Bonus
November 2nd 2021

Bonus episode! With David Suzuki and Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Race Against Climate Change: Full interview with David & Severn Suzuki
Read the transcript

Polly Leger:

Hey, it's Polly. Thanks so much for listening to Race Against Climate Change. We've really appreciated the reviews that you've all left so far. It helps other people find the show. So if you haven't already ,give us a review or a rating anywhere you listen to your podcasts.
Next week, we're diving deep into the ways that we power our world. But today, we've got a little bonus episode to tide you over. Linda Solomon Wood is the editor-in-chief of Canada's National Observer. And last week, you heard a condensed version of her conversation with Severn Cullis-Suzuki and her dad, David Suzuki, who of course need no introduction. So today, just like we promised, here's the whole conversation. Enjoy, and thanks for listening.

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Linda Solomon Wood:

Hi, I'm Linda Solomon Wood. I'm the founder and editor in chief of Canada's National Observer. Recently, I sat down with two climate icons, David Suzuki and his daughter, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, the new executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation. In a moment, we'll get to the climate crisis and transforming cities. But first, we've all got vaccines on the brain.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki

I think that right now, we are in a huge moment, in terms of pushing for transformation. Because of the pandemic, we have just come through a year and a half of humility, and deep learning. The lessons that are currently before us, should we choose to really integrate and learn from them, the lessons we've learned from COVID could directly apply to climate change and how we actually address a real emergency. So I think that right now, people are really living with COVID, they're living with the reality of it, we're not out of the woods yet. But we have learned that science and data are key to our way forward, we need expertise, to be able to identify risks, and also solutions. We've learned that we are all totally interconnected in an extremely profound way, not only with our neighbors, with our communities, but also with people in London, people in China, we are just totally undeniably interconnected. And perhaps one of the biggest things is we have a profound sense, renewed sense of renewed agency. If you don't get a vaccine, if you don't wash your hands, if you don't pay attention, your actions could have devastating effects. And this is the same for climate change. So I think right now, there's a huge opportunity for, you know, all of us individuals to take advantage of what we are learning right now, and apply it properly to the climate crisis that no one can deny is happening.

David Suzuki:
But you know, COVID reveals a really fundamental problem that we have, and that is, you hear now, and it's not an insignificant group, who are deliberately choosing not to be vaccinated. And many are claiming it's their right. And this, I think, is a problem with human beings today. We want to take, take, take, but there's no sense of reciprocity that in receiving these, whatever we're taking from our surroundings, we have an obligation. So you know, it just blows me away to hear these people claiming their right, and freedom. They don't walk around with a bubble of air that belongs to them. They're using the same air you and I and everyone else is. Well, God dammit, that means you've got a responsibility. Your freedom comes with responsibility not to impinge on the freedom of others. And if we can't even do that, with an obvious crisis, like the COVID crisis, I can't imagine what this group or people like this are going to say about the we're going to have to impose demands on reduction of our emissions. And that means we've got to set targets and say, we've got to meet these targets. And you've got to stop using, you know... that's going to cause a lot of kickback if people don't feel a sense that we're in this, this cosmic crisis.

Linda:
So David, you're talking about the cosmic global crisis yet we all live in cities or towns when it comes to the places we live? What do you think is the key climate friendly, positive step we can build on?

David:

Well, I think we have to stop building cities to serve the car. Why? Is it that, you know, everything is predicated on, “Oh, will we be able to get a road in here properly” and so on. We have to return to the notion that cities have become human habitats, cities are human created things. We originated in the grasslands of Africa, 150,000 years ago. We were nomadic hunter gatherers. Cities, which became possible because of the agricultural revolution, where we could stay in one place, cities then became our habitat. And yet, we constantly serve other things like, does it look good, you know, and, and well we’ve got to have room for cars, and all these considerations. Let's make our habitat habitable for humans. And part of that is that we're going to have to live in a way that doesn't exploit the environment, dump our stuff into it. So I think that a big thing we can start with is stop serving the car. So you know, I meet a lot of parents that say, “what, what can I do”, you know, and I say, ‘“Stop driving your kids to school!” This is crazy. It'll be healthier for you and healthier for the environment. So it's not just the way we design our cities differently, but our own behavior within the cities.

