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.
Arseneau and Mitton speak
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 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 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.
“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.