Fall 2006

Asking a Different Question

by Fred Lanphear

The question is not how can the younger generation take care of its elders; it is rather how do we as elders help the younger generation care for the Earth and their own future? We are in a time when the quality of life, if not our survival as a species, will most likely be determined by the decisions we make in the next two decades. As elders, we have witnessed and participated in both the wonders and the devastation in the 20th century. We are now observing the toll an expanding population, industrialization, and technology has taken on our health and the environment; we can only begin to fathom future consequences. It is time for us as elders to step forward and speak for the Earth and future generations of all of its species.


A new way of aging
for the 21st century...



...wise and compassionate elders, peacemakers and earthkeepers, caring for one another and all humanity, caring for Earth and all beings.

An emerging global network connecting midlife and older persons dedicated to helping bring about a just, sacred, and sustainable future for all children, grandchildren and future generations.

Each generation, as well as each of us as individuals, leaves a legacy. There is no greater legacy, at this time in history, than to care for the earth on behalf of the future. In the Spring 2006 issue of Itineraries, we read the inspiring story of Connie Mahoney and the formation of Earth Elders, an organization that began in Sonoma, CA. Her vision, reflected in the EarthElders.org, was a global network, and is symbolized by the web site www.earthelders.org. We have the opportunity to actualize this network... beginning in your local area.

After Second Journey's recent Visioning Council, which was held on Whidbey Island north of Seattle, a small core of folks decided to launch a group in the Seattle area. Though our local vision for Earth Elders is still emerging, at least four components are clear:

  • telling the new Universe story and our place in it;
  • celebrating the Earth through rituals and songs;
  • mentoring others to become Earth Elders; and
  • leading others to advocate for the Earth and all its beings.

The numerous resources available to help us assume this role include The Great Work by Thomas Berry; a study guide for Earth Elders created by Imago in Cincinnati; and articles and information relating to The Great Work from the Center for Ecozoic Studies. A list-serve will also be available to share information and to seek help from each other. These and additional resources will soon be found at the Earth Elders web site, which I will be coordinating and developing with input from Earth Elders around the world.

We have the opportunity and responsibility as elders to make a difference. Our grandchildren and their children are counting on us. Now is the time to join with others to prepare to do “The Great Work.”

  Fred Lanphear died on September 9, 2010, at the age of 74. "His life was a lesson in wisdom, generosity, and conscious wholeness," as Randy Morris, who dedicated the Fall 2011 issue of Itineraries to him. Fred worked for 20 years with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (an NGO), empowering villagers in remote African and Asian communities to participate in and direct their own development. On his return to the U.S. in 1989, he became president of the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He lived his remaining years with his wife, Nancy, at Songaia, a cohousing community in Bothell, WA, which he helped co-found. (See his commemorative web site.