Severn:

I think one of the opportunities of cities in addressing exactly the kind of, you know, specific solution you're talking about with the car. I mean, this is the opportunity of cities, concentrated humans in one spot, we can, you know, design our cities, so that you can drop your kid off at school. It's much harder... I've just been living in a rural community. So there are so many opportunities for me moving to the city. There's a grocery store right around the corner. And I, I live close to you, very close to you, Dad. I mean, we can create these communities that really make sense not just for the environment, but for our well being. And this is another place that I feel that is a huge opportunity for transformation. Right now. COVID has changed our conversation about well being. Now what we're talking about in terms of well being, of mental wellness, physical wellness, it's very different from even a year ago. And so I think that we now have a different understanding of how we want to be living, and it's totally congruent to where we need to be living if we're going to address the climate crisis.

So this is one of the things I'm really excited about, by joining the DSF, we have a focus now on the well being economy. Our current economic system is promoting the car, one car per person, it's promoting highways, it's promoting the fossil fuel industry, it's promoting very individualistic society. That is totally why you have people protesting in the streets about their rights not to get vaccinated or not to wear a mask. We've been promoting individualism through our, you know, our capitalist economy for so long. So it makes sense that we have this, and I would say it's a minority of the population who's protesting. And so we're now looking at the DSF and a pilot in conjunction with a lot of different groups, about a well being economy, what does that look like? How are places like countries like Scotland, looking and using a well being focus instead of, you know, a focus on GDP. So, you know, this is all quite a related conversation. But in cities, we have very good dialogue on these pieces. And so there's, there's a huge opportunity right now with where people are at.

David:

But there are some fundamental shifts that are not going to be easy. I, you know, I think the whole idea of having your own property, your own house and your own little yard that was kind of fostered after World War Two, when the suburbs just exploded, we can't, we can't do that. And we've got to get a notion that a city is a radically different way. We've got to learn together and, you know, you look at cities like Paris or London, where, the individual home with a yard and all that is not, not on. And of course, one of the problems we face is that we're being, we're pricing the ability to live in a city like Vancouver out of the range of a lot of the people who are looking for jobs within the city. So the housing issue is a big one, but to me, you're touching on this Sev, it's the economic system itself. We now live within a globalized economy. So to live the way we are in Vancouver, it means that people in Mexico, people in Africa are having to change the way they're living. You know, I think of the African farmer who's told well, coffee, you know, you can get a high price for coffee, stop growing vegetables and stuff that you're going to sell here, grow coffee, and bananas and things that are going to serve us. And so by virtue of living within a global economy, we are draining other areas.

Linda: Absolutely.

David: So the biggest challenge we've got to do right away, stop the hyper consumption that demands that all of these areas serve us.

Linda:

Severn, up until recently, you lived in Haida Gwaii. David, you spend a lot of time on Quadra Island. These are not bustling cities, they're fairly remote. What's the most innovative thing you've seen happen in your communities?

Severn:

Yeah, I mean, there are huge opportunities with living in a small community and Haida Gwaii, for one, has made some amazing advances in, you know, manifestos to get off of fossil fuels and to really get community support for a mandate of getting beyond carbon. Which is a big deal, right. But we have some limitations, and we're gonna have to really make some tough decisions. We have to start thinking creatively. I agree, we can't think about the car as something that we each as individuals each have. So we're talking about, I've been talking with friends about getting a fleet of EVs so that we can communally share these and have them at specific sites, because we're a rural community. And we also have a very strong sense of community. We also are creating culture all the time. And we are creating what becomes norms in our community. So things can shift pretty, pretty quickly. I mean, culture is kind of a mix of, you know, our ethics, but also what's cool. And so people, you know, now there's several EVs driving, driving around, and that is changing how people feel and think about them. So moving towards, you know, these kinds of collective and communal ideas can happen in the community. They're also, you know, people in Haida Gwaii travel to the city quite often. And once again, you know, I think there's a really important role in cities in setting new trends and sharing what's cutting edge in terms of thoughts and action on things like the environment. And that spreads to our community because people are constantly looking to what's happening in the city. So there's a way of leapfrogging as rural communities, and figuring out what works.

