By Dominique Blain
As a child, David Takayoshi Suzuki could be found in the creeks, ponds, valleys, and forests of the British Colombia mountains.
His days were as free as the butterflies he chased with the cheesecloth net his mother had weaved him. Because his family was interned under the War Measures Act during World War II, five-year-old David couldn’t attend school.
It was during this free time in the mountains, he says, that he “fell in love with nature.”
Sixty years later, his hair is grey but his eyes still sparkle.
Dr. David Suzuki is Canada’s foremost science reporter and one of the country’s most recognized figures. He has received the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science, a United Nations Environmental Award, the Royal Bank Achievement Award, 15 honorary degrees, three Geminis (“I’ve lost them all, you know. I just never attended”) and one ACTRA award??-among others.
This year, Suzuki celebrates 25 years as the host of the CBC’s The Nature of Things. “It’s hard to believe,” he says, leaning back in a black leather chair in a Toronto hotel lobby.
He wears a denim shirt, jeans and a simple gold medallion that hangs on a thin gold chain. “It seems to have just gone by,” he says. “I’m very, very proud to have been associated with this series.”
The voice that soars across the table has the same low, resonant tone The Nature of Things’ audience has heard for decades from their televisions’ speakers, but this time the delivery is offered with a smile.
The series and its host have witnessed and imparted the knowledge of over 25 years of science. From the first test-tube baby to the computer revolution, from genetic engineering to the birth control pill: Suzuki has seen and covered it all.
“We cover such a broad range of topics to inform the Canadian public. The series is every bit as relevant and important as it was 25 years ago,” he says. “We are doing a service to the Canadian public. “I think [science] is a completely overlooked issue,” he adds.
His right hand bullets each point: “It’s politics, it’s business, but it’s not science.”
Science is behind each of these fields, he says. It affects the military, medicine, industry. The Nature of Things, Suzuki says, is “trying to tell Canadians what the hell is going on.” Suzuki realized the power of television while teaching genetics at the University of Alberta.
Through the university, he would occasionally host a Sunday morning community television show. The university enjoyed his work and asked him to do eight more shows at $25 an episode. But he was taken aback when his students commented on the show during class?: ”
Why is anyone watching TV on a Sunday morning?” he wondered. And thus came the idea for The Nature of Things:
“I saw the opportunity for TV as a teaching tool. It just came to me. I never dreamed of having a career in TV.” Rather, in high school Suzuki contemplated a career in entomology but was deterred by his peers’ comments.
“Everyone said, ‘be realistic? – how are you going to make a living studying insects?'” Because he was doing so well in school, he decided to go into medicine and was accepted to the University of Western Ontario. But old loves die hard and at the last second he decided to study biology at Amherst College.
Suzuki smiles as he recalls the story. His blue clothes match the clear skies outside but stand out against the posh, black marble room.
“My mother cried for weeks,” he says with a chuckle. “Her son could have been a doctor and he ended up studying insects.”