By Nigel Hopkins
Renowned environmentalist, scientist and author Dr David Suzuki turned 80 just a few days after taking part in WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks program in March, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down or becoming less feisty.
On Tony Abbott being replaced as Australia’s Prime Minister for example: “I can’t imagine anyone worse,” he says from his home in Vancouver. “And from what I’ve read of Turnbull, he is not a climate denier. The question is what he can do given the constraints of his party.”
He’s even more direct about the demise of Stephen Harper as Canada’s PM and his replacement by Justin Trudeau: “For Canada, Harper’s departure has lifted an enormous dark cloud and virtually anyone else would have been a relief.”
“By his actions, Harper committed the crime of willful blindness and set the country way back when it comes to moving to a different energy future. It will cost more and take longer to change direction.
“But Trudeau has been thrown into a pressure cooker and responded magnificently. He is determined to take climate change seriously.”
Suzuki was the lead speaker at The Planet Talks, a series of thought-provoking live conversations about our environment and sustainable relationship with the planet, set under the tree-lined canopy of Botanic Park’s aptly named Speaker’s Corner.
He says he first attended WOMADelaide in 2005 as a guest of the then premier Mike Rann, often seen casually dressed in black jeans as a regular attendee at the festival. Despite his current overseas ambassadorial roles, Rann continues to return to Adelaide for each WOMADelaide as its unofficial ambassador.
“Before that, I had never heard of it, so I was blown away when I attended,” Suzuki says.
“I have many happy memories of WOMADelaide, from Korean female drummers to the late Richie Haven singing his famous song, Freedom.
“Adelaide, like Wellington in New Zealand, is a perfect-sized city for me. I enjoy being able to walk everywhere and I really hope when I return this time to find bike lanes everywhere. Adelaide, unlike Vancouver, my hometown, is flat so bikes ought to be the primary way of travelling in the city. If not, why?”
David Suzuki – a call for action
Not surprisingly, Suzuki made a call for action at The Planet Talks.
“This will be a chance to address a lot of citizens about the need for action. We will never deal properly with issues like climate change so long as we allow political boundaries and economic agendas to define and constrain the discussion.
“The challenge is to find an energy source that doesn’t have the problems of fossil fuels (climate change) or nuclear (waste disposal). The most abundant source is clearly sunlight – of which, by Canadian standards, Australia has an over-abundance. It is downright stupid for Australia not to be world leading in use of this energy source when you’ve got the raw material and an elite group of scientists to exploit it.”