David:

When I was on our at our cabin on March 13, when the lockdown started, it just happened that Severn, her family and Sarika and her family were there. We were there to kick off spring break and ended up the lockdown happened.

Linda:
Sarika’s your other daughter?

David:
Our younger daughter, yeah, with her three toddlers and her husband. Sev was there with her two sons and managed to get the last flight back to Haida Gwaii before everything was locked down. So we spent six months on Quadra with my daughter and her husband and kids. It was a glorious time, but everybody can't live that way. There isn't enough space. But the thing that struck me was, Oh, my God, are we ever vulnerable. All of our food that was coming in every day was coming into this remote island. And it's coming from Mexico and coming from South America, you know, and I just felt overwhelmed with how vulnerable we have become by living that way. We didn't go shopping for half a year like we didn't spend money big. The only thing was our food pipeline. And why are we running around? I mean, I had a wonderful time. I was with my grandchildren, and got to go out with them every day. You realize that we're living the wrong way. Why is it that the vast bulk of the deaths from COVID were old people in for profit, long term homecare, it's terrible. And they died alone. You know, and the people caring for them were overwhelmed. They were disproportionately dying. Like, there's something fundamentally wrong about the way that we're living.

Severn:

And that's why this moment is crucial. We all are seeing that. So clearly it is in stark relief. There is-- no metaphor is needed. There's no analysis needed. That is just a truth. And you know, you're talking about the future of cities and we won't have you know, why are we living in nuclear homes? Well, the loneliness of COVID and the lack of community has been devastating. I mean, people's mental wellness is being so massively impacted. So those are right there. There's a coming together not only of crises, but of people's readiness for changing what we're doing because it's clear. So I just think that, you know, COVID, in many ways, if we're looking at the massive crisis of climate, and how we address it COVID is, you know, it's a lesson. It's a gift because it's preparing us to adequately address it.
The innovations that inspire me are ancient. So I live on Haida Gwaii, was living on Haida Gwaii for the past 14 years. I deepened my understanding of traditional things like the Potlatch, which is something that happened in communities up and down the coast, not only in Haida Gwaii, so in different cultures, but differently. But this was an incredible system and way of redistributing wealth. And when I learned, the more I learned about the functions of the Potlatch, which involve, you know, and played an economic role, including accumulation of wealth of a clan and a Chief. And then at the end of a Potlatch, where all kinds of businesses happened, that wealth is distributed in the community to all that were there, who are witnesses. And just these totally different ways of existing as humans are right here, here in amongst us, not just on Haida Gwaii, they're here in Vancouver, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish territory. And these examples are opportunities for a different way of existing and we can learn so much. You know, on Haida Gwaii, there's Potlatching that continues today. I also lived in a community where the Band Council in Skidegate provided every home with a heat pump. And so, you know, we saw this amazing reduction of our emissions through heat pumps on Haida Gwaii. We're also talking about seaweed, investing in aquaculture and seaweed. I mean, these are very sophisticated people who are looking for solutions, but the combination with ancient practices that are fundamentally successful-- amazing.

David:

