Elders and the Environment – Part 2

By Shae Hadden

According to Dr. David Suzuki, “it is not progress to use up the rightful legacy of our children and grandchildren.” He opened the first Elders and the Environment Forum on Monday in Vancouver, Canada with a keynote address that focused on the role of elders in the environmental movement and how we can make a difference:

  • Tell it like it is, find our voice and speak out
  • Tell us all what is possible and keep us fixed on creating the future
  • Remind younger generations that true wealth is found in our relationships with family, friends and neighbours (in community) and that people lived full, rich lives long before we had all this ‘stuff’
  • Teach children that the word ‘disposable’ is a ‘dirty word’
  • Help younger generations see how things are shifting environmentally in the world by sharing the changes we have seen and are seeing in baselines (for example, the differences in salmon runs between now and years past)
  • Challenge the perspective that views the natural world as an ‘externality’ (as economists do), in which all the services that ecosystems perform are irrelevant to calculations of value
  • Teach young people the values of thrift and stewardship by showing them how to live in community (for example, teach them how fix things when they are broken; how to compost, grow things, harvest and store food; how to knit and sew and darn, etc.)

Dr. Suzuki’s message is not a nostalgic call for a slower-paced lifestyle. It is a vital reminder that we have had and can have fulfilling lives based on what we do with other people. And that we can help heal our relationship with Mother Earth while we’re at it.

© 2009 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.