David Suzuki leads community engagement initiative

David Suzuki leads community engagement initiative

It helps to have a celebrated Canadian icon like David Suzuki to lead a community engagement initiative.

To date, more than 200,000 people have signed up for David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge which asks people to pick at least three of 10 steps people can take to help conserve nature and improve our quality of life.

Suzuki, an award-winning scientist, environmentalist, broadcaster and author of more than 30 books, is the primary reason for the impressive response, says Lorena Dexter, nature challenge outreach specialist for The David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver.

“We are luckier than most because a national icon promotes our challenge,” Dexter says.

Suzuki is always giving speeches to audiences of 800 to 1,000 people and he always promotes the challenge, Dexter says. “He is our best advertisement and you can’t buy that kind of exposure.”

It was Suzuki’s community engagement practices that sparked the creation of the challenge in 2002.

At the end of every one of his speeches on environmental issues, people kept coming up to him and asking 'what can I do?', Dexter explain.

Suzuki said he wished he had one simple thing he could tell people they could do, so he and the foundation decided to do some research on the subject.

Their work is modelled on a detailed scientific study prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which identified the categories of spending, by U.S. households that caused the greatest environmental damage.

Working with Canadian experts and scientists, the Suzuki Foundation reviewed the American study and developed a comparable analysis based on Canadian information and circumstances. For the most part, consumption patterns and environmental challenges are similar in the two countries, they discovered.

The 10 activities listed are simple steps that can make a difference, especially if enough Canadians participate, Dexter says. “We encourage people to share the good news with others and they have been doing that.”

The challenge began with a cross-Canada concert tour and “snowballed from there,” Dexter says. Canadian authors, musicians and athletes are now ambassadors for the challenge.

Recording artists Nelly Furtado, K-OS, Randy Bachman, Bruce Cockburn and Sam Roberts; Olympic gold medallists Simon Whitfield and Chantal Petticlerc, and authors Margaret Atwood and Robert Munsch are among those have taken the challenge and have actively promoted it.

For more information on the Nature Challenge and to sign up for it, go to www.davidsuzuki.org

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John Driscoll

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