The paradigm shift
Our story begins in 1989, when David Suzuki‘s award-winning CBC radio series It’s a Matter of Survival sounded a worldwide alarm. Scientists had proven that human beings were having a larger — and more detrimental — impact on the Earth than any other species in history. It became clear that we needed to change the way we were living, consuming and thinking about our natural world.
More than 17,000 shocked listeners wrote letters to David Suzuki asking for ways to avert the impending environmental catastrophe. A movement was born.
The roots of our Foundation stem from this single, transformational paradigm shift: that respect for nature and interdependence with it must be our species’ top priority.
Solutions are in our nature
Following the radio series and the public reaction to it, David Suzuki and Tara Cullis hosted a gathering of a dozen thought leaders and activists on Pender Island, B.C., in November 1989. The group identified the need for a new solutions-based organization to tackle the environmental crisis. On September 14, 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation was incorporated.
Early projects focused on fisheries, forestry, species at risk, pesticides and the economics of sustainability. Highlights included international projects, as well as several projects working with Indigenous communities on Canada’s west coast.
With each of these projects, the Foundation partnered with local peoples to develop alternative, sustainable models of economic and community development. We realized that the history and teachings of First Nations offer Canadians a unique opportunity to learn how to be stewards of the lands and waters. We still have much to learn.
Over time, our work continued to expand — including increased focus on the urgent need to address human-caused climate change.
As Canadians, we are especially fortunate for the gifts and influence we enjoy, but we often underestimate the power we have to make positive change in this world. My parents Tara Cullis and David Suzuki have shown me all my life that there is so much one (or two!) people can do.
Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Incoming Executive Director
Spreading the word
Social change starts with awareness.
To complement our activism and on-the-ground public engagement work, the Foundation has worked with the David Suzuki Institute and Greystone Books to publish more than 60 books, many of which have won national and international awards.
In lead-up to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, we published a foundational text: The Declaration of Interdependence. “A heartfelt prayer for the preservation of the planet and a call to all people to become stewards of the earth,” The Declaration of Interdependence formed the Foundation’s guiding principles in its early years. Portions of the declaration were woven into the Earth Charter, which continues to gain adherents today.
Through all facets of traditional and emerging social media, we raise awareness of the most pressing environmental issues, and provide people with the tools they need to act. We enjoy daily communication with a growing online community of hundreds of thousands.
Growing the next generation of environmental stewards
Since 1990 — thanks to the support of our donors, partners, volunteers and staff — the David Suzuki Foundation has proven that science and traditional knowledge together light the way forward, and that we are capable of making real progress toward solving environmental challenges if we come together.
David and Tara have been instrumental in establishing our Foundation’s roots since the 1990s. Today, their daughters Severn and Sarika have assumed leadership positions as incoming executive director and honorary board member, respectively.