you know, one of the -- sorry to jump in, but one of the problems we face.. If you look at the states in the United States, or the provinces, that have not really been able to come to grips with the COVID crisis, they are the ones led by people who said, “We got to get the economy going, the economy, the economy”, so that the the health and well being of the community or the the State is not as important as the economy. Now, we saw that for nine and a half years under Stephen Harper, who said, “We can't do anything about climate change”. That's crazy economics. So the economy was elevated above. And this I think, is a challenge, we're trapped within a system in which we've looked at the economy as a source of everything that matters. Well, during the COVID crisis, you had people locking down, really suffering economically where governments had to bail them out and help them, and yet, all the while, the market has just gone up. And the ultra rich have just been getting richer and richer. So you know, the economy's not connected to the well being of people or the well being of the planet. So it's the economy itself that is driving us in the wrong way. So we've got to come to grips with that, it seems. And as individuals, as cities, we've got to stop, cut that lock between the economy driving everything, and doing the right thing. I don't know if there is any magic bullet for how we're going to develop cities, that's for people who are experts in that. We just have to make the commitment that our cities have to look towards a zero footprint, and then find all of the creative abilities. And rural communities, we can't go in and tell them, they've got to help us and tell what their needs are. And design a way for them to live in rural communities. But the most important thing is to say, we've got -- we can't go back to doing it the way we were. We can't let the economy hamper us in doing the right things. And let's get the creative ability of people in various communities to come up with the solutions.

Linda :

What I hear and what both of you are saying is you're talking about a kind of a different economy, and you're talking about the power of community. I wonder what you both think about the expectation on individuals, like homeowners, to do a full energy retrofit on their home. How much of this is going to be solved by individual actions?


Severn:
We need systems change. It's, you know, I've been struggling with this. We've all been struggling with this our whole lives. You know, is it do you vote with your dollar? Are you, you know, is it up to the consumer? And yeah, I've taken it on, you know, lugged around my coffee, my non disposable coffee cup. God, you know, Dad loves the bus, you know, we're all doing all those things. And we're realizing it is not enough. And also when I, when I became a mother, I realized, you know, we as activists, environmental activists, and advocates, were asking people-- and it's usually mothers, they're the ones that care about the future in such a visceral way-- we're asking people to do all their homework, do the research, and then make the tougher decision. Because all the things that are right for the planet are more expensive, or more difficult, take more time. I mean, our whole society is built towards destroying ecosystems, essentially. So when you live in that context--

Linda : Yeah

Severn: You know, it's very, very hard. And I think that that reality is why so many of us are, you know, exhausted, and we live it every day. And we know that we're contributing to the end. So we need systems change, and we need our governments to help us out here and make being a Canadian not congruent with destroying the climate.

David:

Yeah I think that corporations love to say, “Well, it's, it's up to you, you know, we just serve what you want. And it's up to you to choose your product.” They love that. But they're spending billions and billions of dollars telling you you need these things that we never even knew that we wanted. And suddenly they're creating the one.
We need, as Sev says, big systems changes because we're all trapped within an economic and a political system that is itself destructive, because they have different rules that are regulating how they operate. So I think that what we need is the kind of response that we get when we have a crisis that you can't avoid. And that is what we saw in World War Two. And I love what Seth Klein has done with that with A Good War. Because once you suspend all of the politicking and all of that and say, we've got an existential crisis, we have to win that and throw everything into it, then all of the the system's constraints disappeared…

Severn:

Just like we saw in COVID. COVID is the same thing. You know, everybody suddenly worked across party lines, governments were suddenly able to shift billions of dollars in money that we didn't even know exists. I mean, what if that just happened in such a quick way? You know, that is, everybody's been saying, oh, yeah, this is a climate emergency. Well, we just saw what a real emergency response was, right now, this year.

David:

Yeah. I love to use the fact that during the Cold War, it was a frightening time in the 50s. Because Russia seemed to be so powerful. They were rolling into Africa. They were rolling into Southeast Asia. And I was in my, just starting my senior year in college in the United States. And on October 4 1957. Do you have any idea? We were shocked to hear the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. Most of us didn't have any idea there was a space program, right? And every hour and a half, that satellite went over the states. And Beep beep beep, it was thumbing its nose and saying yeah. So the Americans then tried to launch their three rockets, Army Air Force, everyone blew up. And meanwhile, the Russians launched the first animal, a dog, the first human, Yuri Gagarin, the first team of cosmonauts. They did the first spacewalk, the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, and we realized, oh my God, these guys are really advanced. This is a Cold War. America just said, we got to win this, right. And in 1962, Kennedy said, We choose to go to the moon, and we're going to get an astronaut back. And they did.

