David Suzuki to NB youth: stand up, demand change, vote Green

David Suzuki in Moncton beside the Petitcodiac River

The long-time host of the CBC science program Nature of Things received a big round of applause Friday as he walked into a meeting room at the Chateau Moncton hotel.

Nine Green Party candidates, party leader David Coon and a number of Green supporters greeted David Suzuki enthusiastically, but the well-known TV personality and environmental activist waved away the applause.

“I’m just here to raise some shit,” Suzuki said with an impish grin as he sat down to await his turn to speak.

Suzuki travelled to New Brunswick to donate his time in support of two Green candidates hoping to make breakthroughs in the provincial election on September 24.

Sackville Town Councillor Megan Mitton is contesting the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar, while Kevin Arseneau, a co-op farmer who is also active in local politics, is running in Kent North.

Arseneau and Mitton speak

Green leader David Coon (centre) with candidates Kevin Arseneau and Megan Mitton

In his brief remarks, Arseneau said that when his two-year-old son asked him what he’d been doing all day, he said he was knocking on doors trying to change the world.

“And he said, ‘me too Daddy, I want to change the world with you,'” Arseneau added.

For her part, Megan Mitton said she’d been asked to speak about a local environmental issue.

“That’s an easy one,” she added, “because for me, all environmental issues are local and are linked to everything around us whether it’s the economy or health or education.”

Suzuki responds

Suzuki began his speech by saying he was moved by Arseneau’s story about his son.

“I really think this is where the energy is going to come at a political level, our children are going to motivate us to become much more active politically,” he said.

“And Megan, you raised a really critical issue that separates Greens from all the other parties,” he added. “You recognized the most fundamental aspect of environmentalism, that is, everything on this planet is interconnected.”

Suzuki addressing an audience of about 500 at Mt. A.

Suzuki went on to develop a main theme that he also stressed during an evening speech to an audience of about 500 at the Mount Allison University library in Sackville.

He argued that since all life depends on clean air and water as well as uncontaminated soils, it makes no sense to pursue economic activities that routinely pollute air and water while depleting and poisoning the soils.

Suzuki added that Greens understand that natural laws make life on the planet possible.

“There shouldn’t be such a thing as a ‘green economy,'” he said. “There should only be an economy that is based on the foundation of protecting those elementary facts.”

Carbon tax and climate change

Suzuki criticized New Brunswick’s Liberal and Conservative parties for rejecting a carbon tax on the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

“A tax is a tool to encourage people to do the right thing and to discourage them from doing the wrong thing,” he said, adding it’s only a tiny step in the right direction.

“The target is we’ve got to get off fossil fuels, period, and much faster than by 2050, and whatever tools we have to use, let’s get on with it.”

Suzuki accused federal Liberals of hypocrisy for signing the 2015 Paris climate accord that aimed at keeping temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius and then buying and promoting an expanded pipeline to carry Tar Sands oil to the west coast.

He received a round of applause when he said he’s been fighting against Tar Sands oil for years.

Suzuki signed books after his Mt. A. speech. (Photo courtesy Mount Allison Libraries & Archives)

“We’ve got to work toward keeping the temperature from rising above two degrees in this century; right now we’re on a trajectory towards three to five degrees, which is absolutely catastrophic,” Suzuki told his Mt. A. audience.

He said it’s time for young people to stand up and demand action to stop politicians from putting narrow economic interests ahead of protecting the environment.

“So, I’m asking every one of you here — not saying, you’ve got to vote Green although I hope you all do — but think about what’s going on and realize that your future now is at stake,” he said, adding, “We have a narrow window to really start doing some big things and we can’t continue with the same old, same old.”

Suzuki received a standing ovation after he called on the students to vote and to get their parents to vote too.

“We’ve got to tell people, ‘it’s my future you guys are diddling with because you’re not focussed the right way’ and the Greens allow you to express that alternative,” he concluded.

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11 Responses to David Suzuki to NB youth: stand up, demand change, vote Green

  1. Rima Azar says:

    Welcome to Dr. Suzuki whilst asking him a quick question: How did he fly out from the West to the East Coast :)?

    A quick question to Mount Allison University’s library: Is the library generally open for political rally of whatever colour? I personally prefer if our library would become less politicized, regardless of the colours or the causes, in order to focus more on research and studies.

