Severn Cullis-Suzuki to become executive director of David Suzuki Foundation

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      The daughter of a world-famous environmentalist and science broadcaster—who is an environmental and cultural activist, author, and speaker—will head up his Vancouver-based foundation.

      The David Suzuki Foundation announced today (November 9) that Severn Cullis-Suzuki will become its executive director as of September 2021.

      Cullis-Suzuki lives on Haida Gwaii, where she helps to revitalize the Haida language of her husband Gudt’aawtis Judson Brown and their two children. She is currently completing a PhD in linguistic anthropology on the Haida language, and she has an academic background in evolutionary biology and ethnoecology.

      The nonprofit foundation was incorporated in 1990 and opened its first office in Vancouver, where it is based, and has offices in Toronto and Montreal.

      The foundation’s CEO Stephen Cornish had announced his resignation in September. He has been recruited to lead the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières international operations centre in Geneva, Switzerland, to address COVID-19. 

      Meanwhile, foundation COO Ian Bruce will serve as acting executive director until Cullis-Suzuki begins full-time in September.

      Cullis-Suzuki has been a board member for 14 years and has volunteered on several campaigns. She supported Canada’s first national youth-led climate lawsuit launched to protect the youth plaintiffs’ charter rights, and helped welcome climate activist Greta Thunberg to Vancouver for the lawsuit announcement and the #FridaysForFuture climate strike.

      “The science tells us we have just a decade to reduce emissions by half.” foundation board member and former Haida Nation president Miles Richardson stated in a news release. “The foundation has just launched a new and ambitious 10-year strategic plan. The 2020s must be a transformational decade. Severn is totally committed to that transformation.” 

      Cullis-Suzuki said she accepted the role with “humility and gratitude”, as well as “a sense of responsibility and urgency” about current issues.

      “COVID-19 has awakened societies to the reality that nature is the bottom line, that science and expertise are crucial to our survival, that we are all connected and that each of our actions matter,” Cullis-Suzuki stated in a news release. “These are all tenets of the foundation, and reasons why this organization will play a critical role in advancing our transformation to an economy characterized by clean energy, justice and strong ecosystems. This is a moment for all of us to step up and help shift humanity toward survival. I’m going to do all I can to contribute.”

      When she was in Grade 5, Cullis-Suzuki and her friends started the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO).

      Twenty-seven years before Greta Thunberg made her famous speech in 2019 addressing world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Cullis-Suzuki, at age 12, made international headlines when she gave a speech at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 to address the adults of the world.

      As a teenager, Cullis-Suzuki was appointed to the Earth Charter Commission, and continues to be on the Earth Charter International Council.

      In 2017, Severn and her ECO friends marked the 25th anniversary of their trip to the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio and her speech that “silenced the world for five minutes” in an anniversary video project involving youth of today.

      Meanwhile, her father marked the launch of the 60th season of The Nature of Things, which he has hosted since 1979, on CBC on November 6.

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