David Suzuki

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David Suzuki, Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.

It's Been 25 Years Since World's Prominent Scientists Released 'Warning to Humanity'

The longer we delay addressing environmental problems, the more difficult it will be to resolve them. Although we’ve known about climate change and its potential impacts for a long time, and we’re seeing those impacts worsen daily, our political representatives are still approving and promoting fossil fuel infrastructure as if we had all the time in the world to slow global warming.

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Christmas in the Technosphere: How to Lift the Weight of the World

How much stuff will you give and receive this holiday season? Add it to the growing pile — the 30-trillion-tonne pile. That’s how much technology and goods humans have produced, according to a study by an international team led by England’s University of Leicester. It adds up to more than all living matter on the planet, estimated at around four trillion tonnes.

Scientists have dubbed these times the “Anthropocene”, because humans are now the dominant factor influencing Earth’s natural systems, from climate to the carbon and hydrologic cycles. Now they’re labelling our accumulated goods and technologies — including houses, factories, cars, roads, smartphones, computers and landfills — the “technosphere” because it’s as large and significant as the biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. Researchers estimate it represents 50 kilograms for every square metre of Earth’s surface and is 100,000 times greater than the human biomass it supports.

Better Discourse For a Kinder World

The U.S. election was a chilling illustration of the atrocious state of public discourse. It doesn’t bode well for a country once admired for leadership in education and science.

As public relations expert and former David Suzuki Foundation board chair James Hoggan writes in I’m Right and You’re an Idiot, “polluted public discourse is an enormous obstacle to change.” How, he asks, do we “create the space for higher quality public debates where passionate opposition and science shape constructive, mind-changing conversations”?

'World Class' May Not Mean Much When it Comes to Oil Spill Response

In July, a pipeline leak near Maidstone, Saskatchewan, spilled about 250,000 litres of diluted oil sands bitumen into the North Saskatchewan River, killing wildlife and compromising drinking water for nearby communities, including Prince Albert. It was one of 11 spills in the province over the previous year. 

In October, a tugboat pulling an empty fuel barge ran aground near Bella Bella on the Great Bear Rainforest coastline, spilling diesel into the water. Stormy weather caused some of the containment booms to break. Shellfish operations and clam beds were put at risk and wildlife contaminated.

Governments and industry promoting fossil fuel infrastructure often talk about “world class” spill response. It’s one of the conditions B.C.’s government has imposed for approval of new oil pipelines. But we’re either not there or the term has little meaning. “This ‘world-class marine response’ did not happen here in Bella Bella,” Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett told Metro News

David Suzuki: We Can’t Dig Our Way Out of the Fossil Fuels Hole

I’ve often thought politicians inhabit a parallel universe. Maybe it’s just widespread cognitive dissonance, coupled with a lack of imagination, that compels them to engage in so much contradictory behaviour. Trying to appease so many varying interests isn’t easy.

Rather than focusing on short-term economic and corporate priorities, though, politicians should first consider the long-term health and well-being of the people they’re elected to represent. When it comes to climate change and fossil fuels, many aren’t living up to that.

Wild Pacific Salmon Face Upstream Battle for Survival

Salmon have been swimming in Pacific Northwest waters for at least seven million years, as indicated by fossils of large saber-tooth salmon found in the area. During that time, they’ve been a key species in intricate, interconnected coastal ecosystems, bringing nitrogen and other nutrients from the ocean and up streams and rivers to spawning grounds, feeding whales, bears and eagles and fertilizing the magnificent coastal rainforests along the way.

David Suzuki: Cultural and Ecosystem Diversity Key to Resilience

It’s been shocking to watch news of the Brexit vote in Britain, Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and the ongoing threats and violence against ethnic minorities in many parts of the world. I’m not a political or social scientist, but my training as a biologist gives me some insight.

When I began my career as a scientist, geneticists were starting to analyze the molecular properties of single genes within a species. When we started looking at highly evolved species such as fruit flies, we thought we would find that their genes had been honed through selection over time, so they would be relatively homogeneous within single species. Examining one kind of protein controlled by a specific gene, we expected to find them all pretty much the same. Instead, we learned there was a great deal of heterogeneity, or diversity. A gene specifying a protein could exist in a number of different states.

This is now called “genetic polymorphism” and is considered to be the very measure of a species’ health. Inbreeding or reduction of a species to a small number reduces genetic polymorphism and exposes harmful genes, thereby rendering the species more susceptible to sudden change. In other words, genetic polymorphism confers resilience by providing greater possibilities as conditions shift.

Inuit Fight to Protect Territory from Oil Industry's Seismic Blasting

Seismic blasting in the Arctic

The Arctic’s Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 per cent of the world’s narwhals. The area’s marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut’s Inuit communities.

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada’s National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition.

Half Measures Aren't Enough to Save Canada's Caribou

Alberta is home to two of Canada’s imperilled caribou populations, the southern mountain and boreal woodland herds. Both are threatened with extinction.

Under the federal Species at Risk Act, the boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy requires provinces to develop range plans by 2017, outlining paths to recovery. Because caribou need large, intact areas, degraded habitat must be restored so industrial and natural disturbances affect no more than 35 per cent of each range.

The challenge to recover caribou is not Alberta’s alone; it is a national undertaking. Boreal caribou are threatened in every province except Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Federal assessments show high levels of oil, gas and forestry activity mean no boreal herd in Alberta is likely to survive without significant changes in habitat management. In 2011, the range of the Little Smoky herd was assessed as being 95 per cent disturbed by industrial activity, and oil, gas and forestry have since caused further damage.

Fracking, Industrial Activity Threatens Blueberry River Nation's Way of Life

Industrial activity has profoundly affected the Blueberry River First Nations in northern B.C. A recent Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance, by the First Nations, the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecotrust, found 73 per cent of the area inside its traditional territory is within 250 metres of an industrial disturbance and 85 per cent is within 500 metres.

In other words, in much of the territory, which once supported healthy moose and caribou populations, it’s difficult if not impossible to walk half a kilometre before hitting a road, seismic line or other industrial infrastructure. Local caribou populations are threatened with extinction mainly because of habitat disturbance caused by industrial activity and ensuing changes to predator-prey dynamics.

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