Last Updated 13 Jan 2021

Greatest Canadian: David Suzuki

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Greatest Canadian: David Suzuki
“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.” –David Suzuki on our future

Dr. David Suzuki; you’ve probably heard of him. After all, he has done a heck of a lot. He’s one of our country’s greatest contributions to society. Born on March 24th 1936 in Vancouver, Quebec, Dr. Suzuki is well known for being an award winning scientist, environmentalist, author, broadcaster, TV personality, and environmental activist, as well as a husband and father of two children (Severn and Sarika Cullis-Suzuki) who are both concerned with helping the environment as well. I believe that Dr. Suzuki is not only great intellectually, but as a person as well, which is why I think he if one of, if not the, Greatest Canadian.

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Dr. Suzuki is extremely well known for his environmental activism, and his forceful speaking on global climate change. He has spoken out about his views, wanting to chance the world for the better. In February of 2008, Dr. Suzuki urged students at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, to speak out against politicians who had failed to act upon climate change. When he challenged the students to do this, he said; “What I would challenge you to do is 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.” He’s even had several commercials made to advertise little things that you can do to cut back on your carbon footprint and save energy (the “basement beer fridge” commercial, for example). In 1990, Dr. Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation with his wife, Dr. Tara Cullis. Both of his daughters are board members of the foundation. The David Suzuki Foundation’s priorities include climate change, sustainability, clean energy, oceans and sustainable fishing. They founded the foundation to “find ways for our society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us.”

Dr. Suzuki has also expressed his views and what he knows about the environment through TV and radio broadcasting. In these programs, he expresses the intricate ways of natural science in a way that is both easily understood and interesting to his viewers.

In 1960, he began his broadcasting career when he became the host of the award winning CBC TV show The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, and it still runs today (Thursdays at 8 PM on CBC). Dr. Suzuki’s aim with this program was, and continues to be, to provoke interest in the natural world. He wants to give the public alternatives to achieve a better, more sustainable society.

He has hosted several other TV shows and radio programs. Shortly after The Nature of Things, Dr. Suzuki wrote and hosted a children’s TV show called Suzuki on Science that ran from 1971 to 1972. Two years later, he hosted Science Magazine, which ran from 1974 to 1979 and was geared towards older adults. He is also well known for his CBC radio programs, such as Quirks and Quarks, which began in 1974 and ran for four years, It’s a Matter of Survival, and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. Dr. Suzuki wants to make the world a better place, and he raises awareness of how this can be done through these programs.

Dr. Suzuki has also won his fair share of awards for his works, including four Gemini awards as “best host of different Canadian television series”. He was awarded the John Drainie Award for broadcasting excellence on June 10th, 2002, and in 2009 he won the Right Livelihood Award, which is considered the “Alternative Nobel Prize”. He has received a grand total of sixteen significant academic awards and more than one hundred other awards, as of 2012.

As far as honourary degrees go, Dr. Suzuki has plenty; twenty eight, to be exact, from over two dozen universities across Canada, the United States, and Australia. In 1956, he graduated from Amherts College in Massachusetts, with an Honours BA in Biology. Three years later, in 1961, he received his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Suzuki is a geneticist, which is someone who studies genetics. He was an Assistant Professor of Genetics at the University of Alberta from 1962 to 1963, and was a professor in the genetics department at the University of British Columbia from 1963 to 2001, when he retired.

Having been born in 1936, Dr. Suzuki lived his childhood years throughout World War 2. When Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese Navy in 1941, all Japanese were forced to live in internment camps. Dr. Suzuki, at the age of 5, moved with his mother and two sisters to Slocan City, a ghost town in Ontario. At his young age, he didn’t understand why they were moving. “The whole thing was a hoot. I was five at the time, I didn’t understand what was going on… It was just a big adventure, we were going on a long train ride and people were waving us off.” ( interview) Dr. Suzuki’s work to make the world a better place is spectacular, and he seems like he would be a magnificent person to meet. He continues to work for a better, eco-friendly society, and is certainly deserving of the title of the Greatest Canadian.

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