"Through their own words they will be exposed
The impressive political clout of David Suzuki is a social fact worthy of some investigation. As Dr. Suzuki puts it in his autobiography:
"I have been broadcasting for two decades, my audience has become a very real constituency. When I make a statement in public, implicit in it is an audience that 'backs me.'"
Keep in mind that quote was from 1987. He has many more followers now. It was also three years before he seriously capitalized on his celebrity status and launched the David Suzuki Foundation, an organization with a paid staff of 30 and additional experts on call.
Suzuki & Co. has moved quickly to capture a leadership position in several industrial policy disputes in BC. It has been singularly influential in suppressing aquaculture development in the province, where a moratorium on new fish farms has been in effect for five years, during which the global fish farming industry has dramatically expanded.
So who died and named this guy Doctor Science?
Well, the CBC is a big outfit. It owns 20 television stations, over 70 radio stations; it can be received in 99 per cent of the country; and for many of its publicly funded programs, national audience share is frequently over 10 per cent. It has 7,000 employees including camerapersons, janitors, secretaries, et cetera. It also has a few dozen celebrity-making jobs such as "hosting" a nationwide daily three-hour morning radio show, "anchoring" the nightly news broadcast, or playing lead role for a television mini-series, et cetera. Such geniuses as Peter Gzowsky and Peter Mansbridge have managed to become famous after holding jobs like these for a few years.
The CBC also has a celebrity posting for a "Science Guy" which, when reflected back off the murky dark glass world of the Toronto brass, becomes transformed into "Environmental Guy." After a false start in the late '60s, David Suzuki had, by the mid '70s, been handed the job.
Suzuki's scientific career appears that of a typical whiz-kid burnout case (or, as they say at Harvard, "he pulled a 'Kaczyinski.'") In 1961, at the age of 25, he got his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago after seven years of university study. He worked on fruit flies. After a series of assistant professorships, he became a full prof at the University of British Columbia in 1969.
For a man who claims to love scientific research, it seems strange he embraces it so little. Throughout the '60s Suzuki was preoccupied with instructing courses and milking the talking-head circuit as a liberal, anti-racist spokesman for the science of genetics. Moreover, by the mid-'60s, Suzuki had burned out as a researcher, partially, he now claims, because he was morally wracked by the arguments of the articulate anti-technologists he was encountering, to the effect that his genetic research work might some day contribute to a great evil. Or, as he says:
"I felt frightened by the awesome responsibility that doing research now seemed to present. I was paralyzed by a reluctance to contribute anymore to a body of knowledge whose potential for misuse had become so clear in my mind . For about a year, I simply stopped doing research. Work in the lab continued, but I was sleepwalking my way through it ."
Even some of the "science work" he did in the '60s was at least partially propagandistic in nature. His grant from the National Cancer Institute (for more work on fruit flies) involved programs where the grant recipients were to give interviews to mainstream science reporters.
But apart from these gigs and limited lecture-circuit work, David had no real avenue to the big time. His fooling around on community television while at the University of Alberta was a nonstarter. His first nibble of celebrity status came in the form of a job as the interviewer for a three-year low-budget CBC TV science talk show called Suzuki on Science. He claims he was brought into the limelight by a certain senior CBC executive stationed in Vancouver, but Suzuki never mentions the executive's name, possibly out of confidentiality, but quite possibly out of ignorance.
Let's step back a bit and examine how well the good doctor understands his own environs:
"The CBC has the same problem that most large North American organizations have. It is built like a pyramid in which people higher up believe they are more important than the people below. As people rise through the ranks they inevitably acquire greater influence and power. And that is too often accompanied by their inflated sense of importance. Nothing indicates this better than the posh offices located in buildings or even cities far away from where the actual production takes place."
"You don't know who is sending out the edicts; you only know the people who deliver them."
When one cross-references the list of names Suzuki thinks were instrumental in advancing his career - Knowlton Nash, Keith Christie, James Murray, Diana Filer - with the list of the CBC's board of directors and senior executives, there is no overlap, at least not during the climacterics of his career (1969, 1974, 1978, 1985, 1990). This means the persons he was dealing with were just taking orders from higher-ups, in those far away posh offices, whom he never really got to know. Suzuki appears largely unaware of who selected him to be "Science Guy" or why.
