Nova Scotia·Q&A

David Suzuki on the global youth climate movement

Ahead of the Halifax stop on his Climate First Tour with former diplomat Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki stopped by CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning. The environmentalist is urging people 18 to 22 to get out and vote.

Ahead of his Climate First tour with Stephen Lewis, Suzuki says climate needs to be a non-partisan issue

Environmentalist David Suzuki said he's 'humiliated' that young people are carrying the burden of the climate crisis. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick) (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Last Friday, millions of people turned out for climate strikes across the globe. In Halifax, young protesters held a rally and staged a die-in to draw attention to the issue and demand change from politicians.

With young people leading the global climate movement, environmentalist David Suzuki and former diplomat Stephen Lewis hope that means they'll turn out to vote in the upcoming federal election. Suzuki and Lewis are in Halifax for an event called the Climate First Tour.

Suzuki spoke with Portia Clark from CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning about young people carrying the burden of advocating for change, and why it's a more critical time than ever for young people to vote.

Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

What did you make of those images of Friday's protests?

I'm humiliated that children have to be the ones now carrying the weight of this issue. This isn't what children should be doing. They shouldn't have to be worrying about the kind of world they're going to grow up in.

Suzuki,left, and Stephen Lewis are hoping to warn audiences around the country about the dire consequences of not prioritizing climate in the upcoming election. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

There's a poll out today saying that fewer Canadians trust science. How have we landed in this position?

That is a very sad indictment of, in many ways, media. But also, I think it's a reflection of the fact that the fossil fuel industry has spent billions of dollars in a campaign of disinformation for over 30 years now.

I think in the process, scientists have suffered in terms of public trust. We're in this terrible situation, but the reality is the science is impeccable. It's gotten stronger and stronger and the children are now telling us we've got to do something.

The climate action rally in Halifax was one of thousands held around the world on Friday. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

So you don't want the children to stop what they're doing, but you want other people to pick up the mantle.

Absolutely right, I'm grateful to it. But as an adult who was part of the whole generation that really didn't pay attention to it, it's very sad that they're having to do that.

Greta [Thunberg] has had an impact more than all the other environmentalists in the world put together. Just a child, the innocence of her message, she cuts through it all. She's telling politicians, "Don't tell me you're protecting my future. Don't tell me to go back to school and stop worrying. I want you to worry. I want you to do something." And it's very powerful.

What new commitments are you hoping to get out of politicians?

This is no longer a partisan issue. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and … Roosevelt declared war, no one saw it as a Democrat/Republican issue. They were united to win this battle.

Well, we're now in a battle over emissions and we've all got to come together. It's outrageous that any political party would actually deny the reality of climate change or even its importance. 

People take part in the Global Climate Strike in Berlin on Friday. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

What we're trying to do now is get young people out to vote. The 18 to 22 year olds, it's their future. That's really at stake. Go to all candidates meetings, and ask their position on climate. We've got to drive it onto the political agenda as a non-partisan issue. It's time to come together.

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With files from CBC Information Morning

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