Tag Archives: ecosystem conservation

The Elders’ Declaration

by Stan Hirst

Some things are worth repeating.  Like walking the Lynn Creek canyon on the North Shore in early winter when the grey rain keeps everybody else indoors. Like watching the flocks of band-tailed pigeons make their annual brief sojourn to my neighbourhood to guzzle whatever they can find in the greenbelt trees. Like pilfering another piece of my wife’s blueberry cobbler.  All quality things.

Here’s another.  While cleaning up my sorely overloaded hard drive I came across a set of drafts compiled by the SE Executive Committee more than six years ago.  One of them was an Elders’ Declaration.

Over the ensuing years we have done our collective best to honour the principles embedded in that declaration. We haven’t always succeeded in meeting our own high goals. I rather doubt we ever expected to, but we’ve certainly had an honest go at it.

As I said, some things are worth repeating, and this declaration  is one of them.

 

grafik-6We are the elders of this great planet Earth, the only planetary home we know and will ever know. Before our fellow sojourners on this planet, we affirm our deepest commitment to protect and preserve the earth and its ecosystems and to share them with all future generations.

In our time we have witnessed astonishing developments in engineering, medicine, transportation and telecommunications. When we first ventured forth into this world much of the technology that is now taken for granted had yet to be invented. Our lives have benefitted immensely in health and material comforts and in membership in a strengthening global community. But we remember too the horror of wars that inflamed the world and the great economic depressions that inflicted massive global hardship. We know that there is no guarantee that these will not occur again.

When we first trod the earth as humans, our numbers were only a third of what they are today, and only a quarter of what they will be when our grandchildren one day assume the role of elders. When we set out, vast areas of the planet – much of its tropical and boreal forests, the ocean depths, the coral reefs and the great savannas – were pristine and undeveloped. Within the space of a lifetime, ecosystems and species have succumbed to our economic demands. The air, water and soil have become dumping grounds for our toxic wastes. Conflicts over water and food supplies are now a growing threat to our most vulnerable societies and to world peace.

We have forgotten that, as biological beings, our very survival and well-being are completely dependent on nature that gives us clean air, clean water, clean food from soil, and clean energy from the sun.  We have to acknowledge that without these fundamental things, we can only sicken and die. We have come to the realization that all species on Earth are our kin and are related to us through a common evolutionary history. In an unparalleled act of generosity, our earthly relatives have continued to cleanse, replenish and create our most fundamental needs. We now see that economic activities that benefit the few while shrinking the inheritance of the many are wrong. Environmental degradation has severely eroded our priceless natural capital and will continue to do so until we desist and come to the realization that truly sustainable development has to account fully for all ecological and social costs. We are but one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.

As elders, we declare that we cannot stand idly by and witness the desecration of our planetary home, its biosphere and all its creatures that provide our life essentials and our companionship. We realize that we have lost our way, our sense of home and our feeling of belonging to the rest of Creation. We know that this does not bode well for our children, their children, and all the generations that will follow us.

Therefore, we commit to doing our part to prevent further catastrophic environmental harm. We will take all necessary actions to minimize future climate change.  We will work to preserve habitats for endangered and threatened species. We will advocate for sustainable practices individually and in our communities, based on values of fairness, justice, and compassion for all. We believe that we can make a difference and we urge others to join us in our efforts.

We call on all governments to bring about binding international, national and local accords to sustain the intricate web of ecological relationships on our planet. We call on our leaders and fellow citizens to respect the earth’s diversity and ecosystems, and to seek peaceful paths to sustainable economies.

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Change happens now; the world is rooted in our backyard

Paper presented at the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit 2016

by Ryan LiuRyanLiu

Is nature not something beautiful, caring, extraordinary? Does it not surround us and care or us every second of the day like a mother, hence the term Mother Nature? But would you really treat your own mother this way? How can we throw our trash in her backyard, mess up her clean house, neglect her house plants, not thank her for all the nice things she does for us? Who are we to treat our dear Mother Nature this way?

Because of us, she is fading. She is dying from neglect and abuse. Because of us, there will soon be no nature to enjoy, no more wildlife nor vegetation, no more flora nor fauna. Because of us there will be nothing left. I don’t want that and neither should you.

I want to make a change. I will make that change. There’s a really big difference you know? Between wanting and willing. Wanting is just an empty way to trick yourselves into thinking you’re doing a good thing. To the people who sit at home wondering what if? What if what? What if you didn’t spend the day thinking but doing? If we don’t do anything, then how can we hope to accomplish anything?

We are the most powerful creatures to rule the earth; the apex predators, so how are we the ones to plunge earth to its doom? By not taking action, we are causing destruction. By standing by, we are letting the world pass us by. We have to do something for our environment, OUR planet. Remember, you guys still have to live here, under the roof of our Mother Nature.

Now I don’t want you to go outside and plant fifty trees because although that would be awesome, it’s unrealistic. If you could just plant one or have your own little garden, that would help. A small act makes a big difference.