Bemoaning its low budget, Suzuki left Suzuki on Science two years
into its three-year planned run. Then, according to his autobiography,
he threw himself back into full-time work as a scientist for the next
several years. In reality, he was only away from show biz for a three-year
period, the latter half of which (1973-4) he served, intriguingly enough,
as the National Research Council exchange scientist with the USSR and
as the NATO research fellow in West Germany. (This hardly left him much
time to get back to his first love, breeding a better fruit fly.)
It was after these intriguing sojourns overseas that really great things began happening in David's career. In 1974 Suzuki was asked to do a short report on fruit flies for CBC TV:
"I took some flies with me to Toronto . Jim [Murray] was there to oversee it and fired questions at me. I was to answer looking straight into the camera. I did not know Jim had decided to have a host [for Science Magazine] . Although it wasn't intended as such, my interview turned out to be a fortuitous screen test. Jim looked at the footage and decided I would do as the host ."
A few months later he was asked by the UBC Alumni to give a speech in Toronto. In the audience was the soon-to-be producer of Quirks and Quarks [a major CBC Radio science show] who later offered Suzuki the job as host even though he had no radio experience:
"Apparently my talk to the UBC Alumni had been like a test for the job and I had passed."
Suzuki's profile was enhanced by his four-year run (1974-8) as host of Quirks and Quarks but it was his television gigs at Science Magazine and The Nature of Things that made him famous. In 1978 the two TV shows were merged into Nature of Things with David Suzuki. The show continues to have a loyal audience of hundreds of thousands of viewers every week.
Suzuki was a latecomer to The Nature of Things. The show was produced by James Murray, and had been since its third season in 1961. According to Suzuki, Jim Murray was the "heart and brains" of the operation.
And what of the Jim Murray/David Suzuki boss/worker dyad? Suzuki relays a telling incident wherein Suzuki had expressed impatience with one of the show's regular set workers:
"Jim immediately pulled me off the set and took me to a far corner. 'Look Suzuki,' he hissed, 'everyone here is doing the best they can to make you look good. And believe me, with you, that's not easy.' I crept back to the set like the chastised child I deserved to be."
Other telling comments from Suzuki:
"In 1974 I met Jim Murray and my directions and priorities changed for good."
"I came to love him as the best friend I've ever had."
It is not surprising that a desperate sycophant like the hippie Suzuki would also fully embrace the political ideology of his boss figure. But there is more to this. Here, we will quote Suzuki at length:
"To a large extent the strong ecological perspective of The Nature of Things has been the legacy of John Livingston . [He] was once the executive producer of The Nature of Things and continued to serve as a writer, narrator, and philosophical guru for the unit. His ideas on humans and the environment are radical, running counter to the thrust of Western society. He sees humans as a species out of balance with the rest of nature, puffed up with an unrealistic sense of importance and incorrectly convinced we have the right to exploit nature any way we choose. I came into the unit with a human-centred perspective, reveling in our intellect and culture as special and unique. Livingston's ideas were a shock to me. I encountered them mainly through Jim Murray and reluctantly, over time, I came to understand the profundity of the 'deep ecology' and green movements."
Who prithee then are Messrs. Murray and Livingston? James Murray, the disciple, was born in upper-class Toronto (1932) and raised in the United States, only to return to Toronto to begin his career as a broadcaster/producer in 1957. He switched from radio to television in 1960 an has produced hundreds of science, wilderness, and environmental shows for the CBC and others. His service to the green crusade has won him the Wilderness Medal (1967), the Wilderness Award (1972), the Federation of Ontario Naturalists Distinguished Services Award (1979), the Conservation Award (1986), the North American Association of Environmental Educators Distinguished Service Medal (1988), the UK Wildscreen Festival Outstanding Achievement Award (1988), and the NAAEE Best of the Festival Award (1990). His hobbies are bird watching and photography.
John Livingston, the "guru," his book jacket informs us:
He is the author of several books. His ideology, judging from his most
recent book, Rogue Primate, would best be described as old-time
misanthropic, human-as-vermin nature worship. He decries the lack of courage
his fellow naturalists display by not speaking out about overpopulation,
and he speaks in favour of the view that high Third World infant mortality
rates are a beneficial safety valve offsetting the rampant breeding of
the poor. As with all neo-Malthusians, he views breakthroughs in agricultural
technology with horror.
