80 Things You Didn’t Know About David Suzuki

He posed twice wearing nothing but a fig leaf.

David in Nature

1/ Suzuki’s idea of perfect happiness is “Camping in the mountains beside a stream filled with trout.”
2/ Suzuki says living through the Great Depression taught him to live within his means and save his money, which is why he doesn’t have any extravagances.
3/ Suzuki is a reluctant celebrity. In fact, his friends issue a word of warning to fans thinking of approaching Suzuki in public: stay away, or you’ll be in for a rude awakening.  
4/ Suzuki says most people would be surprised to find out he considers his laziness to be his biggest flaw.
5/ David Suzuki has posed twice wearing nothing but a strategically placed fig leaf. The iconic photo was taken to promote a penis doc and re-used to mark the 40th anniversary of The Nature of Things.

News story about David Suzuki's controversial photo.

6/ Suzuki says his heroes are biologist/author Rachel Carson and anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela.
7/ Suzuki has said that this phase of his life (which he affectionately calls The Death Zone) is the most important time of his life. He says, “As an elder, I’m no longer subject to worrying about getting a job, or getting fired… so I can speak the truth from my heart.”
8/ Suzuki never had a television set while growing up. When they started appearing in Canadian homes, he was "blown away by its power."
9/ Suzuki revealed in his biography that when he discovered Asians were undergoing surgery to enlarge their eyes, he wanted to do the same.  “Self-hate was the most terrible cost of the war years for me,” he wrote.
10/ Despite turning 80 this year, David Suzuki has no plans to slow down. He says he’ll keep going as long as he can. 
11/ Suzuki’s daughter Severn lives on a reserve in Skidegate with her husband. Suzuki says the Haida community in British Columbia is where much of his heart lies. 
12/ Suzuki’s earliest childhood memory is buying a tent to go camping with his dad at the age of four. That trip kickstarted his love of the outdoors, and Suzuki says a career in science and biology was a natural step. 
13/ When David married his wife Tara, they made a pact that she would do the cooking and he would do the dishes. Suzuki has a love affair with washing dishes and considers it a Zen experience.
14/ Suzuki and his wife Tara have been living for over 40 years in what they say is their dream house.

David with wife, Tara

David Suzuki with his wife, Tara.

15/ Suzuki sprinkled the ashes of his mother and his niece Janice on the clematis vine in his garden. He says when it blooms, he knows his mother and niece are there. 
16/ Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos founded the group Beyond Boarding to combine his passion for snowboarding and the environment.  
17/ Forget fame and fancy awards. David Suzuki says his most significant achievement in life is convincing his wife Tara to marry him. 
18/ The Suzuki household has reduced their garbage output to about one green bag a month. But it frustrates David Suzuki that every time he jumps on a plane, it negates everything else he does to live sustainably.
19/ Suzuki was inspired to work on his abs when his daughter Sarika commented that he had a “one-pack” rather than a “six-pack.”
20/ Suzuki’s childhood and his family was impacted by the racism and xenophobia they experienced. Suzuki says his father told him: “To succeed in white society you had to work 10 times harder as a Japanese man.”
21/ Suzuki’s mother Setsu Nakamura and her three siblings all died with Alzheimer’s, which inspired Suzuki to investigate the disease in a highly personal episode of The Nature of Things, "Untangling Alzheimer's".
22/ David Suzuki has a twin sister called Marcia who was born just moments after him.
23/ Originally from Vancouver, the Suzuki family was prohibited from returning to the city after the war, and resettled in Ontario instead, where David attended school.

David Suzuki learns a valuable lesson from his dad.

24/ During World War II, when Suzuki was five years old, the Canadian government shut down the Suzuki family’s dry-cleaning business and confiscated their property. The family was sent to an internment camp in Slocan, British Columbia. Meanwhile, his father worked in a labour camp, building the Trans Canada Highway.
25/ Suzuki says that being a grandfather is one of his greatest joys. It’s made him reflect on his experience with his grandparents which he says wasn’t deeper than simple exchanges because of language barriers (they only spoke Japanese, he only spoke English).
26/ Originally from Vancouver, the Suzuki family was prohibited from returning to the city after the war, and resettled in Ontario instead, where David attended school.
27/ David Suzuki has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a PhD in Zoology. |
28/ David Suzuki holds 25 honourary degrees in Canada, U.S. and Australia.
29/ Suzuki is an accomplished author, having written 52 books, among which 19 are children’s books.
30/ The Nature of Things is one of the most successful series in the history of Canadian television and is in its 58th season. 
31/ David Suzuki’s work has been recognized by the United Nations, who awarded his work on The Nature of Things eight-part series A Planet for the Taking.
32/ The textbook David Suzuki authored — An Introduction to Genetic Analysis is the most widely used genetics textbook in the U.S.  
33/ Suzuki spent years working as a researcher on fruit fly genetics and became world-renowned for this work.

