Feature

Ecowarrior: David Suzuki

Suzuki at Beatrice Lake in Ontario, Canada.

Suzuki at Beatrice Lake in Ontario, Canada.

Suzuki by totems

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So, what do you think of Australia's future now? We've come a long way, I guess, from the 1960s - do you see us heading in a positive direction?

"I think that the environmental movement is very alive and well, but the reality is that we're all going in the wrong direction - Australia as much as Canada. And the challenge we face is that we still think the most important thing in society, and in our lives, is the economy. If you look at the discussions that your Prime Ministers or your Premiers will indulge in when we talk about climate change, it's always within the context of 'we've got to protect the economy, of course we've got to do something about reducing greenhouse emissions, but it's all about the economy, the economy, the economy'. When the first reports came out of the Queensland floods, what are the first lines in news reports? 'Well, this is hitting the coal industry very heavily and we've had to stop exporting coal.' We ought to be getting off coal anyway! But the 'economy' dominates us to the point where the atmosphere, that air we breathe, comes second to the economy. And that's the big shift that we need. If we don't understand that without a clean atmosphere we don't even live, let alone have an economy. Cleaning up the atmosphere has got to be a higher priority."

Would you be able to pass on any tips that you have for a happy and fulfilling life?

"Absolutely, and it comes from my experience with my father who was my great teacher and mentor. When he was dying at the age of 85, I moved in to take care of him in the last month of his life. Fortunately it wasn't a painful type of cancer that he had. He knew he was dying, and he was completely unafraid that he would die. And I can tell you that was the happiest time of my life with my father. And my wife would come every night with the children and bring slides of trips that we'd taken together and we just talked and laughed and in that whole time as he was dying he never once said 'gee, do you remember that closet full of fancy clothes? Do you remember that big car I once owned? Or that house we lived in in London Ontario?'. He never talked about stuff. He kept saying over and over 'David, I die a rich man'. But he didn't have money. All we talked about were family, friends and neighbours and the things that we did together. And that was my father's wealth."

"Somehow, we've got off on this weird idea that being happy is about having stuff! We go shopping for fun; this is really bizarre! And I urge people, to spend time with the people that matter to you. Spend time with your kids, and I say that out of personal experience in my life when I was a scientist with my first family; I was so keen on my science that I was at the lab seven days a week. The things that really matter has to do with the people that matter to you and the things you do together. It's not about money, it's not about stuff, it's about people."

So what lies ahead for David Suzuki now?

"Death. At my age - next month is my 75th birthday - so I say I'm 'in the death zone'. And there's nothing morbid about that, it's the reality, it says that I'm in the last period in my life. If I live for another ten years I'll be delighted. If I live for five years, well, that's the way it goes. Right now I'm in good health and every year is a gift. I have three teenage grandchildren from my first family, and I'm just delighted I've been able to see them grow up into young adults now. And now, my one and a half year old grandson is everything to me. And what my life is, is all about spending as much time with him as I can."

Find out more about David Suzuki's new film Force of Nature here.

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