The other evening I watched an interview with the famous academic David Suzuki. It will still be available in Australia on ABC 24, the television news service. I’m not sure if it is available for people in other countries.
Dr Suzuki, at 77 years old, is very much a representative of older people. He retired from hands-on research a number of years ago but is still very active in publishing, public speaking and broadcasting, including travelling around the world doing interviews.
In the interview he was very forceful about the role older people should have in the world. He made it clear that he felt that older people should get off the golf course and the couch and tell the world what we have learned in our lives. The point is that we have been on this planet for so long we have a very different perspective on life and what the relationship should be between the planet and its occupants, than those who have spent less time here. Are we leaving the world a better place for those who come after us, including our own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on? We can see the devastation our current lifestyles are doing to the planet. Shouldn’t we be speaking out from the viewpoint of our long experience with the planet we all currently call home and will be so for generations to come? The other planets at this stage are far from being a viable option. Dr Suzuki was particularly fierce (as far as such a gentle man can be!) in his comments about the way bad science is promoted, not only in the field of climate change but also in other areas. Having spent decades ridding the human species of some of the most vicious diseases they are now coming back through bad science (poor research) being promoted. Younger people have no idea of the devastation diseases such as polio and measles can have because we got rid of them and they have no experience of their effects. I went through primary school with a little girl with a caliper on her leg as a result of polio. What sort of life lay ahead for her? At least she was able to be out in the community which others missed out on.
We older people have been around so long and lived through so many events we can put things in a much better perspective than relative newcomers to the planet. Dr Suzuki’s argument is that not only do we have this knowledge but we have the obligation to pass it on to those coming after us, instead of giving them the legacy of having to redo and reinvent some of the current research. We need to empower younger people to enable them to move on with further research and learning and secure the planet for many generations to come and make it a better place.
Not only have we acquired so much knowledge and experience during the many decades we have spent on this planet, as part of the human race, we also have an obligation to pass on what we have seen and heard. That is our legacy that we must honour.