I’m going to bring my mom a fresh glass of water, I’m going to clean up her house, I’m going to plant flowers in her backyard. I’m going to make my mom happy.

I know there’s plenty of people just like you, like me, people who want to make the world a better place. Who want to see our Mother Nature smile again, laugh and dance again, prosper and live on with a bright healthy future in front of her, in front of us.

Who wants to make that change?

Now who will make that change?

 

 

Building resilience to the impacts of climate change

by Don Marshall

When I first became interested in Sustainability as an issue for the world, I was convinced that I and all the other interested “environmentalists” would, in time, be able to change the track of what was happening.  So I did everything I could to change systems, habits, and my personal perspective.  And I worked to help others see the need for the changes.  I think we made some difference.

But as we now know and are informed from various sources, the effort to preserve our environment is failing.  Our environment is rapidly deteriorating.  It is no longer an issue of mitigating the problems so that we can maintain “sustainability” in our world.  We now need to consider how we are going to adapt to the changes that are coming.

The committee within the Suzuki Elders that I have been working with (Education and Community Engagement Working Group) held two Salons earlier this year specifically looking at the role that emotions, in particular grief, had in our work as Elders.  These Salons generated a significant amount of interest leading to the formation of a sub –committee to investigate how we would proceed with educating ourselves further about this subject.

The sub-committee has arrived at an awareness that the subject is much broader than first imagined and we now have a vision of what the work forward should be:  Suzuki Elders aim to play an active role in building resilience to the psycho-social impacts of climate disruption among ourselves and our communities.  Inherent in being resilient is being adaptable, thinking ahead and working so that results will be preventative.  Many organizations are aware that the promotion of resilience is core to being able to take care of each other in our communities.  An excellent site that describes resilience can be found here.

Suzuki Elders have come together because we all want to do something to help the environment.  We are passionate about this in that many of us are grand-parents and have strong feelings of compassion for our children and their future.

Shortly, we will publish a paper that will include the goals we have set, objectives that will carry out some of the goals, and a library of articles and relevant web sites.  More workshops will undoubtedly be part of our work.

I would also refer you to a recent piece written by Dave Pollard who lives on Bowen Island.  It says it all for me.

Your feedback is welcome at: resilience@suzukielders.org.

 

 

Human Nature

We must all understand that Human Nature, Human Being, is not something apart from the biosphere which provides our life support system. This is especially important for you young people who are taking over the decision-making processes that govern all of our lives. The well-being of present and future generations of Human Beings depends on our relationships with each other and with everything else in Nature. This is the essence of Human Nature.

Nature, or Mother Nature as many of us prefer to recognize her, comes from a delicately balanced relationship between our Mother Earth and the Sun, our father, just as each of us comes from an intimate relationship between our human mother and father. This is one of the important truths that tribal peoples all around the world have known for thousands of years. Many people have lost sight of this and other truths of Human Nature in recent generations. They are not aware of the origins and evolution of our species or the need for us to contribute to maintaining a healthy relationship with others in Mother Nature’s life support system as we live each day.

Elders in ancient communities, and a good number living with us today, have been a very important resource to young people. Through many years of experience and learning, much of it passed to them from their elders, they have acquired knowledge and wisdom that can be very helpful in seeing the truth, and what is truly valuable in our lives. It is so important that the facts of life, of Mother Nature and Human Nature, are not lost in the avalanche of TV, internet and other media commercials from corporations and politicians who work hard at convincing us that accumulating household possessions and boosting national economic growth are the most important things in our lives.

So, is this Mother Nature – Human Nature relationship spiritual, biological, cultural or what? It is all three. The biological and spiritual relationship is pretty clear to any thinking person who acknowledges that Human Being involves body, mind and spirit for each of us. As for culture, countless stories, songs, essays and books have been spoken, performed and written by inspired elders and others through the centuries. This happens within the cultural context of each story teller. People who study cultural expressions from around the world and over the centuries are invariability struck by the common themes of creation and Human Nature. The stories reflect different climates, landscapes, water features, plants, animals and other unique aspects of their local environment. They tell of local history, traditions and ancestors, but they speak of the same processes of creation and the same interrelationships of Human Nature, Mother Nature and the Creator.8247810764_02991d8aee_o

As an elder I hold the view that our culture and the collective expressions of Human Nature are associated with one or more communities. The traditional, customary and ‘new wave’ behaviour that is associated with these social unions expresses the culture that we each chose to involve ourselves in. Our individual communities are local elements of tribes, religions, nations, provinces and other cultural creations that evolve and transform over time.

My primary community relationship beyond family is with naturalists. They are in my view a tribe that covers the Earth, with many local communities that share a unifying respect and appreciation of Nature. They welcome and support one another. What naturalists lack in the kind of wealth and power that governments and corporations build for themselves is more than made up for by their close adherence to truth, respect and awe. These stem from philosophy, the parent of science, art and all of the best expressions of Human Nature.

