The Suzuki Elder Perspective

The world is a very complex place for the Elders. Some of us are from the Silent Generation, born between 1925 and 1945, and described as grave, fatalistic, conventional, possessing confused morals, and expecting disappointment but desiring faith. The rest of us are Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 and supposedly associated with a “redefinition of traditional values”. We are told that we were the first generation to think of ourselves as special and to genuinely expect the world to improve with time.

Most of us think those descriptions are just journalistic claptrap, typical of the mass labelling so prevalent in our modern times. When we look at each other we see as much diversity as homogeneity. Why not? We come from a wide variety of cultures, geographic locations, home backgrounds, faiths and life experiences. If anything, we are an ageing cross-section of the modern diversity that is Canada.

But we must have some commonalities, else how did we all gather together under the umbrella we call the Suzuki Elders?

For starters, we all share a deep concern for our planet, the Pale Blue Dot. As Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote “The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand“. With that sort of definition we ought to expect, but clearly don’t get, a high level of reverence for the Earth from its inhabitants. We Elders want to make that view more widely known.

For seconds, we all have offspring. The average Elder has 2.5 children and 4.7 grandchildren, and we naturally care deeply about the future of all of them. But we gaze into their future and find it bleakly occupied by multiple gathering storms of climate change, burgeoning world populations, widespread food and water shortages, and never-ending social and political discord. Our efforts to change all this seem pitifully small, but we have a common urge to make the attempt.

And thirdly, in the David Suzuki Foundation we have found a supportive environment in which to come together to pursue our common altruistic objectives. The Foundation’s mission, which it pursues with almost Elder-like zeal, is to protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future, and its singular vision is that within a generation, Canadians will go about their lives based on the understanding that we are all interconnected and interdependent with nature.

But then, how to move forward from here?

We come at environmental issues from different places of knowledge and experience. We have a deep concern and many years of experience as lay people and activists, but few of us are formal experts in environmental issues. What we say, write and present needs to be scientifically sound, evidence-based and well researched. Working with and through the David Suzuki Foundation provides enormous and unique opportunities but also entails the obligation to respect the Foundation’s requirements to comply with charitable status guidelines for non-partisan advocacy. How can we best utilize our diverse strengths? The answer is that we need a common attitude which reflects our shared understanding of the relative importance of things and imparts a sense of proportion. In short we need a sense of perspective about what we’re striving to accomplish.

Hours, days, weeks of reflection, discussion, scribbling and charting have resulted in just such a formulation which we happily term The Suzuki Elder Perspective and which we present below.

The cornerstone of the perspective is the David Suzuki Foundation’s own Declaration of Interdependence which expresses its values as an organization. The Declaration was written for the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and portions of it were woven into the work of others around the world to form the Earth Charter. Since its inception the Declaration has inspired people around the world to live lighter on the Earth. In addition, the perspective highlights the original purpose of the Suzuki Elders, and specifically addresses the important Aboriginal Peoples Policy of the David Suzuki Foundation.SE perspective

[First posted by the Suzuki Elders on Sept 30, 2013.]

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