David Suzuki talks about his fruit fly research in 1972.

34/ In the early days of his career (1969), David Suzuki was awarded the Steacie Memorial Fellowship for being the best young Canadian scientist.
35/ In 2008, Suzuki and his youngest daughter, Sarika, launched, The Suzuki Diaries, about sustainability issues around the world. They followed this with Suzuki Diaries: Coastal Canada and Suzuki Diaries: Future Cities.
36/ David Suzuki was awarded the Order of Canada and is a Companion to the Order of Canada as well (this is the highest level of this recognition).
37/ Suzuki won the Right Livelihood Award, referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” in 2009 to recognize his outstanding work for the planet and its people.
38/ For the last decade, Suzuki has scored at the top of the Reader’s Digest poll for the Most Trusted Canadian. In 2011, he snagged the #1 spot.
39/ Laurie Brown and the Donnelly Law firm put David Suzuki on mock trial at The Royal Ontario Museum for some of his more controversial environmental beliefs. As part of the exhibit, billboards went up around Toronto with Suzuki’s face and captions like “Radical or Rational?” At the end of the trial, Suzuki was found not guilty of charges of libel for promoting a carbon manifesto.
40/ David Suzuki has been honoured with six names by various indigenous groups in Canada. The names translate into English as Big Mountain, Man Who Knows Much, My Own, Sacred Mountain, Mountain Man and Eagle Child. He has also been formally adopted by two tribes, in recognition of his support of First Nations people.
41/ David Suzuki ranked fifth in CBC Television’s The Greatest Canadian competition, with 1.2 million people across the country casting their votes.
42/ In 1987, The Nature of Things produced one of the first primetime documentaries on the AIDS epidemic. It focused on scientific research and urged for ethical treatment of people with the disease. 
43/ Suzuki has schools named after him in Brampton and Windsor, Ontario. The Dr. Suzuki Public School in Windsor is fitted with solar panels and other energy-efficient technology. 
44/ The Nature of Things with David Suzuki is Canada’s longest-running documentary series. David Suzuki recently celebrated his 33rd anniversary as host of the show.|
45/ David Suzuki is the only network TV science host who was a practising scientist.
46/ He once went skydiving and recorded his stand-up for TV in the air after jumping out of the plane. 
47/ Suzuki is claustrophobic and says the scariest shoot he ever went on was when he was two miles underground in a gold mine in South Africa since the cramped, hot space terrified him. 

David Suzuki talks about some of his weirdest shoots.

48/ Suzuki’s foray into broadcasting was fueled by his desire to influence policy and educate the public. His academic colleagues, however, believed a career in media was a waste of his talents.
Faced controversy for several of its programs that challenged the status quo on issues such as nuclear power and the use of animal in experiments.
49/ The Nature of Things' special A Planet for the Taking was one of the most watched shows in CBC history.
50/ Suzuki’s broadcasting work extended beyond the borders of Canada, as he developed TV series with international broadcasters including BBC, PBS and the Discovery Channel.
51/ Although best known for his TV programs, Suzuki has considerable radio experience and was the host and creator of Discover with David Suzuki, a series for school children in Alberta. 

David as a host

52/ Hundreds of Suzuki’s columns have appeared in mainstream newspapers. In the '90s, he was a weekly columnist for the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.
53/ David Suzuki has recently published a book called, Letters to My Grandchildren to let them know who he is and what he's done.
54/ Suzuki is not only a broadcaster but a producer and writer.  He was the writer behind several one-hour specials for The Nature of Things including China Now: The Four Modernizations and China Now: The Roots to the Past
55/ The Nature of Things along with David Suzuki faced controversy for several of its programs that challenged the status quo on issues such as nuclear power and the use of animals in experiments. One particular show on clear-cut logging led CIBC to threaten to pull its ads from the broadcast and in turn, members of the public threatened to boycott CIBC.
56/ Suzuki appeared on several segments of Sesame Street alongside his daughters Severn and Sarika, who assisted him with science experiments.

