EDMONTON – Environmentalist David Suzuki says humans have become a “tectonic force” altering the planet because of their sheer numbers, advanced technology and consumption.
Suzuki told science students graduating from the University of Alberta that they must find a way to keep the Earth alive and healthy.
Suzuki did not directly address the controversy surrounding his receiving an honorary degree from the Edmonton university.
He did say everyone should be “scientifically literate” and universities are the place to debate ideas that often threaten the status quo.
Protesters gathered early outside the building where he received his degree.
The university announced in April that the longtime environmentalist and oilsands critic was one of 13 people who would be honoured at spring convocation.
That prompted complaints, as well as critical public letters from the university’s deans of business and engineering.
Some people protested that Suzuki’s anti-oilsands stance hurts Alberta and Canada and accused the host of televisions “The Nature of Things” of hypocrisy.
Donors and alumni, particularly those in the oil and gas industry, said they would withdraw donations and partnerships. One Calgary law firm said it was cancelling its annual $100,000 funding commitment to the university’s law school.
University president David Turpin said at the time that the school stood by its decision. He noted that knowledge and progress are built on the free exchange of ideas.
In an op-ed posted on his foundation’s website, Suzuki said that universities should be the place “to air a range of ideas about the geophysical, social and economic consequences of fossil fuel use.”