Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
When David Suzuki, Canada’s most prominent environmental activist, looks out on the world he sees nothing but crises. We have a name for people who regard everything as a crisis – we call them drama queens.
While the rest of us approach challenges with determination, optimism, and faith in ourselves as problem solvers, drama queens see only worst-case scenarios. They exaggerate. They emotionalize.
If Suzuki had restricted himself to teaching kids about nature that would be one thing. But instead he has spent decades peddling political opinions about how society should be structured. He has advanced philosophical opinions about how everyone should live.
Year after year, in book after book and newspaper column after column, Suzuki has repeated the same message: Either we follow his personal road map to salvation or all will be lost.
Back in 1990 – 21 years ago – Suzuki’s It’s a Matter of Survival appeared on bookstore shelves. In dramatic fashion it declared:
More than any other time in history, the 1990s will be a turning point for human civilization. (p. 1)
That’s quite a statement. I mean, the turning-point-for-human-civilization competition includes events such as the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Magna Carta. It’s likely that some of Suzuki’s readers were veterans of World War II. Did he really mean to imply to those people that the sacrifices their generation made to save the world from Hitler didn’t measure up to the really critical stuff he was certain was about to transpire during the 1990s?
Two days ago a column by Suzuki was published by a Canadian news service (backup link here). It begins:
Humanity is facing a challenge unlike any we’ve ever had to confront. We are in an unprecedented period of change.
Been there, heard that before.
When Suzuki declared 20 years ago that it was “crystal clear that the planet is losing a battle with the deadliest predator in the history of life on Earth,” he wasn’t talking about vicious grizzly bears or rapacious dinosaurs. He was talking about your grandma, your church minister, and your darling baby son.
Nor has he altered his tune since then. According to his column published two days ago:
…as comic strip character Pogo said in the ’70s (appropriately, on a poster created for Earth Day): “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Apparently, we humans are despicable creatures who should constantly be apologizing for our very existence. In Suzuki’s 1990 opinion:
…there are too many of us; we consume too much; we pollute too much; and we are blinded by our complacent acceptance of a dangerously outmoded system of beliefs and values.
Research groups such as the Worldwatch Institute…tell us that we have fewer than 10 years to turn things around or “civilization as we know it will cease to exist.” (p. 3)
Speaking of being crystal clear, let’s try this one: a geneticist such as Suzuki has no more right to dictate how society should respond to environmental challenges than does the CEO of Walmart. It is the business of the wider community to debate these matters, to decide what priority should be given to environmental issues versus health care, education, and dozens of other concerns.
In democracies, multiple points-of-view must be taken into account. Give-and-take amongst competing interests is required. Yet somehow the host of a television program decided it was his job to chart our course.
Suzuki has spent decades typecasting humanity as shortsighted, dangerous, and suicidal. He says we’re stubborn, blind, incapable of grasping the significance of our actions, and in denial. According to him, if we don’t set aside our own piecemeal understanding and embrace his overarching worldview we’ll all be very, very sorry.
Well, I have a message for Dr. Suzuki: I don’t like being insulted. Nor do I like being threatened. That’s the sort of behaviour one finds in abusive relationships – the kind women are rightly advised to flee.
Suzuki may well be sincere in his belief that “we are the last generation on Earth that can save the planet.”
Drama queens enjoy the limelight. They like to feel important. David Suzuki is a drama queen.
see Hilary Ostrov’s recent post re: documents that have disappeared from the Suzuki Foundation website