Linda:
And David, we have nine years to slash greenhouse gases. When it comes to emission cuts. Where do you think the biggest bang for our buck is? Right now? I asked you about cities and now on a larger level for Canada, where's the biggest bang for the buck?


David:

Well, right now, what we've got to do is stop any further development searching for it. We've got to begin to shut down fracking and the the more difficult areas, deep underground and the deep underwater. Shutdown the riskiest areas..

Linda: The riskiest areas of fossil fuel exploration?

David: Yeah

Linda: Shut it all down.

David:

Yeah it shut down. It's got to be graded out somewhere. But these are the first things you do. Fracking is one of the dumbest ways that you can imagine getting your energy because of the water that you're using, polluting it. And you know, there are earthquakes and all that stuff. But we're investing heavily in infrastructure for LNG, saying this is a transition fuel. It's not. The escapes of methane. The frack gas is one of the most expensive,

Linda: So shut down fracking, shut down fossil fuel exploration. What about the banks that are financing these things?

David:

Of course, those have all got to be done. This is not going to happen overnight. But you've got to make the commitment and timeframes when these things are going to be shut down. We can shut down immediately all subsidizing of the fossil fuel industry. We've got to shut down their ability to advertise, the way we did with tobacco. You know, it's got to be graded. The most important thing is to say, we've got to be 50% off fossil fuels by 2030. And this is what we have to do every year, we've got to mandate reductions year after year after year, if we're serious about it.

Severn:

Yeah, you make a plan and you execute. And I mean, another truth of this, you know, very destructive iteration of our capitalist economy is that shifts often have economic opportunities, you know. So you see, even the oil executives are getting out of oil, like this is a sunset industry, and they know it. And, you know, you see marginalized communities that are now investing in these sunset operations. It's criminal, we just need to make the plan and execute

David:

You're right. And the thing is that I don't see why we have to say, oh, there are job opportunities here. When we're asking for the changes, we're talking about a transformation of the way we live. Sure, they're going to be jobs coming out of the whazoo. We don't know what they're going to be. But once you make the commitment and say that we're going to have to do this, all of that stuff is going to happen. Jobs, to transform society will be a massive job growth.

Severn:

Huge, huge. I think that is important to say. I think people are thinking, you know, they're just they're just gonna change, and it's going to be falling off a cliff, when obviously humans are always going to have an economy, we're gonna always need energy and things and places to live and heat and all these things that we will absolutely need a lot of work to create.

Linda : So how can the average person figure out if the government is on the right track?

David:

I think the only way is becoming very involved. Politically, it's not just during election time. That's the only time and and you can see the problem with that we had when Trudeau dropped the writ. The first thing in the media scrum was, what are the priorities? Afghanistan, then COVID, then daycare, and maybe climate was fourth? You know, when you --you, we have to hammer? Why do we think the fossil fuel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, all of these industries, spend billions of dollars for lobbyists? Well, God dammit, I'm a voter, I want to be a lobbyist! And we've got to do that. We've got to lobby like hell these people are going to go to the COP 26. There have been 26 COP meetings on climate, where the hell are we? Canada has never met a single promise at these COP meetings to reduce emissions. So we've got to, let's be a lobby group. If you care about this issue, you can't just lose interest after the election. We've got to keep up the understanding by all our elected representatives, this is our highest priority, now act like it.

Severn:

I think that for that you asked about the average person and what can the average person do? I always say that we’ve got to do two things. One, we have to look at our personal lives, and how we can reduce our climate emissions, how we can reduce our ecological footprint. That's the stuff that's our homework we all have to do. But we also have to get political. And this is addressing what David just said, you know, we have seen an increased awareness of Canadians. We do have an election where all parties are at least addressing the climate. That's new. So we are seeing a shift in awareness. And I think we're seeing in the climate strikes and marches that have been happening over the last few years, we're seeing that people are realizing they have to get political.

Linda : 50,000 people came out when Greta was in Montreal.