Let's get the time line straight here. CBC's Toronto Science Unit, where the company's science programming was manufactured, was a nest of neo-Malthusians long before the mysterious sky-magnet plucked Suzuki from the academic scrap heap. The decision to subtly disseminate this type of propaganda had years before been okayed by the CBC's inner sanctum. Suzuki, of course, conformed to his paymaster's ideology during his initial dive for the shoe leather. And the more he lent himself to promoting this political philosophy, the better went his career.
The 1980s were, for Doctor Science, a blur of tuxedos, flash bulbs, and acceptance speeches as he was embraced by the Canadian establishment as a truly loyal bingo-caller. He received awards from Bell Canada and the Royal Bank - two pillars of corporate Canada. He was given regular "eco-guy" column space in the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail. In 1985, partially through the good graces of the powerful Bassett family of Toronto, he was selected to host the eco-alarmist Planet for the Taking television series, some episodes of which were viewed by over 1.8 million Canadians. (According to Suzuki, John Livingston deserves the credit for the "philosophical thrust" of the series. Suzuki's words were written by some ink-stained wretch named Bill Whitehead.) During these years Suzuki accepted several "honorary" degrees, mostly from Ontario universities. After arch-environmentalist Don Chant was ensconced as Provost of the University of Toronto, he offered Suzuki an excellent position at U of T. (Suzuki used this offer to fandangle an even better deal from UBC.) And to cap the decade off, in 1989 he was granted by the CBC, in addition to his weekly television show which ran throughout the decade and beyond, 10 one-hour radio addresses to be broadcast nationwide on successive Sunday mornings during prime-time spots for further hysterical doom mongering in a series called It's a Matter of Survival.
By this time Doctor Science had discovered what many bingo-callers before him have learned - that you could cash in your broadcast celebrity stature at certain local book publishing houses! This state of affairs is indeed a travesty. For not only was it millions in public funds that made him a celebrity, but also it is largely public funds (i.e. school and public library purchases of his books, tapes, and videos) that is making him rich.
Anyway, by 1989 it was only logical that Suzuki would cut a deal with Toronto's Stoddart Publishing Co. to co-author a book entitled It's a Matter of Survival so as to better harvest the millions of dollars worth of free publicity the radio show of the same name was already getting. Reading this book, it becomes fully evident that the good doctor has contracted the neo-Malthusian bug.
Apparently drawing on his acumen garnered as a research scientist, Dr. Suzuki has come up with a keen analogy in which humans are likened to "fruit flies on a breeding binge." According to DS, "Homo sapiens is a species out of control." He states categorically that the "planet is already overpopulated, according to the most basic ecological criteria" and warns "if we do not deal collectively with the population problem it is now clear that nature will do it for us." Suzuki, like so many environmentalists, subscribes to the view that the population question is central to the rescue of the wilderness and the prevention of catastrophe.
And where is the problem? According to Suzuki (a father of five), it is in "the Third World, where 95 per cent of the population growth will take place." And that is because "the poor breed more." Why, every year "there is another Mexico to feed," cries Suzuki. "One Indian is born every 1.2 seconds," he gasps. And as for Third World development, China's industrialization will "threaten the entire planet."
But fear not:
Whereafter the good doctor prescribes a kinder, gentler medicine to the Third World, albeit to achieve the same results. But wait a minute! "The many people" who want some form of fascist assault on the poor of Asia and Africa? Who has the good doctor been having cocktails with lately?
And as for agricultural technology or, as he calls it, "high-intensity-to-hell-with-tomorrow agriculture," well, it is not the answer because "the fear is that agricultural technology may be buying us time at the cost of a bigger crisis when it comes."
So the political struggle over aquaculture is not about fish poop in the river after all. The main virtue of fish farming, limitless amounts of cheap and highly nutritious protein, is, in the mind of a neo-Malthusian, its main evil. They uniformly state that agricultural innovation will only fuel the population crisis. (They also uniformly hint at other overpopulation-caused socio-political crises that will precede the eventual overpopulation-caused planetary breakdown.)
Nor is aquaculture their only victim. An unprecedented and well-oiled worldwide crusade against genetically modified foods, hormones, herbicides, and other agricultural innovations is literally slowing the pace of human development. And mercenary quacks like Dave Suzuki are but clergy administering the troops.
William Kay is the host of a weekly one-hour radio show, The Brown
Bagger, which airs Fridays at noon on Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM.
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