Environmental, social justice leader David Suzuki to receive Inamori Ethics Prize

His tireless efforts to educate the public about the complexities of nature, to preserve the environment and to speak out against racism have earned David Suzuki of Vancouver, Canada, the 2012 Inamori Ethics Prize.  The announcement came today from the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University. He will receive the award during ceremonies on Thursday, Sept. 6, at Severance Hall.

Suzuki, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, has regaled audiences worldwide as the popular host of the CBC’s long-running series, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. He is also the author of 52 books, including 19 children’s books. His 2010 documentary, Force of Nature, won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.

“I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award,” Suzuki said. “It is wonderful to have this acknowledgement of the importance of the issues I’ve worked on for both the environment and social justice.”

Suzuki will be the fifth recipient of this distinguished honor, which recognizes exemplary ethical leadership that serves humankind, said Shannon French, director of the Inamori Center and the Inamori Professor of Ethics.

Born into a Japanese-Canadian family, Suzuki suffered internment in a Japanese-Canadian camp during World War II. It was there that he developed his reverence for the environment, finding solace in nature.

Like his commitment to the environment, Suzuki’s plans to change the world also started early. Suzuki became a social activist during his days at London Center Collegiate Institute in London, Ontario, where he led the student council. He continued his education in the United States at Amherst College, earning his bachelor’s degree in biology in 1958 and then his PhD in zoology at the University of Chicago in 1961.

His efforts to educate and preserve the environment have earned him international recognition and numerous awards. He is on the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global 500 Honor Roll and is the recipient of two of Canada’s highest honors: the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. In 2009 he was presented with the Honorary Right Livelihood Award, often described as the alternative Nobel Prize.

A short list of his acclaimed work in the field of radio and television include such programs as Quirks and Quarks, which he developed and then hosted from 1975 to 1979; Suzuki on Science, a children’s program that ran from 1971 to 1972; The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, which first aired in 1979 and now reaches more than 50 countries worldwide; the eight-part television series A Planet for the Taking; and the five-part series The Brain: Our Universe Within.

“Some people compare him to Carl Sagan for his ability to explain science to the public,” French said. “Through his work on the environment, he has passionately and energetically given a voice to voiceless—from indigenous people to endangered species to future generations.”

Through the work of the David Suzuki Foundation, efforts are underway to transform economies and slow climate change by reconnecting people with nature. The foundation focuses on preventing health issues due to pollution and toxins, preserving life in the oceans, maintaining natural and clean habitats and sustaining clean water sources.

The foundation has worked closely with the Ainu of Japan and indigenous peoples of Columbia and Brazil to protect salmon. Also among the foundation’s many initiatives are the impact study of a dam in Australia and restoration of a clam fishery for the Hesquiat people of Vancouver.

The Inamori Center was established with a generous gift from the Inamori Foundation. The center upholds the ideals of the foundation’s founder Kazuo Inamori, whose philosophy is to promote what is best for all humankind. Committees composed of Case Western Reserve University faculty, staff, students, and community partners selected Suzuki after an intensive review of nominations.

For more information about the ceremony and related activities, visit case.edu/events/inamori/.