Photo credit: courtesy
of the David Suzuki Foundation
You've been campaigning for
the environment for years and years and then Al Gore
comes along, makes one little documentary about climate
change and wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Just between
us, were you jealous? I was ecstatic. I bet money
Really? Just a few bucks
with a friend.
Many blame the push for supposedly
enviro-friendly biofuel made from corn for the current
international food crisis. What's your take? It's
interesting to me that Fidel Castro, who has been vilified
in the West, immediately castigated the use of biofuels
to relieve the energy crisis as folly for using potential
food for humans to feed our cars. The Bush Administration's
advocacy of biofuels instead of focusing on efficiency
and renewable energy indicates the emptiness of his
promises to deal with both America's energy crisis and
You're best known as an eco-warrior,
but you've got pretty impressive healthcare credentials,
including penning a 152-page policy document on preventing
environmental illnesses called "Prescription for a Healthy
Canada" last year. Where do your healthcare and environmentalism
concerns intersect? It's all interrelated. I'm looking
at how we live in the biosphere, so health is intimately
connected to issues I have been working on for 40 years
whether that's getting adequate food out of the
soil or water or clean air.
I understand you wanted to be
a doctor when you were younger. Do you ever think about
going back and getting your MD? At my age, shoving
my finger up men's asses to check their prostates is
not an appealing thought. But in many ways I feel the
issues I've been involved in are health issues
you can't have a healthy population if you don't have
a healthy planet.
What's the biggest environmental
health story of the next decade? There's no question
that the medical community is waiting for a pandemic
to come. We're all waiting for one. All eyes are on
China and Asia. There's just too much yummy human protoplasm
around for us not to be a target.
Are medical stories popular
with The Nature of Things viewers? You can't
lose with medical stories. You can do something on a
swollen big toe and people love it.
What's one of the most controversial
health topics you've tackled? Years before the HRT
scandal broke, Heather Cook did a show that made it
clear it was a sham by the pharma industry to earn money
and it turned out it was completely vindicated. My wife
was furious when I said "Don't go on HRT." She didn't
like me telling her. She hasn't even grudgingly acknowledged
I was right.
Should doctors buy carbon credits
to offset their travel when they go to medical conferences,
or is that just a way for rich people to assuage their
guilt? Doctors are no different from other people.
Anybody who can afford it should be offsetting. The
immediate thing is to reduce our carbon footprint, to
cut down on flying and driving. We should stop demanding
people are in the same room at conferences we
should do video conferencing.
You lived in the US for a time.
Which is better: Canadian or American healthcare?
If you have seen SiCKO, it was interesting that
when Michael Moore interviewed Cubans, French, British
and Canadians, and asked how much they had to pay, they
were shocked he would even ask the question. To think
some Canadians want to go towards the American system
is baffling to me.
You've ruffled a few feathers
by saying that Canada should worry a bit less about
its own healthcare problems and put a portion of our
money towards helping third-world countries' healthcare
systems. First of all, I think it's a question of
morality. To have a country like Canada where we are
wealthy beyond imagination and we are not willing to
help people who are so poor they live on less than $2
a day is an absolute obscenity. If four-fifths of the
world is impoverished and they see us every day having
banquets, living in big houses with big cars, do we
not think they will be pissed off at us? The failure
to recognize poverty in the developing world has repercussions
Is this really feasible, given
the fact that five million Canadians don't have a family
doctor and wait times are longer than ever? The
Cubans set an example that ought to fill us with shame.
I find it humiliating that we control the number of
doctors that come out of our schools. And because our
doctors are too important to staff hospitals and work
in rural areas, we rip off Pakistan and South Africa.
That is humiliating what kind of country would
do that? And there is Cuba, training 1,500 doctors for
free every year to service poor communities and poor
countries. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.
What do you think of all these
celebrities who are suddenly getting into climate change
advocacy, like Leonardo DiCaprio and others? Even
Paris Hilton is getting in on climate change. I think
it's a detriment. I wish she'd butt out. She's just
a celebrity based on being a celebrity. There's nothing
there in terms of neurons in her brain. She doesn't
help. But DiCaprio and Robert Redford some people
have a track record of caring.
You and your family were sent
to an internment camp in BC during the Second World
War. Now, with the Maher Arar case and Quebec's "reasonable
accommodation" hearings on immigration, how far have
we really come in terms of multicultural tolerance?
I believe that racism is always there. I always say,
show me the most downtrodden person on Hastings and
Main they are my brothers. Bigotry may show up
against Catholics or Jews or blacks it is there.
We all have prejudices. I happen to prefer women with
dark hair, not blonde. I prefer voluptuous women to
You came in a very respectable
fifth in the CBC's list of Greatest Canadians a few
years back. How do you feel about being greater than
the Great One? I always said I would be honoured
to be one of the top thousand. I had no idea I was even
in the running to be in the top 10. What it showed me
was the impact of television. And when you say "great,"
the fact that Don Cherry was in the top 10 you
have to take it with grain of salt. I was thrilled Tommy
Douglas was the top. In the US do you think a socialist
could be first?
You were in fact the greatest
living Canadian on the list. Does that make you
proud? If you take another poll five years from
now, it could be Avril Lavigne. Who knows what it means?
by Sam Solomon
5 things you didn't
know about... David Suzuki
Why he won't be cheering
the Vancouver Olympics I was not supportive
of having it here. I think we should try to make
it the greenest possible Olympics we can have.
I think it was a mistake to widen the roads
we should have expanded the train system.
His favourite environmental
protest song(s) "Beds Are Burning," by Midnight
Oil friends of mine. And that Bruce Cockburn
song, "If a Tree Falls." I played it to an Amazonian
Indian, and he just loved it there are
lots of images from the rainforest. Bruce's manager
Bernie asked me to come to his office before the
song was released. I cried, it was so powerful.
His international fanbase
We were filming near Markham, in a great farming
area, and there were these men working on a giant
machine to harvest either carrots or celery and
suddenly all these guys come running over. They're
all from Trinidad. It turns out The Nature of
Things is huge in Trinidad.
The ideal breakfast Go
out, catch a trout, clean it and leave it overnight,
and then eat it for breakfast with butter.
His disdain for his own MySpace
webpage I don't really go for it. People can
put all kinds of things up there they could
be perverts. You could think you are going to
pick up some babe, but how do you know it's not