Photo: Foundation celebrates 20 years of finding solutions

The Foundation was formed in 1990 after a meeting with a dozen thinkers and activists in 1989 on Pender Island, BC

By Dr. Tara Cullis

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The 1980s were a decade of ferment and growth in the global environmental movement. Battles were won, but the war was being lost.

By 1989, public interest in the environment had reached an unprecedented zenith. Then David Suzuki's award-winning radio series It's a Matter of Survival sounded the alarm about where the planet was heading. More than 17,000 of David's shocked fans sent letters asking how to avert the catastrophe.

A group of people urged David and me to create a new solutions-based organization. That November, we hosted a gathering with a dozen thinkers and activists on Pender Island, B.C. By the end of the meeting, we knew something significant was afoot. And after many planning meetings, on September 14, 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation was incorporated.

Early projects were international because project dollars could go much further overseas. We worked with the Ainu of Japan to protect salmon and with the indigenous peoples of Colombia to protect their forests. In Brazil, we worked with the Kayapo people in a process that preserved the largest tropical forest protected by any indigenous group. We worked on a dam project in Australia and on restoring a clam fishery with the Hesquiat people of Vancouver Island.

With each of these projects, we partnered with local people to develop alternative models of economic and community development. We were working to balance human needs with Earth's ability to sustain life.

We learned how to fundraise, gradually building our core group of committed donors, many of whom remain our enthusiastic partners today. Their faith allowed us to dive into our locally based work in fisheries, forestry, sustainability, and climate change.

Now, 20 years after that first Pender Island meeting, the David Suzuki Foundation has become a strong and capable force. Volunteers, donors, and our dedicated staff sustain the organization and ensure that beneath the changes, the steady beat of the heart of the Foundation continues. Because of them, the Pender Island dream of 1989 is now reality.