The Force of Nature Discussion Guide

The Force of Nature is a 2010 documentary film featuring our Canadian icon and leading environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki.  This film, directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, was presented as Dr. Suzuki’s “legacy address” to the University of British Columbia.  It was made in association with the National Film Board of Canada and the CBC, and it won the 2010 People’s Choice Documentary award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In 2012, five important themes stated in this documentary were selected by members of the Education Working Group (Peggy Olive, Cynthia Lam, Dan Kingsbury, Roger Sweeny, Stan Hirst and Jim Park).  It was thought that these themes could become the basis for stimulating discussions by small groups viewing the film.  As the film is quite long, it was felt that there would only be time to fully consider one or two of these themes in depth.

Welcome & Introduction (5 min).  Video Viewing (87 min).  Discussion (30 min) Objective:  To show the Force of Nature video followed by a motivating discussion led by a Suzuki Elder.  Materials: Suzuki Elder(s) will bring:

  • Copy of Force of Nature video [available from i-tunes and from the National Film Board of Canada].
  • Stick-on name tags if appropriate
  • Markers & flip chart
  • Projector & laptop computer
  • Copy of workshop agenda & discussion points
  • PowerPoint presentation (on USB drive) & facilitator’s guide
  • Handouts for participants


  1. Greet participants as they enter.
  2. Ask participants to identify themselves with name tags.
  3.  View Force of Nature Video
  4. Begin the Discussion by welcoming participants to David Suzuki’s Force of Nature discussion group. Tell them (briefly) about the Suzuki Elders.
  5. Select images from the Presentation to make the points.  This can also be done more simply by repeating the quotes from the video.

Discussion following viewing: Note: The discussion leader may decide to modify the reflection exercise and should feel free to adapt the workshop to suit the needs of the audience and the preferences of the facilitator, making sure to keep an eye on the clock! Introductions are great to break the ice and engage participants in the discussion, but they can easily eat up the available time. 

Image 1:  Introduction to the film:  Let the audience know why the film was made (see above).

Introduction and Reflection:  Go around the room and ask everyone to give their first name and tell the others which image or idea from the video is foremost in their mind. Image3Image 2:  A picture of young David holding up a fish with his father and the quote, “So I went fishing”. Put this statement in context for the audience by using information from the film. [Important turning points in his life… Japanese internment camp, racial discrimination, his father’s love of nature and his own solace from nature. The deep feeling that we are all part of nature – we are the air].

Reflection: Ask participants to consider whether nature plays an important part in their lives.  Why does Dr. Suzuki recommend that we spend 30 or more minutes a day “in nature”?  Do you consider nature as a something to be exploited in the pursuit of wealth  – or should we act as guardians and preserve as much of nature as possible for future generations?

Image 3: We have become a force like no other species that has existed in the 3.8 billion years that life has existed on earth…” The name of this documentary, The Force of Nature, refers to the effect our species has had on this planet.  We are now living in a geologic time period often referred to as the “anthropocene” which is meant to indicate the significant impact humans have had on the environment.  We are rapidly losing our first growth forests, polluting our air, using up available farm land, warming our atmosphere with potentially disastrous consequences, and melting the glaciers that supply us with much of our fresh water. Species are becoming extinct at a rate 100 to 1000 times faster than they can evolve.   All this is happening because our planet that has finite resources.  In the film, David Suzuki warns us that the effort to maintain endless growth such as we’ve experienced in the past, is impossible.  We are running out of the resources that we need to survive as a species (clean water, air, soil).  Repeat David’s statement: “Our home, the biosphere is finite and fixed.  It can’t grow.   The attempt to maintain endless growth is an impossibility.”

Reflection:  Invite the audience to consider whether they think it is possible to reverse the dominant trend of growth, and what it might take to reverse our wasteful behavior.

Image4Image 4: “Protecting the health of the biosphere has to be our highest priority.” Place this statement in context for the audience by saying that a healthy environment is critical for a healthy economy, and that there is little evidence that protecting the environment has a negative impact on the economy [Sweden as an example].

Reflection: Does an ever-increasing GDP make sense?   Ask participants to consider what should we be doing to protect our planet for future generations?

image5Image 5: “Are we happier with all this stuff?”   Place this quote in context for the audience that there is a disconnect between gross domestic product and the happiness of a society. [Bhutan has suggested we adopt a happiness or well-being index. Equador has instilled the rights of Mother Nature in their constitution.]  Consumption drives our growth economy, but overconsumption along with our exponentially growing population has driven us to the limit of what this planet can support.  Even though more than a billion people lack running water and adequate food, the amount of waste in developed countries is abysmal. Reflection: Invite the audience to consider how consumerism has affected their lives.  It is useful to reflect on the real wealth in your lives, as Dr. Suzuki did when describing the attributes of his home – is it the stuff you’ve bought that gives you the most satisfaction?  Why do we find it so difficult to live more simply?  What would help us to live more gently on our planet (other than rising prices)?

Image 6“I am filled with hope …. All it takes is the imagination to dream it and the will to get on with it.” Although the mood of the film is somewhat dark, there is light at the end.  Humans are adaptable and creative – we need to use our imaginations to create a different vision of our future and then act on that vision. Put this in context for the audience by reminding them that we have already developed ways to provide clean energy and that we are capable of living with much (as we did during the war years). Remind them of David’s reflection on the “space race”.

Reflection: Invite the audience to consider how to motivate ourselves and others to act – and act quickly – to build a sustainable vision of our future where nature is protected and accepted as a partner in our survival?  How do we accept that surrendering a wasteful life-style brings many rewards, not only for future generations but also for our own?


Click below to view the images in a pdf format:

Force of Nature slides