Saturday, May 19, 2007

Eco-Hero or Eco Ego? Vol. 2 - David Suzuki

Our recent "Jeffrey Monaghan: Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?" article has inspired a new feature here at the Nexus, one aimed at facilitating some clarity in the ongoing climate change debate.

This new ongoing feature will be called the "Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?" series, and will feature profiles on environmental activists.

Certainly, there are some eco-heroes out there -- good people, fighting for positive change that protects our natural environment. God bless them. After all, the human race won't survive very long without a healthy planet to sustain it. Eco-heroes deserve our respect. It should also be noted that like any true hero, eco-heroes usually aren't terribly likely to describe themselves as such.

Ego-egos, on other hand, very much do think of themselves as heroes. Yet their motivations are typically very, very different. These people aren't really motivated by visions of environmental security. They have various different interests -- political, social, and personal. These people are among the rogue's gallery of the environmental battle.

In order to best explore the true intentions of environmental activist, particularly in regards to climate change, it's very important that I myself explain my views on climate change.

Climate change activists insist that climate change is caused by human activity. They're partially correct.

It's well known that the combustion of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases, which produce the greenhouse effect. Given the level of human fossil fuel consumption, there is no question that human activity has an impact on climate change. There is a question regarding how much of an impact human activity has.

The other portion of the science on climate change -- the portion that insists that climate change is due to natural variations -- clearly makes a solid point as well. The variation of the climate throughout history has been solidly demonstrated. According to scientists who support this position, there are various natural processes that cause an increase in climate temperature.

As such, it's entirely plausible that there's nothing we can do to stop climate change. We can certianly slow the process by reducing the amount of impact human activity has on this phenomenon, but to believe we can stop the planet's demonstrated natural cycles is nothing more than a delusion.

Each side of the debate -- and yes, there is a debate, like it or not -- has its merits. Strict dogmatic adherence to either side will not do the debate any good. This is why it's so important to expose the eco-egos for what they are. It's important that the amount of influence these would-be demagogues can exert is lessened so that a real scientific discourse -- free from political manipulation -- can unfold.

The environmentalist villains of the drama -- the eco-egos -- don't want this debate to ever happen. They claim that it's "over". It isn't. Meanwhile, the heroes amongst the environentalists -- the eco-heroes -- are helping to facilitate this debate in their own way (although they clearly have their own beliefs to support).

Hopefully, this new feature here at The Nexus can help people separate the two.

David Suzuki: Icon of Canadian scientific community, or junk science demagogue?

David Suzuki is, without a doubt Canada's best-known scientific mind. CBC viewers named Suzuki the ninth greatest Canadian in history. He has hosted CBC's The Nature of Things for more than 30 years. He is also widely recognized on the international stage.

Suzuki is Canada's foremost climate change activist. He has managed to turn his celebrity and the admiration that he has earned by revealling the wonders of science to generations of young Canadians into a strong base of political capital from which he can address the issue.

As the founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, Suzuki has encouraged activism on numerous environmental issues, while keeping himself out of the political arena.

Unfortunately, Suzuki has indulged himself in some rather partisan loud-mouthery. In a clip used to promote CBC's The Hour, Suzuki tells host George Stroumbouloupolis "he [Australian Minister John Howard] is so far up mr Bush's backside that he can't back out."

Interestingly, the CBC's ad spots don't make any note that the comment is about Howard, not Harper.

Here in Canada, Suzuki has often complained that Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn't met with him in person -- further demonstrating the sense among many celebrities that they should be entitled to meet with heads of state at their leisure. In a more public event, Suzuki approached Environement Minister John Baird at a Green Living Show in April, following the release of the Conservative party Green Plan and told him, "it's a disappointment, John. Please come see us."

Despite a number of outbursts, Suzuki has favoured cooperation over confrontation.

Suzuki differs from many activists by turning down the terror alert level and providing people with an astonishing variety of things they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

Yet, there is one element of his approach that Suzuki needs to ammend, and that is his insistence that the debate is settled. In February, Suzuki walked out of a radio interview after the host suggested that the debate wasn't settled. Suzuki would have done better for himself by admitting that the debate is not settled, or at least defend his belief that it is. On this occasion, he refused to do either, electing instead to retreat.

