Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 413(158) Elders and Environment

David Suzuki is probably the most respected and well known environmentalist in Canada. He writes books, host TV programs, speaks all over the world, and is featured in a major film concerning global climate change. Miles Richardson is the chief of the Haida First Nations Tribe in Canada. They were the feature speakers at a conference on Elders and the Environment that I recently attended in Vancouver

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

"Who first introduced you into caring about the environment?" That’s was the first questions we addressed at the workshop. I had never considered such a question.  We all paused and looked down and then up. It was silent. A few minutes passed and then we were asked to write down our thoughts.  The answers were varied.

My answer: I grew up on acreage in the Midwest. We had a large garden, a cow, a few hogs, some chickens, an orchard, and even a pony. We had a practical introduction to nature and what it meant to take care. We learned how important clean water, food, shelter and safety were to animals and plants. We leaned about death and decay. We learned about rotation of crops and natures whims.

My grandparents worked a farm only 8 miles away. Here all of the animals and crops of a real farm were my school. My grandfather loved to take me on his lap and talk about what and why we were doing something while the horses pulled the wagons or the tractor labored with some implement or another trailing along behind. He taught me the importance of taking good care of the land and animals. I think those are the two places that I leaned to care for the natural environment. I had never thought of this before.

The next question was: Who was your mentor in the environmental movement? Rachel Carson and her book “Silent Spring” popped into my mind instantly. Also Garret Hardin who wrote a book entitled, “The Tragedy of the Commons”.  Those two really helped enlighten my mind on the damage we were doing. Something had to be done. I read those in ’68 or ’69. I later read that Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” is what launched David Suzuki on his life-long pursuit.

Another question that we discussed was: what have you personally done to help the environment? I would suggest you pause here and consider the question yourself. We all wrote our answers on a piece of paper. My answer to this question grew out of the last question. After reading the books “Silent Spring” and “Tragedy of Commons” I walked down to the principal’s office in Anchorage, Alaska and suggested that we teach a class based on those two books. It was the spring of l969. In the spring of 1970 I started teaching a class entitled: Environment. We used several books, but we certainly based the class around the above mentioned.

That April the first Earth Day was celebrated across the world. My students asked me if we were going to participate and I passed it off as just a little demonstration fade. I replied that, “we need more than a day. We need every day to be focused on the environment" just one more example of my being wrong. Earth day has become very important.

Other examples of what we had individually done related to the environment tumbled across the table: sold the car, biked to work, planted a garden, became a vegan, recycled, composed, changed light bulbs to florescent, started buying local grown produce, chose my residence carefully so it would be in a walkable  neighborhood, etc.

The connection between the Elders and the Environment was driven home by Miles Richardson from the Haida Nation. People who have gained knowledge, achieved successful actions and gained wisdom are considered Elders by First Nations People. These Elders need to be consulted; they need to be listened too, they need to lead by word and deed. He related several stories illustrating this process.

This is where we retired people can find a place. We can tell our stories whenever and wherever we can. We can talk to our grandchildren, our neighbor's children or perhaps our neighbor himself. We can write editorials or articles for the press. Our experiences in life can become a treasure chest from which we can share. We can keep alive the bond between wisdom and nature.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.

If you have question, comments or suggestions contact




Follow Retirement Talk on Facebook: on Facebook