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New David Suzuki show


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Balancing act


It's the nature of the beast.

Hit the road, promote your show. So it's no surprise that, while famed Canadian scientist David Suzuki is endlessly enthusiastic about his four-hour documentary epic The Sacred Balance, he's also worn out.

Not just because he's been tirelessly stumping for the CBC series that debuts tomorrow at 9 p.m. on channel 6, but because it signifies the culmination of five years of work by the 66-year-old environmentalist and broadcaster.

"I like to say this series has been 66 years in the making," he tells the Sun. "This is a summation of my life's work."

Or as he later puts it: "Five years slogging through hoops."

Based on Suzuki's book of the same name, The Sacred Balance was filmed on five continents and -- as has always been a hallmark of his work -- concerns the impact humans have on the planet.

That may sound familiar, but Suzuki says viewers shouldn't expect just an extended, over-produced version of his long-running CBC series The Nature of Things.

"It seemed with The Nature of Things that we did lecture people a bit. There was that feeling -- 'People bad.' We got into that. But with The Sacred Balance, I didn't want that."

Instead, he describes this project as "very uplifting" as it attempts to examine the marriage between the scientific and the spiritual.

"It's very different. It's not The Nature of Things."

As positive as The Sacred Balance may be, however, Suzuki's premise isn't exactly celebratory. Simply put, he thinks people have been living under the dangerous presumption that they're separate from nature -- as opposed to part of it.

"There is an ancient understanding (of the balance between humanity and nature) that we have forgotten."

In tomorrow's opener, Suzuki travels to such diverse regions as Arizona, western England, Massachusetts and the Pacific Northwest rainforest.

Yes, Suzuki is as concerned as ever with the problematic advances of technology -- such as cloning and genetic engineering -- but he's also looking to the past to solve puzzles of the present and future.

That includes a church in London, Ont., where people bring their animals and plants as a symbol of their appreciation -- and understanding -- of creation. ("It's a very moving thing to see," he says.)

And it includes an uneducated farmer in Bali, who explains to Suzuki how introducing a simple insecticide could do more harm than good to the area.

Part of what also sets The Sacred Balance apart -- as well as what contributed to its budget -- was Suzuki's decision to shoot the series on high-definition video.

"When I first saw it, I thought, 'Wow, this is really different -- it looks like a feature film.' "

And it's something Suzuki confesses he'll never be able to top, even as he continues his work on The Nature of Things. "It would probably be cancelled if I left. But I don't have to go into the field very much anymore. The job is less demanding than it was."

That gives him time to work with his foundation and its green-friendly causes and to clash with government and industry over such issues as the contentious Kyoto climate-change treaty.

Which may explain why, aside from The Sacred Balance, he feels tired. "But I have no choice. I have grandchildren." (More on The Nature of Things)

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