Severn: Exactly

David: 500,000

Linda: 500,000 oh my God.

David: I was there.

Severn:

So we have to, we have to get political. And that's undeniable, we now have a Climate Accountability Act that was passed this year. That gives us a tool to say to the government, you guys agreed to do this. We have a legal infrastructure that allows us to now go into the streets, and demand that the government follows their own rules. So I think that we're in a time when people have that sense of responsibility and agency. And that's what we got to do. We got to make sure we are involved and realize that now is the moment and we have agency, what we do is going to impact all of our lives in our children's lives.

David:

We need the bigger the bigger thing. The people that we elect have got to make those big decisions. And we've got to keep the pressure on. But there is the aspect of the way we individually live, we can. And what I find is that when you begin, you find yourself empowered. You know, when my wife Tara said, David, you know, we got to-- somebody is going to start coming around looking at what you're throwing away in the garbage. We’ve got to do something about that. And I'm going God, do you mean that I have to pull -- this is years ago-- I have to pull staples out of the paper and separate paper and sort it into fine, newsprint...

Linda

That’s a lot of pressure to think about people going through your garbage.

Severn:
Yeah, well, it’s the only argument that she could make him change. So I think it was an effective one.

David:

And you know, once you started doing it, we got down to a green bag a month of garbage. And still, half of that was plastic that you couldn't get rid of any other way. So there was... it's eye opening real opportunity. But once you get doing it, you go. How could we do that the other way. So I think for the individuals -- make the word disposable an obscene word. If someone says, “Well, I got a disposable cup”, you cover your kid's ear and say, “Don't listen to that man, what a terrible thing to say”. Because the whole idea of disposable, that's a notion brought in by economists so that you have an endless market. If you use something once and throw it away, then you'll never run out of a market.

Linda:
And yet cities have had such a hard time in Canada even passing anti plastic bag. Legislation. Right? You know, because the law again, the plastic lobby is so strong.


David:
The biggest thing to me is the fashion industry. I just think the whole notion of fashion is what sells stuff. You know, it used to be there was an annual fashion show, then it got to be semi annual, then it was quarterly and then it's monthly, like every week. Now these big brands, they change their their styles--

Linda

And yet the new generation, like Gen Zed, are really into thrifting.

Severn: Absolutely.

David:
Well, I hope so. But I'll tell you, when we were very poor after the war, we were impoverished by it. And we wore, we wore blue jeans, because denim wears like iron. Any kid that's now paying hundreds of dollars for a new pair of jeans already ripped…What kind of a statement is that? This is not a piece of clothing that is going to be worn for its durability. It’s just for style. So to me, the ripped blue jean is symbolic of the fashion industry.

Linda:

David, when you think about the crisis, and you know, everything we're facing in the world right now, and you think about your grandchildren, are you afraid?

David:

I'm terrified. And, you know, we've started the experiment and --

Linda: the experiment?

David:
The experiment with the planet. We're changing the chemistry of the atmosphere. And we're doing it in a way that has never happened in nature. We're doing it so quickly. Nature, of course, has had fluctuations. We've gone from warm periods to ice ages. But that's been over 1000s and 1000s of years. We're doing it at an unprecedented rate. The experiment’s started. If we stopped all emissions today it will still take over a century to find equilibration. At the same time that we're adding stuff to the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, we're cutting down, we're destroying the only real safety that we have, which is the web of living green things all over the planet.

Linda: And extinction is final. It’s one of the only things that is final.

David:

Extinction is final, but it's normal. Extinction was necessary for life to evolve. Without extinction, you get no evolution. 99.9999% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. So extinction is normal. But what is not normal is the rate at which we have now induced extinction. The quantity of extinction going on. You know, on average, one or two species disappeared a year, where we've upped that 1000-fold,

Linda: And Severn, as a mother, when you think about your kids living to the changes ahead, our terms like hope or fear useful for you?