    Reply from Bruce Wark: I asked Suzuki who paid for his trip. The answer was that the Green Party paid for his travel and accommodation costs. He flew here from Montreal. Suzuki donated his time, so there were no speaking fees. The Green Party paid rent for the use of the ground floor space in the Mt. A. library.

  2. Rima Azar says:

    It is good to know that the library is available for rent then. Thank you for the information.

    As for my question, it was not meant about fees or organization. It was more meant as a (serious) joke :): Did he use an airplane? The last time I checked they were still running with fossil fuel. Seriously, perhaps using videoconferencing (e.g., Zoom or Skype) would be *greener*? Just a thought. Again, I say this whilst welcoming him to our town/province.

  3. Louis says:

    Interesting comment Rima. Indeed, the ironic – yet amusing – thing is that without fossil fuels, David Suzuki wouldn’t have been here to give his talk.

  4. tuxemal says:

    Great questions Rima, thank you for asking and sharing.
    Changing the world. Those are very strong words. It’s also a very naive statement.
    I am also shocked to think that the morales that the Green Party stands for have gone by the wayside with spending money to bring someone to our community.
    My question would be to Dr. Suzuki, do you know how many people are living in poverty in our riding? Do you know how many people are unemployed? Do you know how many people have to work out west to support their families here?
    To think the Green candidate locally raised at one event $22,000 to support her cause. Some of it likely went to have Dr. Suzuki come here. How many families would that have fed and for how long in our riding?
    Now one may say, well the other parties do it so why not the Greens. Well the Greens are trying to sell me on the fact that they are different, when in reality they really are not and elections are never really about the people they are about having power over the people to spread the parties way of thinking.
    It’s a sad day for my home town. A town that needs balance, which is becoming further out of reach.

    • Rima Azar says:

      Excellent questions, tuxemal. Thank you for taking the time to share as well. Like you, and I suspect a silent large number of citizens, I feel for all these families who are either jobless OR working but hardly making it… OR having to fly miles away to work out west, far from their loved ones. I hope they are not feeling excluded from the proposed solutions… but most importantly, I hope they are not feeling guilty for earning a living or wanting to earn a living in this sector of our economy– closer or further from home.

      I sometimes feel that our noble intentions can sometimes make us forget that: (1) Environmental issues are more complex than that and (2) The reality is just in front of our face (hard to ignore, no?). Perhaps it takes brilliant visionary people like Dr. Suzuki to push causes and provoke changes? However, to come back to earlier comments by other readers, history can teach us that changes are not necessarily for the best (so maybe a smaller change in a given direction is wiser than a massive change all at once– here I am thinking of other countries than of our riding or our province, etc.). During all my life, especially before age 17 (war times), I took self-measures to avoid being influenced by this trend or that ideology… Perhaps this is why, at my age now, and in my mind, I call any extremist *illuminated*; a bit like the illuminated totalitarian people, religious or not (especially when they preach). I may be wrong but I think that the danger is when these people take themselves too seriously… or when we consider them like *saints* or *martyrs* or whatever else, if you see what I mean. I believe that no one is a saint and, at the same time, we can all thrive for it, if we want too. We are simply human beings. Keeping this in mind, we all make mistakes, despite our good intentions, even our idols or heroes, etc. If we keep this doubt (self- and of others) in mind, we can hear each other on this planet and find solutions TOGETHER.

      However, sadly, sometimes, a proposed solution to a complex issue such as global warming can appear too simplistic whilst penalizing (once again) the poorest of our society…. Pushed to the extreme, our Canadian or Western solution can also affect the poorest countries on the planet. We forget about the latter too often, I am afraid. If we push and keep pushing for whatever issue we think is the right truth now (with no push back, as needed), our country may end up like some others, that is in a tragic situation where existing resources are not used and people are starving. Is this a good thing? For me, it is simple. Fossil fuels are far from being perfect (in many ways, especially to our environment) but… for the time being, it is all what we have as human beings (until renewable energies work enough to produce sustainable energy). Whilst aiming for this, can’t we just use our resources in a responsible way (safe and *green way*— not necessarily a greedy way but simply an economically wise way)?

  5. Sharon Hicks says:

    What a great event that was … David Suzuki is a very intelligent scientist and a gifted speaker, and is well worth listening to. With 45 minutes of stories and facts that were alarming, poignant, cheeky, and thought-provoking, he held the audience in the palm of his hands – an audience made up of a wide variety of vastly mixed ages, nearly 500 people ranging from a baby in a carriage to quite a few people even older than US !!

