suzuki receives the Right Livelihood Award from Jakob von Uexkll

Suzuki is the recipient of the Order of Canada, first as an Officer (1976), then upgraded to Companion status in (2006),[19] the Order of British Columbia (1995),[20] UNESCO–s Kalinga Prize for science (1986)[21] and a long list of Canadian and international honours.

In 2004, David Suzuki was nominated as one of the top ten "Greatest Canadians" by viewers of the CBC. In the final vote he ranked fifth.[22] Suzuki said that his own vote was for Tommy Douglas who was the eventual winner.

In 2006, David Suzuki was the recipient of the Bradford Washburn Award presented at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts.[23]

In 2009 David Suzuki was awarded the Honorary Right Livelihood Award.[24]

Honorary degrees

David Suzuki has received 22 honorary degrees from universities in Canada, the United States and Australia:


Suzuki was married to Setsuko Joane Sunahara from 1958 to 1965, with three children (Tamiko, Troy, and Laura). He married Tara Elizabeth Cullis in 1972 and had two daughters: Sarika and Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Severn, born in 1979, has also done environmental work, including speaking at environmental conferences.

David Suzuki's Japanese name is Takayoshi Suzuki (ÉÆ Åç Suzuki Takayoshi?) but he is always known by his English name to the public, even in Japanese scientific and popular literature (using Romaji). Suzuki lives in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Environmentalist David Suzuki has words of warning for ancestral homeland Kris Kosaka, April 25, 2009, The Japan Times
  2. ^ Gordon, K. (2007) The Slocan Valley - Our History, Slocan Valley Economic Development Commission. Retrieved on July 28, 2007.
  3. ^ David Suzuki's profile
  4. ^ CBC website on Nature of Things
  5. ^ Review of The Secret of Life 25 September 1993 New York Times. Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  6. ^ Broadcast schedule of The Sacred Balance
  7. ^ Production Team of The Sacred Balance
  8. ^ Babbage, Sarah (2008-02-04). "Jail politicians who ignore science: Suzuki". Canada: McGill Daily. http://www.mcgilldaily.com/view.php?aid=6970. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  9. ^ Offman, Craig (2008-02-07). "Jail politicians who ignore climate science: Suzuki". Canada: National Post. http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=290513. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  10. ^ a b c "Science: The Skeptics". Solving Global Warming. The David Suzuki Foundation. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Science/Skeptics.asp. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  11. ^ Using Carbon Offsets to Neutralize Your Emissions. Solving Global Warming: What you can do. David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: September 23, 2007.
  12. ^ Cernetig, Miro. "Suzuki gets the irony as popularity increases". Vancouver Sun (CanWest Global). http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=b69c68be-dbd3-4b83-81da-a2c2dc09ce5f. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  13. ^ Outhit, Jeff, (May 10, 2007. It's not easy going green - but more are hearing the call. The Record.com. Retrieved on: September 23, 2007.
  14. ^ Nature Challenge. David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: September 8, 2007.
  15. ^ Nature Challenge for Kids. David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: September 8, 2007.
  16. ^ The Hill Times, Dec. 17, 2007
  17. ^ Foundation Facts. David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved on: September 25, 2007.
  18. ^ "More Good News - D&M Publishers". Dmpibooks.com. http://www.dmpibooks.com/book/more-good-news. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  19. ^ Received Order of Canada
  20. ^ Received Order of British Columbia
  21. ^ Received UNESCO prize
  22. ^ Finish fifth in The Greatest Canadians
  23. ^ The Unlikely Activist
  24. ^ "Right Livelihood Award: 2009 - David Suzuki". Rightlivelihood.org. http://www.rightlivelihood.org/suzuki.html. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  25. ^ "Recipients of Honorary & Degrees". Trent University. http://www.trentu.ca/administration/pdfs/TrentUniversityRecipientsofHonoraryDegrees.pdf. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  26. ^ Miro Cernetig. "Just Wait, Says Sierra Club, You Too May Be Under Water." The Vancouver Sun. 4 May 2006.


  • John C. Phillipson. "David Takayoshi Suzuki" in The Canadian Encyclopedia: Year 2000 Edition, James Marsh, ed. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1999. p. 2277. ISBN 0771020996
  • David Suzuki. David Suzuki. Vancouver: Greystone, 2006. ISBN 1553651561
  • David Suzuki. Metamorphosis. Toronto: Stoddart, 1991. ISBN 0773755098

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