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

City shifts proposed transit station to King George after cancellation of LRT

Council to consider Newton Town Centre plan in fall

VIDEO: Plane makes forced landing on Highway 17 in Surrey

Police say no one was injured and no damage to aircraft or vehicles

The struggle for space inside Surrey’s elementary schools

SECOND IN A SERIES: A look at how overcrowding impacts student life

Nearly 200 motorcycles take off from Cloverdale for Brenden’s Ride

Annual fundraiser supports programs that empower people with disabilities

Surrey Schools estimates $350K for tampon, pad dispenser installation

District aims to have equipment set up by October or November

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Most Read