Severn:

Well, I'm definitely afraid. But I....for me, the conversation about hope is really about agency. I'm not hopeful in the way of, you know, “I hope climate change is stopped”, because it can't be stopped. It's going to be unfolding now, and it's just a matter of degree. But I'm currently doing my PhD in anthropology. And I find so much inspiration in Indigenous cultures around this planet. Right now, there are so many cultures that can show us different ways of being human. And they have existed for thousands of years. Indigenous people, for them, the extinction event that we are just as a colonial society coming on into awareness about-- for them, it's been happening for 500 years. And what the experiment to me is, is cultural. We suddenly have, for the first time, a globalized economic culture that is being imposed on humanity, and look at the ramifications. It's having terrible ramifications on the entire atmosphere, on the entire ecosystems. So for me, I'm really focused on what currently is working and has been working for millennia. And what can we as a colonial society, as an as a globalized economic culture-- what can we learn from what exists right now and has survived all kinds of crazy events. I mean, it's been so humbling for me to live on Haida Gwaii and to think about a people who have survived smallpox, 95% and over mortality. I mean, that pandemic, that epidemic, was the end of the world. And now you know, here it's been really in high relief dealing with COVID. And, and the current pandemic to just think about that time at the turn of the century for them. So we have so much to learn about resilience, about survival from those who have survived the end of the world. And they are Indigenous people, and they are here, they are alive, they are vibrant, and they are going to have to be the ones that we look to, to find our way through. And so it for me, that's what gives me a sense of agency and essential sense of, I see a path for humanity to get through this bottleneck. And that's the hope I have for my children.

David:

So when she first got married, she's lived all her life with Tara and me, and she herself has been an activist since she was a child, when she called to say Dad, I'm pregnant.

Severn:

We‘re really gonna go there?

David:

Well, I think your answer was very, was one that blew me away. I said, Sev, you know, the state of the world....

Severn: You know, I was hoping for congratulations.

David: But tell me what you tell us what you said.

Severn: I have no idea.

David:
You said Dad, this is my commitment to the planet. My child is my commitment. There is no way I'm not going to fight like mad for the earth. Because that's my child's life. Well, that blew me away. It's very interesting to watch the contrast in the way Severn is meeting the crisis and Judson. I see Severn going Dad! Dad! We really we’ve got to do something. And Jud is like, look cool it.

Linda: Jud?

David: Judson is her Haida husband. Like his people have gone through a Holocaust of scale you can't imagine. And you know, I feel Judson is grounded. He's been involved in the fight for his place on earth. And that's the struggle. Mother Earth. If Mother Earth is still there, okay, he's in for the long haul. Whereas we see this looming thing and we're all frantic jumping around. Don't you think that that's the contrast between you and Judson? I like he's grounded there. And that gives him that.

Severn: Absolutely. I mean, he's grounded in who he is not just, you know, this lifetime. He knows who he is for the last 13,000 years. And he's, you know, we lived on Haida Gwaii, we will live there again. I mean, he's connected to who he is as a human in such a different way from how us immigrants or settlers are. We've been completely, you know, that has been uprooted. And that uprooting is a huge reason why we have been able to destroy our home so easily, we have lost that connection. But the other thing I think is very true, you know, Judson’s people have gotten to the end, and they've made it through. And they know that. So that they have a confidence that I think us, you know, colonial society, we're just waking up and we're saying, panic! oh, my goodness! you know. So there's a lot we can learn for how you survive an extinction event.

David:

Yeah. But the problem is recognizing how real that transition is. I think even a lot of really committed environmentalists, they think, well, if everybody drives an electric car, and we have all LED lights, and and you know, that somehow everything will be fine. No, it's not going to be that simple. Reduction of our fossil fuel use by 2030. Everything is going to change and we can't go on in this hyper consuming way. There going to be massive changes.

Linda : Well, you guys, before I let you go, I have one last question for you, which is, what is the question that I haven't asked you? That is the important question that you would like to speak to?

