(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: David Suzuki has been a political activist, a scientist, a college professor, a television spokesman for science, and the latter part of his life he has been an environmentalist and a conservationist. At 75 he is retiring from much of his work and this documentary shows parts of his farewell lecture. He covers a broad spectrum of topics dear to him. He includes his past during WWII, when the Canadian government interned him for his Japanese roots. But the endeavor closest to his heart is preventing the world from committing environmental suicide. Intercut with the lecture is documentary coverage of his past and present. The film is a little diffuse to be fully effective. While his arguments will be familiar to many there is no question of the importance of his message. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

First, who is David Suzuki? I knew when I saw his face I had seen it before. He was probably one of the scientists explaining something about science on an episode perhaps of NOVA. I knew he was a respected voice in popular science. Suzuki was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and he hosted a Canadian science magazine program "The Nature of Things" which was not unlike our "Scientific American Frontiers". Suzuki is a very eloquent man with a gift for explaining science in terms that are easy to understand. A recurrent theme in the program was environmentalism and the need for conservation. He since has become an activist and a potent voice in the environmentalist movement as well as a communicator of the dangers of overpopulation. "We're in a giant car heading towards a brick wall," he says, "and everyone's arguing over where they're going to sit."

Director Sturla Gunnarsson covers Dr. Suzuki's last lecture, but also puts in documentary material around it. The lecture includes Suzuki's background, the political issues that have molded his life, his career as a scientist and educator, his television program, and finally his work as an environmental activist. As Suzuki explains that in his youth Japanese were rare in Canada. He talks about how even living in Canada the attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor was a defining influence in his life. Like the United States, Canada had internment camps for Japanese in spite of their being citizens. His college education was at Amherst College in Massachusetts and University of Chicago. He taught as a professor at the University of Alberta and later the University of British Columbia.

FORCE OF NATURE: THE DAVID SUZUKI MOVIE is an exploration of Suzuki's provocative ideas. Late in his life his focus has shifted from new scientific research, which he now sees as adding to a fund of knowledge that others might adapt and abuse. Now his focus is preserving the natural world so it is not destroyed for our descendents. To him humans do not live outside of nature and visit it; we humans are part of nature. His points go in several different directions. Humanity has become a major force of nature. He says that right now humans are driving species out of existence faster than any time in the last sixty-five million years. And pollution is part of the cause. He says each of us carries in our bodies several pounds of plastic picked up from the environment. And we are depleting our resources at increasing rates. But in this message he is both figuratively and occasionally literally a voice in the wilderness.

In total what we have is a complex portrait of a man ill-used by humanity in his youth and in this elder years still dedicated to convincing humanity to save itself. I rate FORCE OF NATURE: THE DAVID SUZUKI MOVIE a high +1 (on the -4 to +4 scale) or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper