Wednesday, March 30, 2011

David Suzuki’s Environmentalist War on Perfume

David Suzuki, a former fruit fly geneticist, is now an aging television celebrity thanks to the government-funded largess of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (where he hosts The Nature of Things). Suzuki is a standard-issue environmental scold. Lately he has trumpeted his harangues from the ramparts of the modestly named David Suzuki Foundation.

Suzuki is also an environmental hypocrite of Al Gore proportions. While he lectures the rest of us on the importance of sustainability he owns a big second home on a large property in a pricey area of Vancouver. He has not one, not two, not three, not four, but five children. During a recent speaking tour, his large diesel bus was left idling during his lectures.

And then there are the little touches: behaving like a douchebag at his own book signings and calling for the jailing of politicians who don’t toe his particular line of climate science. David Suzuki’s smug self-satisfaction did not develop late in life; here is a video of him preening before a bunch of adoring undergraduates in the 1960s. They love it when he compares humans to maggots—wow, man, that’s like, so deep.

How does Suzuki light up our radar here at FirstNerve? Certainly not through his knowledge of smell and odor perception. You Are the Earth: Know the Planet So You Can Make It Better, is a book for elementary school kids that Suzuki co-authored with Kathy Vanderlinden. On page 16 we find this gem of misinformation:
“As the air rushes along the nasal chamber, getting warmed and moistened, it passes the olfactory bulb. This area sends messages to the brain about the odor of the air coming in.
The only way air rushes past your olfactory bulb is if the base of your skull is fractured and your brain is exposed. If Dr. Suzuki doesn’t understand the basic anatomy of olfaction, how far can we trust him on any other smelly topic?

Two weeks ago we were treated to another bit of his patented finger-wagging: an editorial titled "Has your workplace gone fragrance-free yet?" In it, Suzuki and one of his foundation’s
dronescommunication specialists blamed everything from sneezing to cancer on fragrance chemicals—not one of which do they bother to mention by name. (Smear much?)

This latest eco-alarmism is a follow up to last October’s “news story” carried by Suzuki’s ever-obliging enablers at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “David Suzuki targets ‘dirty dozen’ toxic ingredients”.

The “news story” is a completely uncritical account of “a chemical survey” conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation. The story quotes from the foundation report, from a foundation spokeswoman, and no one else. The graphic slugged “The Dirty Dozen” is reprinted in full, “courtesy the David Suzuki Foundation.”

You might think a “chemical survey” is carried out by experts in a laboratory with, you know, chemicals. Silly you. The Suzuki survey was conducted online. They posted their “dirty dozen” list—ingredients which the Suzuki Foundation alleges are harmful to humans or “to fish and other wildlife”—and asked people to search for those ingredients in consumer products in their homes. A total of 6,200 people responded with 12,550 products, many of which contained the specified ingredients. All of which proves . . . absolutely fucking nothing.

Suzuki foundation logic runs like this: we think these widely used ingredients are bad; by asking a lot of anonymous people on the internet, we’ve determined that these ingredients are widely used. Therefore they should be banned. Because we think they’re bad.

This is not science. This is not even an argument. This is a seventy-five-year-old man’s tantrum.

David Suzuki is to environmentalism what Hugh Hefner is to sex: a gibbering, dessicated parody kept in the public eye by a compliant media pushing a progressive agenda.


JoanElaine said...

Suzuki is practically a saint in Canada, where I live.

I am so tired of him, his crusading daughter and his tabloid science show "The Nature of Things".

Michael said...

Wow, overreact much? The only thing you missed out on was making the internet-standard comparison to Hitler.

Avery Gilbert said...


I notice Saint Suzuki has worn out his welcome with a lot of Canadian bloggers.

Be sure not to light any incense at his shrine . . .

Avery Gilbert said...


Awesome comment: it totally negates itself.

EdC said...

It doesn't look like he made up his 'dirty dozen.' More like he copied it from some standard source. There's a lot of "suspected" and "may cause..." in the explanations for why these things are bad.

You really have to complain about
"7 – Parfum. Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics. Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife." The listed ingredient *might* contain something that *might* be harmfull.

Unknown said...

"As the air rushes along the nasal chamber, getting warmed and moistened, it passes the olfactory bulb. This area sends messages to the brain about the odor of the air coming in."

Don't be so negative. Maybe this happens to be true in his case because of the hole in his head! It certainly sounds like it may be the case here.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why environmentalists are suspected to be black-hearted villains. Agree or not, irritated or not, at least it calls attention to pathways in our lives we shouldn't just blindly accept. I'm reminded of the crappy reception Rachel Carson received. That lady changed how North American accept pesticides. Seems like heavy work.

Avery Gilbert said...


I agree--Suzuki's "dirty dozen" list is not well substantiated and he didn't even do the work to come up with it. It's almost as if environmental activists don't really expect their claims to be examined skeptically.

When Sen. Joe McCarthy waved a piece of paper and claimed to have a list of 200 known Communists in the State Department, there was such outrage that the smear tactic is forever linked with his name. David Suzuki waves a "dirty dozen" list and 6,200 people rush to support his smear.

When did the world turn upside down?

Avery Gilbert said...



Avery Gilbert said...


I didn't accuse anyone of being "a black hearted villain."

For argument's sake, let's grant that Rachel Carson campaigned against DDT with the best of intentions. You say it changed the way North Americans think about pesticide. OK. Others say it cost the lives of millions of Africans who subsequently died of malaria.

Rachel Carson's dubious legacy is an excellent reason to remain skeptical about environmentalist crusades.