I grew up in a place called Indiana, originally a territory designated by the young government of the United States as a land base for the indigenous tribes in the area and other American Indian people who were displaced from their traditional territories. Sadly this did not stand. There are many lessons to be learned from this history and similar stories of the conquest of the Americas, Africa and other places by cultures of European origin – examples of the darker side of Human Nature.

Connecting with our Human Nature and other beings with which we share landscapes and ecosystems that sustain us can inspire and uplift us as we struggle with life’s day-to-day challenges. As a Boy Scout in Indiana and a university student in the west coast region I thought I had learned what Nature was all about. But that didn’t really happen until I began spending time with tribal people, first in East Africa and then in North America. What I had been missing before this happened was a deeper understanding of the importance of respecting the universe, Mother Earth, Mother Nature and our Human Nature as gifts from the Creator. I sometimes feel a loss in that I am no longer closely connected with my indigenous tribal ancestors, the Celtic people of northern Europe. This connection is, however, coming back slowly as I continue to expand my life’s learning experiences and ability to connect.

Having discovered my spiritual and cultural connections with naturalists early on has made up for the personal losses I felt as I distanced myself through the years from the religion, nationality and other cultural inheritances I grew up with. The best things about being a naturalist are the great beauty, wonder, excitement and peace that you experience as you connect with Mother Nature. Political boundaries are not a primary consideration and it costs little to enjoy this great gift!

Human Nature, as I said in my earlier blog back in November 2013, involves cultural choices like whether to allow biologically harmful industrial forestry to take place in our watersheds or make sure that ecoforestry is practiced instead. This is what stewardship of our environment and natural resources is all about. Good life choices will bring people together – bad ones will bring conflict and a less healthy, poorer environment for future generations.

In his book The Sacred Balance: discovering our place in Nature, David Suzuki helped us to understand that we Human Beings have an important role in maintaining Mother Nature’s wonders, especially her complex and delicate eco-systems that are both ecological and economic life support systems required for human well being. This is the responsibility aspect of Human Nature, being caretakers and stewards of our natural environment. It makes us special, right?waterfalls-forest-landscape

 

Posted by Josef Kuhn

 

 

An elder walk on Kitsilano Beach

by Jim Park

On July 30, under the warm summer sun, a group of concerned elders met in Volunteer Park on Point Grey Road in Kitsilano, Vancouver, to walk the beach where a proposed seawall extension is to be located. Led by Suzuki Elder David Cook, a geologist and naturalist, and assisted by Sheila Byers, a marine biologist, the walk spanned the area between the Vancouver and Jericho Yacht Clubs. With the two scientists were six Suzuki Elders, Mel Lehan from the Point Grey Foreshore Society, and two Vancouver Parks Board Commissioners, John Coupar and Trevor Loke. The walk was planned to show the participants the diverse intrinsic value of this beach area and to examine the features worthy of being preserved in their natural state.

David presented the geological history of this part of Kitsilano Beach and its unique characteristics, including coal veins, two basalt channels bounded on both sides by sandstone, a fossil repository, and other fascinating earth lore. Sheila discussed the rich and complex intertidal web of life found here, and emphasized the fragility of the beach ecosystems. There were many opportunities for hands-on experiencing of the topics being discussed by David and Sheila. Each handful of sea water that Sheila cupped in her hands contained a myriad of tiny life forms. It seemed so miraculous, I felt like a kid again. When David led us to a fossil repository and showed us a beautiful plant fossil that he had found there, I became the ten-year-old amateur paleontologist of my youth and started scouring the ground looking for T. rex bones. I didn’t find any bones but I did find a wonderfully detailed leaf fossil. In some ways, I think we all became children again as we slowly explored the seashore. Everyone was excitedly talking to each other, broad smiles of delight framing eyes bright with the joy of new discoveries and realizations. This is what a spiritual connection with nature does.

There will always be a need for more housing and more recreational areas for the public to access, but these needs are, in my opinion, greatly outweighed by the absolute necessity to keep some places free of human influence, left wild in their natural state to heal, grow and evolve. This area of Kitsilano Beach is one such place. As Elder Diana Ellis noted, it has a rich history of occupation by the indigenous peoples who lived here for thousands of years, as well as by many other settlers from all over the world who chose to make it their home in more recent times. In our time, it has been allowed to be itself, to slowly erase all signs of human occupation and to return to its natural state. These areas are becoming increasingly rare within urban environments.

It is hoped that, as a group, we conveyed our strong feelings to the two city commissioners who kindly made the time to join us, and that they will convey our wishes to the Vancouver City Council. If they felt any of the magic that we felt down on the beach, then I’m confident that they will recommend against building a seawall along that portion of Kitsilano Beach.

Thank-you to David Cook and Mel Lehan for organizing two walks that were deftly merged into one, and to each participant who added to the knowledge pool of this area. It was fun!

Left to right: David Cook; Sheila Byers; Jim Park; Diana Ellis; Cynthia Lam.