Well-known environmentalist David Suzuki is standing by his comments over the weekend in which he said he thinks pipelines will be blown up if global leaders fail to act on climate change.
Suzuki spoke at an Extinction Rebellion protest in downtown Victoria Saturday, which saw hundreds of people march from Centennial Square to the B.C. Legislature while demanding the government do more to address the ongoing climate emergency.
“There are going to be pipelines blowing up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on,” Suzuki told CHEK News on Saturday without elaborating further.
His remarks set off a firestorm on social media, with many expressing concern that the prominent Canadian’s comments could incite acts of violence.
They even prompted a response from B.C.’s public safety minister on Monday.
“I think statements like that are not helpful. I think that’s just not helpful at all,” said Mike Farnworth. “Have a climate action plan. That’s the way forward, that’s the way we’re going to address climate change. Not by making statements that alarm people or cause concern.”
Farnworth added that the comments are especially unhelpful at a time where “thousands of individuals have been displaced” in the province due to catastrophic flooding.
Suzuki clarified his comments Monday in a follow-up interview with CHEK News.
“We’ve come to a time where civil disobedience is what we have to do now — to put our bodies on the line — because if we don’t do this, then I fear what the next stage will be, which will be people will start to blow up pipelines,” he said.
Suzuki said it was “absurd” people would think he was inciting violence, but despite the uproar, he said he does not regret what he said.
“No, of course not. I meant it. I said it. I regret that the media … would take the context of that article, which was a fine report, and put the headline then that totally slants it as if I’m inciting violence. It’s exactly the opposite of what I was trying to say,” he said.
But critics like BC Liberal leadership candidate Ellis Ross said Monday that Suzuki knew exactly what he was doing.
“Let’s be clear. People in leadership positions or high profile positions know full well the power of their words. You can’t tell me he didn’t know exactly what he was inferring,” said Ross.
Calling them “irresponsible,” Ross said the comments come at a time when people are “feeling vulnerable, very stressed, and they’re looking for ways to unleash their stress.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole spoke out against Suzuki’s remarks Monday, saying it was “dangerous and undemocratic” rhetoric, while Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said they should be “condemned universally.”
This type of rhetoric is dangerous and undemocratic. It implies that energy workers and infrastructure should be targets for acts of terrorism. All political leaders should unreservedly condemn this statement. https://t.co/BRXSFPak0x
— Erin O’Toole (@erinotoole) November 22, 2021
This incitement to violence by David Suzuki is dangerous, and should be condemned universally.
In Canada we resolve our differences peacefully and democratically, not with threats of terrorism or acts of violence.https://t.co/6qFXmgvOam
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) November 22, 2021
The David Suzuki Foundation was in damage control mode Monday and tweeted that when David speaks publicly, it’s on his own behalf and not on behalf of the foundation.
“We have been in touch with David: he has confirmed that this comment was NOT a direct threat to destroy fossil fuel infrastructure,” the foundation said.
“David Suzuki has been predicting environmental consequences for decades. Similarly, this comment was a predictive reflection on the escalating stakes and potential for conflict due to the effects of human-caused climate change.”
The foundation said that recent disasters like heat domes, wildfires, and flooding come as the government is “digging into an expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure” that includes LNG plants and pipelines.
It said Suzuki’s comments were merely reflecting frustration by others toward that contradiction “and the conflict that could lie ahead if we aren’t able to address our dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel reliance.”
We have been in touch with David: he has confirmed that this comment was NOT a direct threat to destroy fossil fuel infrastructure. (2/7)
— David Suzuki FDN (@DavidSuzukiFDN) November 22, 2021
Saturday’s protest followed the COP26 climate change conference in Scotland, which organizers and Suzuki said fell short of what was needed, and days after devastating floods and mudslides that have continued to devastate many parts of British Columbia.