In a speech to students, David Suzuki condemned society’s fixation with money. So why did he charge their school more for a day’s work than many Canadians earn in a year?

The story of David Suzuki’s visit to a Quebec school last October has several components. I’ve already written about the attractive, female, student bodyguards assigned to escort him around.

Another concern is the behaviour of school officials. There’s eyebrow-raising info still to come in that regard, but I continue to await a response to some questions I’ve posed to John Abbott College.

A third component is: What did Suzuki say to those thousands of impressionable young minds? (Morning classes were cancelled for 1,600 John Abbott students so they could be present at his 10 am talk in the auditorium. An additional 13,000 high school students watched via video streaming.)

No transcripts are available, so we must rely on media reports from that time. According to the reporter for Première Edition, Suzuki’s message to students was a “frightening” one.

Environmentalists have been claiming, since at least 1970, that the current generation “will be the last one with a chance to do anything” about rescuing the ecosystem.

But that didn’t prevent Suzuki from insisting, one more time, that this is the case. The newspaper quotes him:

You see we are at an absolutely critical moment in all of human history when what we do or do not do in the next few years will very well determine whether we survive as a species on this planet.

According to the newspaper, Suzuki told students that society suffers from an unsustainable fixation with money and consumption. “Money isn’t what matters,” he said. According to the reporter, he also said that money is “not what makes him happy.”

If that’s true why did he send the college a $30,000 bill a week earlier?

According to Statistics Canada, in 2010 the median annual income in this country was $29,250. In other words, a man who goes around proclaiming that money doesn’t matter charged more for a day’s work than half of us earn in an entire year.

Those dollars didn’t come from a wealthy corporation. They came from a school. Which means that John Abbott College now has $30,000 less to spend on its students.

And the man who says he doesn’t care about money has $30,000 more in his own bank account.

Once you start to notice, it’s distressing how often Suzuki pontificates about economic matters. The Concordian, a student newspaper at a nearby university, reported that Suzuki

finished by speaking about the economic market as a major factor in the environmental debate today. “If it’s not working we can change the market, we can’t change the laws of nature but we can sure as hell change the things that we invent.”

According to the Montreal Gazette, Suzuki lamented that the “laws of nature have been replaced by the laws of the marketplace.” Here are a few more of his thoughts:

Young people can’t want the next iPad. That’s just not part of the new future.The state my generation and the baby-boomer generation left the planet in for the younger generations is immoral. We partied like there was no tomorrow. Bigger houses, bigger cars, lots and lots of stuff.

The man is a geneticist by training. He has no expertise in economics. So when he talks about the marketplace, economic growth, technology, or the future what we are hearing is his personal, philosophical, political, and even spiritual point-of-view.

He’s entitled to that point-of-view. The question is why adults in the education system think that students need to hear it one more time.

Suzuki is the author of dozens of books. Nineteen of those are for children. Newspapers have been publishing his columns for decades. He has been employed by the publicly-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for years – both its radio, and its television, arm.

It’s not as though young people don’t know who David Suzuki is. It’s not as if they haven’t been exposed to his worldview on many, many occasions.

Why, then, did a school spend a total of $41,640.80 to subject its students to Suzuki’s highly predictable – and largely personal – opinions yet again?


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