David:
Well, it seems to me the the question is, why are we so destructive? We’ve had all the warnings for such a long time. Why? And, to me the ultimate… see, we set up the David Suzuki Foundation not to deal just with a brush fire. You know, they're going to build a dam here, that factory is polluting the river… Those are all the consequence of our faith or our worldview, that sees the world is just an opportunity. And so I think that the fundamental crisis, the underlying root cause of our problem is that we've radically shifted in the way that we live on earth. For most of our existence, 95% of human existence, we were a nomadic hunter gatherer, we had to follow animals and plants do the seasons on their migration, carrying everything we owned. You know damn well you're deeply embedded in nature. And all of your ceremonies and in traditional cultures, their ceremonies are about thanking their creator for Mother Nature's abundance, and making a commitment to act properly in order to ensure that abundance will continue. That's what's needed, a recognition of a deeply embedded.. but we've elevated ourselves above all, we think that we're the top of the heap, and that everything is there for us to use in any way we can imagine. And now with environmentalism, oh, well, we have to be more careful. But we still are making that assumption-- we're at the top of the heap. So all of our solutions are all about serving us. We got to ensure jobs, we got to ensure the economy. We’ve got to ensure politically that… and we're not seeing that the deeper underlying thing is the way that we live on this planet

Linda: A species wide problem of humans, Homo Sapiens.

David: What educated people call ecocentrism versus anthropocentrism. And we've become totally narcissistic. And Donald Trump, to me, is the ultimate expression of that kind of narcissism. Me, me, me. Screw anybody else is not about me, me, me.

Severn:
Well, I'm all about action. That's why I joined the David Suzuki Foundation. I'm all in. I understand the vision, I believe in where we have to go. And I think the time is now. So I guess I would say you know, you have to ask people that you interview, people like us, who you interview-- What are you going to do tomorrow to start working towards your vision? And yeah, that's why I joined the DSF. I want to be part of the climate transformation. I've been talking about climate change almost my whole life, I'm ready for the transformation. And I think society is due to see the youth in the streets the last few years. You know, taking this discussion about intergenerational justice to a global level is absolutely humbling and inspiring. And I think that the parents and grandparents generations and auntie and uncle generations, you know, we're all we all have to respond to that. And then with COVID, you know, we all realize it's not about money, it's about community, it's about living a life that's meaningful. And it's about well being. I mean, if you don't have those things, you don't really have very much. So we're ready for this transformation. And this is what I am excited to be part of at the DSF. We also have to have resilient ecosystems. And so upholding supporting nature, towards the resilience that we're going to need to address, the climate changes that are happening right now is essential. That's also DSF work, what we're working towards. And then we have to be true allies. Not just allies, but accomplices to First Nations, Indigenous, Metis people. We have to figure out a way of empowering people in their place, helping them to be the rightful owners and stewards of their lands. And we have to make sure that there's economic, or there's opportunities, I should say, because I think our economics are going to shift what the definition of that means. But opportunities that mean that humans can thrive, and nature can thrive. And that's the work that I'm hoping we can execute at DSF. And there's an incredible legacy here at this institution towards that work. That's what I'm going to do tomorrow towards this vision.

Linda: David, Severn, thank you so much for being here with us today.

David:

Well, thank you very much. I, you know, I feel that what you see here is also an elder with young people. I mean, Severn represents that young faction. Greta really called it out saying, you know, if you take the science seriously, I don't have a future. And that message has been taken up by youth now who realize that it's their future that's at stake. And I think that elders, you know, I'm part of the generation that created the problem and didn't think long enough ahead. But we don't have a stake in the status quo. Changes are going to be tremendous. And young people have lived all their lives in this hyper consumptive way of living. I think elders have a role as well to say, “No, you know, you can live rich, full lives, and we can tell you about the way that we lived, that the values that we had”, and I think elders and youth now can be a very powerful combination.

Severn: Agreed. elders and youth are always a powerful combination. That's always the way it's been

In our last episode, Canada’s National Observer founder Linda Solomon Wood sat down with climate action icons David Suzuki and Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Here’s their conversation in full.

Credits:

With help this week from Rheanna Toy and Aftertouch Audio. Communications by Suzanne Dhaliwal.