"Why would anyone else be interested in my life? I know people like to delve into the hidden parts of the lives of people who have acquired some notoriety, hoping to find juicy bits of gossip, signs of weakness or faults that bring the subjects down off pedestals, or simply to expand on what one knows about a public figure. It's not my intension to satisfy that curiosity. Instead, as an "elder," I hope my reflection on one life may stir the reader to consider those thoughts in relation to his or her own life."
The above is found in the last paragraph of the preface of this book by geneticist and environmentalist, the TV host of the acclaimed long-running program "The Nature of Things with David Suzuki," the founder and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, and the author of more than forty books, David Suzuki (born 1936).
Suzuki explains the contents of his candid and honest book:
"This...is a story I have created by selectively dredging up bits and pieces from the detritus of seventy years of life. The first five chapters skim over the first fifty years...and the rest of the book describes events since then."
More specifically, the first five chapters begin with his childhood life in "racist British Columbia" in Canada, then goes on to his education in the U.S., his early career as a research geneticist, and his "new career" in radio then television. As the book proceeds, we see his transformation into environmental warrior where he recounts stories of his activism in British Columbia and eventually the Amazon, telling us of the plight of the indigenous peoples in this environmentally sensitive region.
In the second half of his book, he tells of his journeys to Australia. Suzuki fell "head over heels" for this country and says that "We [his second wife and him] have never regretted remaining in Canada, but we do feel privileged to be able to return to Australia again and again." He goes on to explain the establishment of the foundation named after him and describes some of its successes to date. Then he proceeds to tell us of his experiences at the Earth summit of 1992 and the world climate change conference held in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.
The last three chapters are especially interesting where Suzuki gives us his ruminations on science and technology, the cult of celebrity, and old age respectively.
Throughout the book, two things are apparent: Suzuki cares deeply for his family and his passion for environment. With regards to the latter, I thought I know a lot about what's happening to the environment, but I learned much more from reading this book. I think I learned so much because of Suzuki's first-hand observations that he eloquently details and his explanations of what's going on are easy to understand. (My assertion here is actually incredible when you think about it because this book is actually an autobiography and not an environmental science book.)
This autobiography is chatty, intimate, full of interesting stories, and remarkably honest. Suzuki's decency and sincerity shines through practically every sentence of his book.
Finally, the book is peppered with photographs. Even though he sees the "cult of celebrity" as "frightening," you'll see Suzuki in photographs with Canadian and U.S. celebrities such as Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Tom Cruise, and Jane Fonda. My favorite photo is the very last one that has him posing naked with only a fig leaf on. The caption reads:
"The notorious fig leaf shot for the show "Phallacies" for [his TV show] "The Nature of Things with David Suzuki."
In conclusion, this is an elegant account of the life of a man who evolved from an academic geneticist into a T.V. and radio personality, first popular in Canada, then the world!!
(first published 2006; preface; 18 chapters; main narrative 400 pages; index; photo credits)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>