by Stan Hirst
The Suzuki Elders trace their existence back to 1996 when a “Council of Elders” was established under the umbrella of the David Suzuki Foundation. The details of this are given elsewhere on this site. Some four years later we reinvented ourselves as the Suzuki Elders, and duly penned the Elders’ Declaration as a manifesto of our aims and objectives.
The website you are now beholding is in its tenth year of existence. That fact begs two questions:
(1) why does the Suzuki Elders have this website?
(2) what is its purpose?
The straight answer to question (1) is that we set up the site some years back because it was the “thing to do” for all organizations, no matter what their objectives or membership, to have sites on the World Wide Web through which they could communicate with their followers, their customers, their associates and/or the rest of the world. To a large extent we were influenced by the high performance of the David Suzuki Foundation website in attempting to shape and influence public opinion on the important environmental issues. Webwise we wanted to be like the youngsters. It hasn’t quite panned out that way over the years; buy me a coffee sometime and I’ll tell you why not.
Nevertheless, over our 10-year existence to date the Elders’ website has attracted the interest of some 63,000 visitors in 185 countries. About 20% of online readers are located in Canada. The bulk of national and international attention is drawn to the Posts section of the website. Our late webmaster Dr. Peggy Olive drew the online attention of 29,000 readers (to date) to her 2011 post on the pros and cons of nuclear power, and another 10,000 to her 2015 post on consensus building.
So…the stats show clearly that the Elders have the ability and capacity to produce quality online information and dialogue for wide distribution. The issue is not whether we can produce intelligent and readable online material for world-wide consumption. The questions rather are (1) what should we churn out and why should we make the effort?
There are more than 18,000 websites currently active across Canada and more than 34 million Canadians view them. More to the point, there are many environmental websites across Canada (see this link for a list of more than a hundred of them) which cover virtually all the aspects of environmental concern and action, physical, biological and social.
So, with so many websites available in Canada and elsewhere in the world at the touch of a key, what on earth could the Suzuki Elders possibly have to say or tell the world that isn’t already and instantaneously available elsewhere? Answer – not much, except………..our own thoughts, knowledge and opinions. We alone own those. Only we can share them.
That takes us full circle back to 1998 when the newly formed “Council of Elders” was cogitating on what to do and how to do it. Wrote Council member Norm Hoye “Elders have lived through much of the social and technical evolution of Western culture in this century. They have survived depression, war, and natural disasters. Their memories of the simpler life and personal experience of the destruction of ecosystems since then, raises deep concern for the world their children and grandchildren will inherit. This concern motivates our Elders to offer their life experiences, professional talents, time and skills.”
That, then, is the purpose of Opinion, this new category of posts. It is a meeting place of Elder experience, cogitation and advice to the rest of a (generally much younger and more brash) international readership. You’ll never know how valuable your experience and views as an Elder are until you run them by the rest of the world!