David Suzuki's Survival Guide: A Retrospective

This summer IDEAS is featuring episodes from David Suzuki’s radio archive that will include episodes from this 1989 series, It's A Matter of Survival, as well as his 1999 series The Naked Ape and his 2010 series called The Bottom Line. New episodes will drop every Tuesday through the summer.

IDEAS delves into Suzuki's radio work, and features an episode every Tuesday over the summer

A grid of six photos of David Suzuki.
Before David Suzuki started hosting The Nature of Things in October 1979, the environmentalist helped launch the CBC Radio show Quirks & Quarks, which he hosted from 1975 to 1979. (The Nature of Things)

In 1989, David Suzuki hosted a radio series called It's A Matter of Survival, which addressed the climate crisis head-on. Nearly 35 years later, it's clear how prescient it was.

The original series struck a nerve across the country. CBC received more than 14,000 letters — more than any radio or TV series had ever received up till then — from listeners wanting to know what they could do to help curb climate change.

Now jump ahead to 2023: Canada is experiencing the worst forest fires in recorded history. And in the next 10 to 15 years, the planet's temperature will likely increase by 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts an ice-free Arctic by the end of this century.

"Foresight was our great advantage over all other animals on the planet," says Suzuki.

"We have a sense of a future, as no other creatures do. We have the capacity to affect the future by what we do in the present….We have an emergency, and we have to pull out all stops,"  Suzuki told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed in an interview.

Starting July 11, IDEAS is featuring episodes from David Suzuki's radio archive, from this 1989 series, It's a Matter of Survival, as well as his 1999 series The Naked Ape — and his 2010 series called The Bottom Line. These episodes will drop every Tuesday through the summer.

Tuesday, July 11

The Warning

The warnings are coming fast and furious, says David Suzuki in his 1989 CBC Radio series It's a Matter of Survival. He and other scientists look ahead 50 years into the future to paint a picture of what the world could be like if nothing is done to curb the human impact on climate change. They make the case that the time to act is now. The series galvanized the environmental movement in Canada, with more than 14,000 listeners writing letters of support. 


Tuesday, July 18

How we got to this point  

"If we don't move now, it will be a disaster," said Lucien Bouchard, Conservative Environment Minister under Brian Mulroney, back in 1989. He was addressing the need to cut back on fossil fuels in the face of climate change, saying the survival of our species is at stake. In an attempt to understand the conditions that created climate emergency, David Suzuki talks to Bouchard and others, including Stephen Lewis, Ralph Nader and historian Graeme Decarie.


Tuesday July 25


"Growth is what we've come to live for. It has been the inspiration for our political and economic systems," says David Suzuki in his 1989 series, It's a Matter of Survival. In this episode, Suzuki explores the clash between ecological and economic objectives and how it came to pass that the environment is seen as an infinite sinkhole as the quest for profit and growth dominates political and business interests.


Tuesday, August 1

Naked Ape to Superspecies 

Never before in the four billion-year history of life on Earth has a single species been able to alter the geological, biological and physical features of the planet. As David Suzuki puts it, "we have evolved from naked ape to superspecies." This first episode from his 1999 IDEAS series, The Naked Ape, explores the impact of human culture on the natural world.

Tuesday, August 8

The 'Love' Economy

The field of economics is limited by how it measures success. It doesn't take into account the things that sustain life that can't clearly be measured. The Earth and its atmosphere provide infinite services free of charge — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil that sustains countless lifeforms on Earth. It also doesn't include the impact of community bonds, relationships, and love. This episode explores new ways to think of growth and society's holistic well-being. 

Tuesday, August 15

Wonders of Water

Water is essential for our survival; it's an integral part of our bodies. It is familiar to the point that those of us who have lots of it take water very much for granted. But it is also at the heart of some of the most profound mysteries of existence. How deep is the ocean, and what is it really like in the darkest reaches? What are whales doing when they sing? And why do we have so much trouble taking care of this precious and crucial resource?  

Tuesday, August 22

Life and Death

Death is a part of life…and as such it is all around us. We are fascinated by death in popular culture, but how many of us actually understand death, decay, and renewal as a natural process? In this episode of Suzuki's Survival Guide: A Retrospective, from 2010, David Suzuki takes an unflinching look at death and decomposition, at the way cells die to make way for new life within us, and at what happens to a carrot after we harvest it and eat it. All to unlock the cycle in which the things we are made of are never wasted.

Tuesday, August 29

Air and Atmosphere

Air of course is all around us. We move through it without noticing it, and we need oxygen is the gas we need in order to survive. But there was a time, about 2.7 billion years ago, when there was no oxygen on the Earth. It took hundreds of millions of years, but the carbon cycle and the circulation of oxygen as we know it exists today because of plants, beginning with the tiniest blue-green bacteria. And that is just the start of the integral relationship we living creatures have with the air. On Suzuki's Survival Guide: A Retrospective, an episode from 2010 called The Last Breath. We follow a single breath in its journey around the world, explore how an ice-free Arctic will change life on Earth, and David Suzuki sits down with Margaret Atwood for an entertaining chat conversation about breath, life, and death.

*This summer series was produced by Nicola Luksic and Sean Foley. 

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