After seeing the movie The 11th Hour, I have been thinking a lot about The Eldering Institute. The idea all along has been a strategy for mobilizing a lot of people, both retired and younger to “take on intractable problems”. The foundation for this has been the observation that most older people want to make a difference and leave the planet in better shape than we found it, and younger people are faced with a sufficiently uncertain future that most would love to have partnerships with older people if there could be an authentic relationship—one based on mutual learning, respect and appreciation for the differences between our world views. Finally, the idea of Eldering recognizes that most of the larger ‘problems’ confronting us are paradigmatic in nature. This means that ordinary thinking and attempts to ‘fix’ things won’t work. We must create a new paradigm and doing so requires that all of us participate. No one has “the answer”, but together we can create possibilities that neither of us can see without the other.
All these ‘we-need-to-change-our-ways’ movies about the environment stress the importance of individual consumer choices as part of the shift in consciousness that needs to happen. I recycle, walk or ride a bike a lot and we operate one car. Somehow it doesn’t feel like having much of an impact–although I guess if enough of us do it, then the little things add up. The movies also emphasize the paradoxical juggernaut of an economic mindset based on infinite growth and ever increasing consumerism balanced against finite and depleting resources—aggravated by increasing populations, ever expanding mountains of waste and alarming increases in extinct species. This is the biggest problem from my point of view. How do we continue to expand our economic health without destroying our world in the process? This question isn’t new and lots of us have been concerned about sustainable development for years. I am not sure we are any closer than we were 16 years ago when the first really big global conference on the environment was held in Rio de Janeiro.
The most positive perspective of our situation that I have come upon is outlined in a book called Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken, one of the prominent spokespeople in the 11th Hour. He has distinguished that there is an unprecedented and largely invisible movement of more than a million organizations (which translates into hundreds of millions of people) taking on the problems of environmental threats and social injustice. This ‘critical mass’ of humanity has all the earmarks of a global paradigm shift. I think that the Eldering movement is part of this groundswell of awareness and responsibility. While we continue to work on ways for mobilizing and empowering people, we encourage everyone to find some way of getting connected to some organization or cause that matters to you. If there is one message from all those working to help us recover our sanity and create a world that works for everyone (as well as for the environment), it is that time is of the essence.