More Canadians probably recognize the face of David Suzuki than the face of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The host of The Nature of Things since 1979, Suzuki, alone or in collaboration, has authored 48 books, from An Introduction to Genetic Analysis in 1976 to David Suzuki’s Green Guide in 2008. He holds 24 honorary degrees and a Ph.D. in zoology. In CBC’s The Greatest Canadian series, he received the most votes of any living figure.
Why do Canadians trust this diminutive 74-year-old force of nature? Perhaps because he makes us care. Back in 1989, a five-part radio series called It’s a Matter of Survival, about the global ecosystem in crisis, elicited 17,000 letters from listeners. Many asked what could be done to protect our planet. Suzuki and his wife, Tara Cullis, held a retreat on British Columbia’s Pender Island, which led to the creation in 1990 of the David Suzuki Foundation, one of Canada’s strongest voices for environmental protection.
Now, with a staff of 60-and funding from other foundations, individuals and businesses-the foundation focuses on raising awareness about climate change, clean energy, the oceans, sustainable economics, human health and conservation.
The foundation’s reach is broad-it has contributed to the National Sustainable Development Act (Bill C-474) and the B.C. government’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan (including a carbon tax)-but its base of advocates is even broader. Not many foundations, for example, can rope in everyone from NHL hockey stars-players buy carbon offsets when they travel-to scientists in Tibet, who are assisting on a conservation plan for the Four Great Rivers region, where over one billion people live downstream.
Despite the wide focus, the foundation’s efforts have a common goal, says spokesperson Jason Curran: “Create a healthy ecosystem, healthy communities and healthy living. Our purpose for years has been creating sustainability within a generation. That means living within the Earth’s limits.”
This article was originally published in the May 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!