Attending Burnaby Mountain pipeline protest that included the staged arrest of his grandson, David Suzuki is interviewed by Linda Solomon Wood, who authored a series of anti-oil sands articles for the Vancouver Observer, Nov. 23, 2014. (Twitter)

Attending Burnaby Mountain pipeline protest that included the staged arrest of his grandson, David Suzuki is interviewed by Linda Solomon Wood, who authored a series of anti-oil sands articles for the Vancouver Observer, Nov. 23, 2014. (Twitter)

B.C. VIEWS: David Suzuki has become the Don Cherry of TV science

Campaign against B.C. natural gas followed Alberta oil attack

This column was originally published on Feb. 25, 2013.

VICTORIA – He has a white beard and a bully pulpit on CBC television, but he doesn’t use it to promote hockey fighting.

Instead he sucker punches the oil and gas industry at every opportunity, with increasingly flagrant disregard for the rules of science. Public broadcasting referees keep their whistles in their pockets, wary of offending a legend.

He’s David Suzuki, and he has evolved from geneticist to TV celebrity to his current role as the Don Cherry of Canadian science, an angry curmudgeon lashing out at his enemies.

Earlier I wrote about Suzuki’s hit piece on the Alberta oil sands, featuring selective pollution studies and a celebrity turn by movie director James Cameron, who toured the alleged carbon crime scene in his personal jet helicopter.

Suzuki’s latest Scud missile of misinformation was launched Feb. 7 on The Nature of Things. It’s called “Shattered Ground,” and it borrows heavily from earlier shock docs that target hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas.

While clearly aimed at the surging shale gas industry in B.C., this hour-long program offers little about B.C.’s long history of gas development. Suzuki’s voice-over refers briefly to B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission, insinuating it was set up as a pet regulator protecting the industry from stricter oversight.

Mostly the show focuses on places like Dish, Texas and Dimock, Pennsylvania. The Texas segment talks about traces of neurotoxins in residents’ blood samples, blaming this on gas drilling and “fracking,” the new swear word of professional environmentalists.

The evidence shows some people have these traces in their blood, but others don’t, which suggests that more likely sources are cigarettes or exposure to disinfectants.

Pennsylvania and Colorado are key stops for the anti-fracking crowd. For centuries there have been places known for methane dissolved in groundwater, typically from shallow coal seams.

This is where you can find a rustic fellow to shake a jug of well water and touch his Bic lighter to it, producing a brief blue flame. The standard sequence moves to a sink and faucet, where a more impressive methane fireball is generated.

Suzuki’s voice-over notes that this is the scene that really gets media attention. There’s no evidence that drilling caused it, but hey, it’s TV. Science, meet Hillbilly Handfishin’.

Protest sequences take up much of the program. Moms rally against a gas well near a school in Erie, Pennsylvania, forcing evil Canadian corporation Encana to back off. An elderly Quebec woman sobs on camera, convinced that a nearby gas well will trigger a relapse of her cancer.

One bit of local content is a segment on fracking-induced earthquakes, presented with sombre alarm by Ben Parfitt, go-to researcher for the anti-industry left in B.C. These are detectable by sensitive instruments, as is the case with some mining and other industrial activities, but according to the Oil and Gas Commission, they don’t do any actual harm.

It should be noted that Suzuki doesn’t do much beyond reading a script on these shows. He has people to load up the propaganda weaponry, just as his ghostwriter in Toronto cranks out the relatively innocuous weekly columns that run in some Black Press publications.

In fairness, most episodes of The Nature of Things are in the original spirit of the show. A recent program on an ancient Egyptian aquifer, voiced by Suzuki over National Geographic video footage, would be appropriate for a high school classroom.

The same cannot be said for this anti-fracking screed, which is plainly and recklessly calculated to twist public opinion against a crucial B.C. industry.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Nisga’a Lisims Government has extended its state of local emergency. (File photo)
Nisga’a state of local emergency extended, vaccines delayed

There are 21 active COVID-19 cases in the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Terrace continues to have a high rate of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, according to this map which shows data from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9. (BC Centre for Disease Control)
Terrace, Nisga’a regions continue to have high rate of COVID-19 cases

Two more exposure notices posted for Terrace schools

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read