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Is Being an Elder an Environmental Matter?

04 Apr 2016 1:14 PM | Karla Olson

SPEC just received a small, but significant grant, to start the Environmental Elders Engagement Initiative, or the SPEC Elders Project, for short. In a recent interview on CBC, David Suzuki, considered one of Canada’s most dedicated defenders of the environment, spoke about his determination to awaken elders to the power of their wisdom role in society. (David Suzuki Turns 80, Reflects On Eco-Morality And Mortality, The Current)


"Happy Belated Birthday to David Suzuki who turned 80 on March 24, 2016."




In 1971, David Suzuki was SPEC vice president. As we embark on the SPEC Elders Project, we invite him to consider himself a SPEC elder by virtue of his amazing contributions and guidance he has offered all of us.

In April 2012, he spoke about withdrawing from the Suzuki Foundation in order to speak out as an elder. While he’s seen as a passionate advocate, there’s a growing quality of unyielding frankness and wisdom that comes from this new role, which he refers to as the most important time in his life.  In the interview, he says that he is no longer trying to build a career, get a job or promotion, chase money or power, or play any other role than to freely speak his mind and share his wisdom. He says that he sees it as a responsibility of elders to troll through the successes and failures and to share from their hard learned/life earned wisdom, to speak truthfully from the heart.

As a board member with SPEC, I was so grateful to hear this interview, as it fits so well with our initiative.  For me, I would like to encourage other seniors to reclaim their elder wisdom, to shift their priorities and recover this dignified role in society as “wise elders.”  Suzuki tells us to, “get off the golf course and get off our doffs and get on with the most important time in our lives!” I noticed, as I’ve aged, more and more conversations with retiring friends are travelogues.  I’m not against travel and pleasurable hobbies. But, is it not more rewarding and important to carve out a role of support and encouragement to younger generations?  They’re facing anxious choices and daunting odds and we have something to offer that is unique to our age – a long lifetime lived, which is not guaranteed, making it even more valuable to share.

A friend recently told me a life lesson learned was to “stay in the process and let go of the outcome.”  That is an example of elder wisdom, in my view.  Suzuki’s response to those who say we’re doomed  is, “What the hell is that! If you really think it’s too late, then shut up and go away.  We’re going to fight right to the end!”  And the end can be just as important, or even more so than, the middle and the beginning.

And here is an opportunity to get started. SPEC’s, Environmental Elders Engagement Initiative has three elements:

1. A Core Team (Environmental Elders Circle) who will share their wisdom with the SPEC Board and Committees to strategically prepare for the next 20 years and guide the outreach to other elders.  

2. A program Inviting community elders to volunteer in projects (both SPEC led and led by other community organizations) where they can share their knowledge, experience and wisdom. 

3.  A larger pool of community elders who share occasional salons with the opportunity to discuss what it means to “reclaim elder wisdom” and to share difficulties with what we’re leaving behind for future generations to solve. 

Does this resonate with you?  Email me at carolelchristopher@gmail.com

—SPEC Board Member Carole 

You can also support this project by making a donation here

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

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Vancouver, BC  V6K 1Y4

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