Boreal forest integral to protecting future generations: David Suzuki

Saskatchewan’s north is home to part of Canada’s vast boreal forest. This Sunday, CBC’s The Nature of Things premieres its new documentary called What Trees Talk About exploring the abundance of life in the boreal forest, and the risk posed to it by a changing climate.

What Trees Talk About documentary premieres Sunday on The Nature of Things

"What Trees Talk About" premieres Sunday on CBC's The Nature of Things. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's north is home to part of Canada's vast boreal forest. This Sunday, CBC's The Nature of Things premieres its new documentary called What Trees Talk About exploring the abundance of life in the boreal forest and the risk posed to it by a changing climate.

The Nature of Things host David Suzuki spoke with CBC Saskatchewan Weekend's Shauna Powers about the upcoming documentary, and how his love for trees grew.

"When that first root goes down to anchor it, it's got to get everything it needs from that one spot, and it's so modest in what it asks for," said Suzuki.

"All it asks for is sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide from the air, and they'll build themselves structures that can last for hundreds of years."

Suzuki said he became enthralled with the fact that trees become part of a community that communicates with one another.

"You can almost consider them a single organism. We have no idea how deeply interconnected they are," said Suzuki.

He explained that some experiments have shown that trees will help one another by sharing water and energy and will fuse with neighbouring trees of a different species.

"Protecting the boreal is protecting our children and grandchildren," said The Nature of Things host, David Suzuki. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Human interconnectedness

Suzuki said that people are also part of that forest interconnectedness, but stressed that we have now come to think of themselves as the dominant species and thus have taken the forests for granted.

"Everything revolves around us. Since we began to move into cities, and the economy has become our dominant preoccupation, we then put ourselves at the centre of it all," said Suzuki. "We've shifted away from the way humans have lived for 99.9 per cent of our existence. We lived in a biocentric world where we realize we were part of a community of organisms, all interconnected and interdependent."

"Suddenly we've changed and I'm afraid the way we live in big cities that sense of understanding is disappearing."

He said the boreal forest acts as a major carbon sink, and is therefore a very important protection against the impact of climate change. But climate change is even putting that function in danger. 

"Now as it warms up, the soil is beginning to thaw out, and release carbon rather than hold onto it," said Suzuki.

"We're worried that the boreal forest, Canada's largest intact forest, will begin to release massive amounts of carbon that are currently stored, and that will add to climate change in a way that we can't even predict at this point."

Suzuki said protecting the boreal forest is key tp protecting our planet for the next generation.

With files from CBC Radio One's Saskatchewan Weekend