In writing the “Suzuki Diaries Road-Trip Fails To Find Sustainability” http://ecologicalcrash.blogspot.com Brishen Hoff has written the definitive holistic expose of David Suzuki. He has savaged the hypocrisy of his ideology, his organization and his lifestyle. This is what the public needs to hear. Not more religion. Not more comfort. Not another hagiography. BUT THE TRUTH! Why would anybody think that the truth about 9/11 would have to be exposed but the truth about David Suzuki should have to be hidden? Hidden to just to keep the faithful faithful?
Roll back the time clock. Would we hide the truth about the Show Trials and the Gulags just to keep morale up in the Party so it could go on to fight the next election in solidarity? That is the way French Communists like Jean Paul Sartre thought. Fundamentalist Christians were outraged that the press caught Jimmy Swaggart in a motel with a prostitute. Guess that should have been kept quiet. Same thing with presidential hopeful Gary Hart and his affair. How dare the media hurt the chances of getting a Democrat into the White House. And I suppose that is why the press let JFK get away with murder.
If there is anything libelous in Hoff’s article, I don’t see it. But let’s insert something anyway. Let’s lure Suzuki into court. Then we would finally have the podium we craved to expose him for what he is---a cowardly hypocrite and phony. A jet-setting commuter who sired 5 children who emit 23 metric tonnes of GHG each by the Canadian average, who owns two homes 120 miles, two ferry rides and two hours driving apart and hunts and fishes above the limit, yet pontificates about limits, but enjoys sanctuary from criticism? A man who walks out of a classroom and into the forest and tells men who spend their lives in the woods that they don’t know anything about forestry because they don’t have a degree? A man who tells the working poor of Canada that the NDP is wrong to oppose a carbon tax because CBC celebrities with two waterfront homes who earn lecture fees and sell books never had to drive a beater or worry about paying for a retro-fit or outfitting his roof with solar panels? Whose daughter grows up in the ritzy bourgeois side of Vancouver and tells an audience in Rio that working class kids in Vancouver East like me who shared a 950 square foot house covered in tar paper and lacking a fridge with 4 adults and 2 brothers were part of the “privileged” society to which she belonged?
After we are done with Suzuki, lets turn on the rest of the Green pantheon. Lets sic the paparazzi on them. Oh what corruption they would find. Preachers who tell us exactly what the ruling class told my father’s generation, the working class, in the 1930s. Instead of the modern mantra of “Cut back your consumption”, it was “Tighten your belt!”. As my Dad said. “It was always our belts that were being tightened---especially around our necks.” And when the war came, even when rationing came, the fat cats still managed to line their guts. Then after the war, when inflation reared its ugly head, the cry came out from the privileged Suzuki class: “hold the line on inflation”. Again my Dad said, “Yeah, sure, the workers will hold the line alright, as soon as we can get a hold of it. Meanwhile they have run away with it by their capital gains---they don’t depend on wages to get by like we do, they goddam well own everything.” But what did my Dad know. As Erich Jacoby-Hawkins would say, he didn’t do peer-reviewed research. He had to leave school at age 14 to work down a mine shaft and had only his one pair of eyes to understand how the world worked. Still, I had more confidence in his observational powers than I do in that of Dr. Rees, Dr. Suzuki or Erich Jacoby-Hawkins.
When I was a young lad in the 50s I remember my father making a sad reflection: “The history of British Columbia is the history of ghost towns.” He took me to many of them. Towns that grew up around spectacular mineral finds. People invested their lives in these communities. Churches, community halls, theatres, arenas. Some of them had populations that rivaled anything in California. Then suddenly after the companies had ravished the surrounding countryside and milked the mine or denuded the hillsides of timber, or the price of the commodity fell in a market downturn, the company dropped the town like a hot potato and the people were left high and dry, their homes worthless. Had there been an environmental group a century ago to intercept the process it would have scape-goated as the culprit. But my father knew that it was the company, and its directors in New York, the men who didn’t care and who still don’t care, who were to blame. Not the workers who worked under them, the slaves like him and his brothers, who wielded a pick axe a mile under ground as a teenager only to live attached to an oxygen tank during his last two decades coughing up phlegm because the ore fragments discharged from the underground drilling destroyed his lungs like they did his brothers and the landscape around the pits. He was entitled to some material recompense for this sacrifice, not the moralizing of an affluent celebrity hypocrite preaching that “we” should live within our ecological limits.