David Suzuki talks on Man Alive about making science accessible in 1977.

57/ At the peak of its popularity, The Nature of Things was watched by 20 per cent of all Canadian viewers every week.
58/ Suzuki says his father, who had a high school education, was both his biggest fan and critic. When he didn’t understand Suzuki’s TV segments, he would push him to make the program more accessible.
59/ Suzuki doesn’t actually think TV is a suitable medium for science education. He says television is highly manufactured, showing a highlight reel of nature that isn’t reflective of reality and prefers the organic style of radio instead.
60/ David Suzuki created the radio show Quirks and Quarks in 1975 before he went on the host The Nature of Things.
61/ Suzuki’s wife Tara encouraged him to start the David Suzuki Foundation because she said he was focused on problems in the environment, rather than giving people solutions.  
62/ Suzuki says environmentalism has failed. Despite the successes of the movement, he says its been undermined by corporate interests and the ideology that environmental protection impedes economic growth.
63/ The David Suzuki Foundation is supported by a group of 100 elders that formed The Suzuki Elders, a voluntary association that use their voices and experiences to promote conversations and action around environmental issues.
64/ The David Suzuki Foundation’s website has tips for people to be more environmentally conscious including a YouTube channel (Queen of Green) that teaches people everything from how to make their own shampoo to building a bee hive. 
65/ The David Suzuki Foundation encourages people to become citizen scientists. They partnered with SciStarter to connect scientists with community leaders to carry out research.

David Suzuki riffs about growing older and the environment with CBC's Shaun Majumder.

66/ Suzuki says reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring changed his life. The book took scientists’ work in a controlled lab environment out into the real world, which had a profound impact on Suzuki’s work.
67/ Suzuki estimates that he’s over his carbon limit by hundreds of tonnes. While he buys carbon offsets, he’s decided to cut down on much of his travel because of its environmental footprint and when possible, delivers speaking addresses by videoconference.
68/ Suzuki is candid about what he considers to be the failure of environmentalism- that despite victories, the same issues keep coming up. “Are we going to go on fighting the same battles every generation? The problem is we haven’t shifted the way that we see the world,” Suzuki said.
69/ Suzuki says the planet is in worse shape today than when he began his environmental activism 50 years ago.
70/ Suzuki’s work has been backed by numerous celebrities including author Margaret Atwood and musicians Neil Young and Barenaked Ladies who threw their support behind his Blue Dot campaign. 
71/ David Suzuki co-founded the environmental nonprofit David Suzuki Foundation along with his wife, Tara Cullis.
72/ Suzuki launched the Blue Dot movement to bring attention to the fact that Canada does not officially recognize the right to live in a healthy environment. Over 110 countries recognize this right, which Suzuki is pushing to incorporate in Canadian legislation.  
73/ Suzuki is a civil rights activist with a long history of involvement in groups including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International.

‘You do not treat Mother Earth this way’: David Suzuki on clear-cut logging in 1992

74/ Suzuki was outspoken about the Harper government’s “oppressive” mandate towards scientists which limited their freedom when speaking to the press. Suzuki also said Harper “completely ignored” climate change.
75/ Suzuki withdrew his pension from the University of British Columbia for ethical reasons, when he discovered the institution invested in weapons and coal.
76/ Suzuki stepped down from his foundation in 2012 because he feared it would be a target for a tax audit by the Harper government and did not want to jeopardize its charitable status.
77/ While living and working in Tennessee, Suzuki was appalled by the treatment of black people. He joined the local NAACP and was the group’s only non-black member.
78/ Environmental activism runs in the Suzuki family. In 2014, Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos was arrested while demonstrating against a controversial pipeline project on Burnaby Mountain, near Vancouver.
79/ While he hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Justin Trudeau, Suzuki says Canada’s recent leadership change is a relief, and it has him feeling hopeful.|
80/ Suzuki has been vocal about the government’s mistreatment of First Nations people in Canada, including the handling of residential schools and treaties.

Meet the husband, father and grandfather, a personal look at David Suzuki, watch Suzuki@80 online.

Available on CBC Gem


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