There is one other weakness to Suzuki's activism -- Suzuki is not a climatologist, nor does he study a related field. He's a geneticist by trade. If criticisms of credentials apply to scientists who dissent from the climate change dogma, then certainly they must apply to Suzuki as well.

However, as a spokesperson, Suzuki is superb. And even if his personal grasp of the issue can be questioned based on his credentials, the fact remains that Suzuki is only so outspoken because he genuinely cares.

While hardly a paragon of virtue on the subject, Suzuki certainly qualifies as an eco-hero.


  1. Great idea, I love the new feature it's very informative. Keep up the good work!

  2. to begin with while Suzuki isn't a climatologist, he does have climatologist working at the David Suzuki Foundation, and you can be certain that he meets with more climatologists than Tim Ball does (or for that matter Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels or any of the others on the skepotic side of the climate "debate")

    then since you werent at the green living show, and i was (right in the middle of the scrum/face off between Baird and Suzuki) let me tell you that it didn't go down quite like you say, it wasn't quite a confrontation, and by the way Baird when put in place of Rona went to consult with Suzuki immediately, so i gather he does carry some weight and doen't have to yel "me me me!!!!" to get it.

    but really, i do hope that you get into this "debate" because i want you to give equal time to Singer, Michaels, Ball, and of course, hurricane cowboys like Bill Grey... i hope you shoe the money trail.. i hope you who the charachters of the skeptics and their past battles (like Singer when he was smokes-person in the fight for second hand smoke-- which harms no one as Singer has said so many times)

    i do believe that climate change is partially exacerbated by manmade changes to the atmosphere, as well as by natural processes.... but i also know that increases in CO2 (from forest fires 120,000 years ago) was always a factor in changing the climate... i agree with you that iti ios almost folly to even try to "stop climate change"

    but unlike people who have been collecting, what, $16Million (from Exxon, god knows how much else from other groups... like Koch Industries...) i know that the "Debate" they are having is onlu obfiscation. Telling people that there is no greenhouse effect (sure, its only been a scientific fact for 100+ years) of that we dont have to worrt because a "Warmer and richer" climate is going to be good for us, or that because its not fully man made there is nothing to do about it-- that is all specious, nay, suicidal.

    to really open the debate it has to be about adaptation vs. mitigation.. and all the cards up sleeves (like Michaels sattelites which turned out to be bogus) wont help in that debate. And that is the real one...

    so throw all the stones you like, and call everyone egomaniacle... riiiight that will really get the ball rolling...

  3. Interesting. I didn't call David Suzuki egomaniacal. In fact, I noted that Suzuki is only so vocal because he genuinely cares. That's a good thing.

    And I certainly don't doubt that Mr Suzuki has a climatologist in his employ. However, this is very different from having that expertise to speak from independently of that advice.

    That being said, as a (very) respected scientist Mr Suzuki certainly does have the advantage of being able to examine the work this individual is conducting, and judge for himself whether or not it falls suitably within a strictly scientific, apolitical framework.

    But in the possible absense of a will to examine that work in the absence of any preconcieved notions (although I certainly DON'T know this to be the case), Mr Suzuki is no less an expert on climate change than I am. As such, his opinions on climate change are as subject to scrutiny as my own (and I do invite scrutiny).

    But let's talk about hurricanes. Why is it that many Climate Change alarmists blame Hurricane Katrina on climate change, and insist more are on the way despite the fact that science disputes this, and can demonstrate otherwise? Some climatologists have even had their work politically manipulated to support this claim -- despite their objections.

    Furthermore, let's talk about money: do you think George Monbiot (also not a climatologist) is making any money off his book? How about Al Gore (also not a climatologist, or even a scientist)? How much money is he making off his movie, and the companion book? How much money is Monbiot making off his book?

  4. Thanks for the interesting analysis of David Suzuki. I'm not sure that I would say that Dr. Suzuki cares so much about the environment, his actions don't match his words. Bussing around the country spewing the same GHGs that he wants me to stop emitting is not really sincere. My observations of Suzuki over the years brings me to the conclusion that he is more interested in controlling what others do than he is about the environment.

    That's just my opinion.


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