Established by the biologist/zoologist David Suzuki and Harvard University English-language lecturer Tara Cullis, the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) grew out of Dr. Suzuki’s 1989 environmentalist radio series It’s a Matter of Survival, which predicted that the pollution generated by human industrial activity would ultimately result in worldwide climate catastrophe. The series prompted some 17,000 viewers to write letters to Suzuki, asking what steps they could take to help avert his dire forecast. In response, Suzuki and Cullis set out to create “a new, solutions-based organization,” which they incorporated as DSF on September 14, 1990.
One of DSF’s seminal documents is its 406-word “Declaration of Interdependence,” which expresses the Foundation’s “values as an organization.” Published in 1992 and presented at that year’s United Nations Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, this Declaration asserts that:
Emphasizing “that we are all interconnected and interdependent with nature,” DSF’s mission is to “protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future.” To achieve that goal, the Foundation has established five major programs:
1) The Climate Change Program, founded on the premise that “global warming is a serious problem,” works “to decrease carbon emissions in Canada.” A key initiative is its Trottier Energy Futures Project—named for the entrepreneur/philanthropist Lorne Trottier—which seeks to “identify energy systems that Canada should implement over the next few decades to achieve deep reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and minimize other environmental impacts.” Further, DSF counsels people who “add polluting emissions to the atmosphere” by way of any activity—travel, use of electricity, etc.—to “subtract” those emissions from their “net climate impact” by purchasing carbon offsets. The money used for those purchases would then be invested in projects—often in faraway locations—such as wind farms, solar-power installations, or energy-efficiency retrofits. Citing “the inevitability of an economy in which carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are regulated and taxed,” the Foundation urges political leaders to “implement” carbon taxes that would “make polluting activities more expensive and green solutions more affordable.”
2) DSF’s Health Program aims “to prevent pollutants and toxics from entering our bodies and our environment.” Of particular concern are chemicals found in personal-care products, and pesticides that are applied to lawns, garden vegetables, and house plants.
3) The Oceans Program warns that “the effects of industrial fishing, pollution, and climate change are having a major impact on our oceans.” It promotes sustainable fisheries, aquaculture (fresh- or salt-water farming of any fish or aquatic plant), the designation of marine protected areas, the practice of ecosystem-based management, and the development of “conservation and recovery plans for threatened and endangered species.”
4) The Wildlife & Habitat Program seeks to preserve a “diverse range of animals and plants”—on the premise that “we all depend on each other for survival.” “The forests provide humans with numerous services and resources, from lumber for our homes to the oxygen we breathe,” says DSF. “… Plants and soils store carbon, keeping it from the atmosphere, where it would contribute to climate change.”
5) The Freshwater Program works to protect water in two of Canada’s most important watersheds: the St Lawrence and the Fraser. It also aims to strengthen provincial laws in British Columbia to keep water ecosystems healthy.
According to a 2012 National Post report, DSF took in $81 million in revenues between 2000 and 2010. That total included $44 million from tax-receipted donations, $9 million from other charities, $25 million from unspecified gifts, and $3 million from such sources as investment and rental income, sales of goods and services, etc.
A number of U.S.-based foundations have supported DSF since approximately 1992. From the late 1990s through 2010, American foundations awarded at least 30 grants—with an average value of $267,000—to DSF. Among the top donors were the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($1.8 million), the David & Lucile Packard Foundation ($1.5 million), the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation ($1.7 million), the Wilburforce Foundation ($1 million), the Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($955,000), the Bullitt Foundation ($930,000), and Pew Charitable Trusts (at least $181,000).
Notably, DSF on numerous occasions has grossly underreported the amount of funding it has received from U.S. foundations. Says the the National Post:
“In 2004, the Suzuki foundation listed its largest donors, including U.S. foundations, as having contributed ‘more than $10,000,’ when in fact Hewlett granted $750,000 over three years, Packard granted $340,000 and the Lannan Foundation gave $375,000. In 2006, Suzuki’s foundation listed the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation as having contributed ‘more than $5,000.’ For that same year, Moore paid Suzuki’s foundation $570,868, tax returns show.”
DSF’s leading contributors in 2010 were the Cisco Systems Canada Company, the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation, the Keenan Family Research and Policy Fund in Sustainability, the Power Corporation of Canada, the Sitka Foundation, and the Trottier Family Foundation.
The largest portion of DSF’s budget—fully 29%—is allocated toward “public engagement,” meaning efforts to influence public opinion regarding issues of concern to the Foundation. In some instances, DSF has utilized popular figures such as Olympic athletes and professional hockey players to advocate for government environmental initiatives such as carbon taxation.
For additional information on DSF, click here.