    One of the most relevant take-aways, for me, was when he talked about ‘we elders’ having the responsibility to speak up and tell the younger generations what we have learned in our varied lives. Many of us grew up learning about the world by watching and listening to this man, and that was reflected in the standing ovation at the end of his talk.

    • tuxemal says:

      I don’t disagree that Dr. Suzuki is a knowledgeable scientist with a life focusing on the environment. I do however disagree with how David Suzuki has now paired himself with a polictal party. It somehow cheapens the good work he has done to make the environment relevent in our lives.
      I’m also sadden of how the Green Party and the local candidate have chosen to take advantage of this individual to further their political agenda.
      Regarding his advice that we elders have to speak up and tell the younger generations what we have learned in our lives. David Suzuki is in his 80’s and has been speaking to Canadians for decades and yet our environment still suffers. He has spoken to the grandparents and parents of today’s younger generation and here we still are talking but not doing.
      The thing is unless it effects us directly in our day to day lives it is not relevant to people.
      So where do we start, we start as individuals not talking but doing. Finding ways to live our daily lives in a way that uses less energy and not so much a throw away life. Children learn from what they see and what is practiced at home not from political party agendas.
      Governments need to provide incentives to business to incorporate more environmentally friendly ways in conducting their business, not tax them to try to deter them.
      The Green Party wants to tare apart big business and not give them tax dollars any longer instead of encouraging improvements through tax incentives.
      Why is big business such a bad word to this party?
      On a final note I’m sure the McCains (big business) who provided the funding
      for the student center were excited to see university administrators rent the library for a political parties election rally.
      I highly doubt that this big business will have any money for the library renewal project currently in the works after the recent Green Party event. I wonder if David Suzuki will?

      • ADB says:

        Maybe you work for big business, eh Tuxemal?

      • mtruitt says:

        While Mount Allison regularly makes its facilities available — at modest cost, I understand — to groups outside the University, in the case of the RP Bell Library, the rental would not have happened without the approval of the University Librarian. I am he. I’ve received other inquiries about this decision and I hope that you will permit me to repeat from my answer here:

        – I am a passionate believer that libraries have a responsibility to help foster community and citizenship. We are in many ways the public commons. In the last several years, the MTA Libraries have hosted or sponsored a number of events, open not only to Mount Allison students and faculty, but to members of the Sackville community at large. If a political campaign rally is not an exercise in building community and citizenship, then what is?

        – In agreeing to provide space for this event, I made it clear to the organizers that the Library was *not* taking a position for or against any candidate in next week’s election. Indeed, I said that I would have agreed to host, had we been approached by any other major party with a similar request. If hosting the Greens is an endorsement, then purchasing library materials that take often challenging and unpopular positions on issues of the day is a similar endorsement. In my view, our obligation as library people is to create an environment that meets our patrons’ information needs, fosters curiosity and learning, builds community, and ultimately helps to advance the search for knowledge and wisdom. I believe that hosting events occupies a critical place for us in meeting this obligation.

        – My final consideration related to the operational needs of the Library. Obviously, the event would be disruptive, but could the disruption be mitigated? Friday afternoons and evenings are relatively low-traffic times at RP Bell. Few students would be working on papers or studying for midterms. And we could accommodate those who were so engaged by encouraging them to go to quiet study areas on the ground floor and in the basement.

        I hope that the above helps in understanding my decision to permit the Green Party event at the RP Bell Library.

  6. Rima Azar says:

    Dear Marc:

    I appreciate your reply. I assume it is addressed to me in the first place.

    I see your angle. Citizenship is a noble goal or value. I salute this value in you.

    However, at least in my mind, *citizenship* to a single group (party/ideology) becomes *partisanship*, especially on the eve of General Elections, and regardless of any green or other colour of loyalty by academics (students or faculty members or community friends).

    I am not defending any political party, mind you. I went to vote, still undecided until the last minute (perhaps for the first time of my life in Canada, that is in 28 years).

    Although I may be wrong, in my mind, the candidates’ debate by MASU appeared more professional because it seemed at equal distance from all parties (even if the questions could have been pre-prepared…. that is fine, no problem).

    This being said, I am relieved to know that the library is available to all/any citizenship or political event. Thank you for taking the time to write and share with everyone.

  7. Dave should just motor back to BC by horse and cart and leave us alone.. #carbon tax is theft .. I love fossil fuels.. plants need co2 .. the blind are leading the blind downeast.

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