I turned 99 on my last birthday. I was an infant my first July 1st, so this year marks a century of celebrating the country I love. I've lived in the same Vancouver neighbourhood, in the same house, for over 70 years. Wars, economic upheaval, and heads of state have come and gone.
Through all those ups and downs I've come to realize what has true, meaningful staying power: personal relationships. Accumulating "stuff" means nothing.
Helping young people find a passionate connection to nature, not the next new gadget, is what will get us out of the mess we've made in the world, because children take what excites them home to their parents.
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Fences and hedges did not exist when I was young. People sat outside on their verandahs, chatting with their neighbours. The streets belonged to the children, and we played in each other's yards as if they were our own, with no boundaries between. We had a real sense of community, and understood, on a daily basis, that our lives depended on the bounty of the Earth.
The automobile changed all that. People disappeared inside their vehicles, drew their drapes, closed their doors. Suddenly it seemed like the whole world was under a spell of wanting "things." Worse, people felt they were entitled to them.
You'd think that all the terrifying facts about climate change, pollution and species extinction would drive us to action. But it doesn't. It's the personal stories, the direct experiences — getting your hands dirty, so to speak — that motivate us to respond.
I know there are children living near my house, but I never see them. I wonder where they are and what they're doing. Connecting with nature — especially young people — could wake us out of our slumber, bring us alive and alert us to the peril in which we all live.
There are some changes I'm glad to have witnessed. Back in "the day" we burned sawdust and coal for heat, which spewed a pea soup fog so thick you could not see your hand in front of your face. We cleaned up that mess and we can get out of this one, too.
I attended a lecture given by Dr. Suzuki long before he became a famous environmentalist. Someone in the audience asked why he didn't express his views in the halls of power. He protested, "I'm a scientist!"
Yet something moved him to reach out beyond his personal comfort zone into the world at large. Now his Foundation is helping average citizens find their power. That's why I've been a monthly donor since I was 86! It's an investment in the future of the whole world.