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

Just Posted

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Stellar musicians, performers recognized at 54th Pacific Northwest Music Festival

More than 150 awards, scholarships given out to Northwest B.C. participants

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Northwest B.C. leaders divided over oil tanker ban

Senate hearings in Prince Rupert and Terrace show Bill C-48 is at a crossroads

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Most Read