I have written a lot of scathing articles about Suzuki. I live in the same small community where he has a residence (2700 people). But my antipathies are not personal. And they are not founded on a difference in how calamitous we judge our situation to be or how differently we judge its cause to be. It turns out, we are probably in total agreement about how close we are to disaster and about the role of immigrant-driven population growth as agency of that disaster in Canada. And of the role of population growth in the global environmental meltdown.
The issue I have with Suzuki and Bill Rees is their lack of courage. They have such a fund of celebrity to draw upon that they could afford to part with some of it, a large part of it, to come out publicly against immigration as they have privately. But they won’t. It is as if they know that someone is planning to commandeer a plane and fly it into the twin towers in Manhattan but they won’t tell the FBI, only a friend or two in private.
Rees conceded to me, after 3 days of debate, that yes OK, “in present circumstances” he would like to see a reduction in immigration. Imagine how a public statement from him would have helped our cause during the election. Suzuki told the Population Institute of Canada in a letter last year “keep up the good work.” Imagine how it would have helped us if he had published a letter in the Globe and Mail during the election praising the Population Institute of Canada for its good work in trying to lobby Ottawa to implement a population plan for Canada that would stabilize our population. But he didn’t do it.
Last week he told an interviewer that industrialized countries were “way over-populated”. Imagine if he published a letter in the Toronto Sun and said plainly that CANADA was WAY OVERPOPULATED? Two years ago at this time he told an Australian national radio audience that Australia was over-populated. Why hasn’t he had the courage to give the same message in his own country? If Australia is in overshoot, so are we.
When I see Robert Bateman coming out and putting his head on the public chopping block by making a statement against population growth in Canada, I then realized that David Suzuki had no excuse at all for cowardice. I have a tough time respecting someone with a waterfront home on the Gulf Islands, another in Kitsilano, a handsome income, vast connections, the support of a large family and a network of friends, who refuses to come out of the closet on an issue that he has given private indications he believes in. Immigration has profoundly negative impacts on the environment.
I come from a working class background. Miners, loggers, carpenters, postal workers. We fought and laid down our bodies on the picket lines and risked our livelihoods many, many times on matters of principle. Told the boss to shove it on innumerable occasions. Three uncles faced fascist guns and one didn't come back. It is always confounding to meet people without guts. I can excuse ignorance, or people not yet fully enlightened, or people who don’t share my perspective. Because I have changed my position many times as well. But I would never sit on the truth and be afraid to announce it. And I have paid a heavy cost for that commitment.
I too was of the belief that a courteous gentile approach was the best way to coax support from William Rees, but after three days of discussions in the spring of 2007 and 3 days in the summer of 2008, we were no closer to the truth. He proven evasive and non-committal, an unreconstructed Monbiotist. Steve Hazell also proved to be a public relations exercise. He talked a very good game. He came on to me like the Michael Gorbachev of the Sierra Club. He was a convert to Malthus, and was determined to re-introduce the Sierra Club to the importance of population growth in Canada. Once it was clear that I would no longer attack the Sierra Club and stop being a “rabid dog” as someone put it, once I held out the olive branch to his conversion, he lost interest, and I never heard from him again. I should have known better. Any union negotiator will tell you that is only when the other side is afraid of you that you win any concessions.
Perhaps Dr. Suzuki is inhibited by fundraising considerations. Well, welcome to the blue collar world, where union men put their mortgages on the line and their seniority as well to walk off the job and turn down their paychecks. Some people are willing to sacrifice more than funding for their principles. Some Canadians in Afghanistan sacrificed their lives, as did so many more in the last war. I wouldn't ask Dr. Suzuki to give up his life, only to publicly reveal his private opinions on immigration. To make the same sacrifice that Robert Bateman made when he publicly wrote these words:
"In my view every place in the world, including Canada, is overcrowded. Many vast areas on this planet, including Canada, are not ecologically suitable for human habitation or exploitation. They should be largely left to nature! Environmental organizations and activists are constantly fighting against certain developments and rightly so. But they virtually never mention the elephant in the room . . . too many people. The silence is puzzling and deafening.
The longer this discussion is postponed, the worse the problems we face will become. We need to find a way to end the worship of growth."
As Charles Dickens said, without courage, every other virtue is of no avail.