The toll that mining took on his lungs was so evident that it chased him into the even more dangerous work of falling. Half of the funding for the buildings, the laboratories, the salaries and the books for Suzuki’s UBC Biology studies were provided by BC forest workers. Dirty, dangerous, exhausting work. I know, worked in the woods briefly alongside my brother. My cousin married a logger when they were both 18. Six months later we were both back in the same church for her husband’s funeral. He was yet another faller killed on the job, just a kid. I will never forget the words of the union president who gave the eulogy. “More loggers have died in the woods in this province than have died in both world wars combined.” And that was up to 1964. Yes, they have logged unsustainably. The evidence is manifest. But under whose instruction? And who has reaped the reward? Did my father’s generation see the money? Were they consulted about forest management? Has Suzuki and or the yuppie class of environmentalists ever cared about the sustainability of workers mortgages? By plugging into their concerns, and their ideas about how to manage the resource and coming down from his high pompous horse Suzuki might be better received. But his ego would need major deflation. A start would be to look at himself rather than at at the serfs. In other words, stop blaming the workers for living high on the hog and instead realize that there are too many hogs. As James Lovelock said, if we only had as many people as we did in the 18th century, it wouldn’t matter what energy source we used. It is not about reducing per capita consumption, it is about reducing the number of capitas.
Some think that industrial loggers are as callous as their New York puppeteers. Many or perhaps, most, of them are. But many of them aren’t . My father and my uncles, and my brother and some of the loggers I know work in the woods because they love nature. They love what they see. They try to do the best that they can to mitigate the damage done. My brother was a hand logger and his selective logging was a masterpiece. But in some situations, selective logging is a dangerous impossibility. One thing is for certain, the prescriptions and judgments Suzuki makes, and Severn Suzuki makes, are often those of upper middle class people. People from other class backgrounds and predicaments and other working experiences have things to tell him that he is not interested in hearing. And that goes for the Sierra Club too. And us as well. Poor people don’t just chop down jungle cover for fun. They do it for a reason. It doesn’t hurt to find out why. Just as it doesn’t hurt to find out why people feel compelled to emigrate to Canada instead of spending all of our time trying to keep them out. Keeping them where they are might be easier than just focusing on stopping them from getting in and less expensive too. Scrapping an iniquitous trade agreement that puts them in a hammerlock and drives them off the land is less costly than border patrols and refugee screening. Making our foreign aid conditional on family planning would diminish a major “push” factor---overpopulation---to emigrate to such countries as Canada. If we think controlling immigration is a problem now with only 3% of the global population on the move, what would it be like if say, 10% were on the move? Building higher and stronger walls, while necessary, can only do so much. But ironically closing the borders to all but a trickle would free up so much of our federal budget that we could double our UN foreign aid commitment and heal some of the environmental damage wrought by immigration at home at the same time.
Greens are insistent that Canada take an interest in solving other nation’s problems, as they rebound on us. True. It is a pity that they won’t take the same interest in the poor and working class side of their own country, whose interests are threatened by Green open immigration policies. Policies which would vastly grow the labour pool and lower wages and displace jobs as well as have negative environmental effects. Impacts that Dr Suzuki never speaks of publicly. In Australia, he is bold as brass about the perils of population growth. It is so easy to complain about your wife to the bartender, but when you get home, you are speechless.
There is a reason that the NDP polled nearly three times as many votes as the Greens in those regions where people have environmental concerns. It is because many or most of the people who have those kinds of concerns are not of Suzuki’s class. They are blue collar, not white collar. They have a collective genetic memory of bosses telling them to suck it up for the good of the company. That it is their fault that the company is going into the tank. And when the lecture is over, they see the boss drive off in a limousine. Instinctively blue collar voters know what to tell Suzuki and the Greens and where to shove their carbon tax. A better idea would be a head tax on every immigrant that would subsidize vasectomies and condoms in addition to tax benefits for childless families. That would be an effective climate change strategy.
When Brishen attacks Suzuki he attacks a hero. But not a working class hero. Not my fucking hero.