There’s 2 problems with interviewing David Suzuki when you’re at a big media bash:
a) it’s really, really loud and b) waiters keep thrusting trays of food in your face begging you to eat.
So as we started chatting, grilled cheese, mini sliders and the perennial favourite, meat on a stick, were politely refused.
And while I’m standing there, face to face with this living icon, I can’t get the song my friend Dinah Christie wrote about him out of my head. I think I was humming it through the first few passes of food trays, so when he asks me what I’m doing I tell him.
“I love Dinah!” he exclaims. “Tell her I say hi.”
It truly is a small world.
I wish I had the song to play for you, but Dinah only performs it live. Maybe I can convince her to You Tube it… but back to Suzuki. He’s one of those people who really does have a glow around him. He just has an amazing presence. And here’s a man we all adore and revere, but I wonder, have any of us really heeded what he’s said?
“For an Urban Mom,” says David, “the biggest challenge is everybody’s so busy, the kids aren’t getting outside. And I don’t know if you know Richard Louv’s book The Last Child in the Woods, but what he’s done is coin a term ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’. He lumps hyperactivity, bullying, attention deficit, a whole bunch of the behaviour problems into Nature Deficit Disorder, because when you take these kids with these problems out in the bush or out into nature, everything disappears.
So his position is that children need to be out in the wild somewhere and that’s a challenge in the city.”
He refuses the bruschetta that’s currently being presented, and gets a bit more personal instead.
“My newest grandson is Haida, First Nations, and so my daughter lives on the reserve, and it’s amazing how native people spoil their kids.”
Wait, I ask. Don’t we all?
“Ya, but I mean they’re excessive. All the kids have got the latest electronic stuff and I’m thinking, ‘God, here you live in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada…'”
I explain that my husband has never allowed video games in the house and has issued a permanent ban on them.
“Good for him. Should be the same thing with television too: limit what they watch on television. Just ‘The Nature of Things‘…”
He gives me that 1000-watt smile as he passes on the Portobello mushroom burgers and continues.
“You know, when I grew up as a boy in London, Ontario, I remember around 5:30pm back doors would open and people would yell “Mary!” “Johnny!” ’cause we were all out playing in ditches and parks. And now we say ‘oh well, there’s speeding cars and there might be some pervert’; I mean, we’ve made the city kid unfriendly.”
So I ask: Are there more crazy people now? Is it more dangerous?
“I don’t think so,” he responds shaking his head. “But since we’re having fewer and fewer children, each child is that much more precious. My great joy now is my grandson.”
Ok, if there were 3 things we could do right now as parents, what would they be?
“I think we have to get outside. To me, you won’t fight to protect something unless you love it.
I think we need to have mom and dad really taking elections more seriously. When 40% of us don’t vote, we don’t have a democracy. We had an election where the government got away with saying nothing about the environment. So parents have got to be thinking about what’s in store for their kids.
And I think we’ve got to start building local communities, becoming self-sufficient. Go out and get to know your neighbours. Build more urban gardens. If you work on your local community, that’s where the action is.”
He caves in when the sliders are presented yet again. I thank him and wish him well as I leave him to eat his burger in peace.
Maybe we’ll finally listen to him and do the same for our planet.