Earth Elders: An Invitation
by Fred Lanphear
Although recently diagnosed with ALS, I do not fear my impending mortality, but I do fear for
the fate of our home, Planet Earth, and for future
generations whose lives will be impacted by the consequences
of climate change, species destruction, and the general
decline of the health of the planet. I ask myself, what can
I do? It is out of my hands. This is an issue that the next
generation must address.
To the contrary, our generation has been a
major contributor to the actions that are compromising the
health of the planet and we must be accountable and do all
that we can to correct the disastrous trajectory we are on.
As an elder, who has 70+ years of experience and
observation, I have a unique perspective to share with my
peers and more importantly, with the generations that will
follow me. I have decided to take on the mantle of Earth
Elder, one who speaks and cares for Earth and future
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Wise and compassionate elders, peacemakers and
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In my lifetime, science has begun unraveling
the amazing story of the universe. We now know that it began
about 13.7 billion years ago and that it is still expanding,
evolving, and that as a species, humans have become a major
force in the unfolding process. The impact of population and
technology are critical factors in this phenomenon. This
story has changed my reality, or my perception of the way
Many of my earlier assumptions have been
challenged and radically changed. In the past I arrogantly
believed that science and technology would ultimately
provide solutions to all our human needs. The focus on human
needs without consideration for other species and our common
habitats is the contradiction that we are finally
recognizing. We are integrally connected and can no longer
isolate or elevate ourselves apart from other life forms.
As an agricultural scientist I once
contributed to the development and promotion of pesticides.
Since discovering the consequences of continual use of
pesticides, I have now dedicated my agricultural practices
to being totally organic. I continue to discover that many
practices that I considered sacrosanct are now of
questionable value. It is particularly challenging to be
faced with your past errors of judgment, but also freeing to
be able to accept what has happened and take action to
correct and/or change those practices. As Earth Elders, we
can help others do the same.
With the new understanding of our
interconnectedness with all things that has come from the
prophetic voices of honorary Earth Elders Thomas Berry and
Joanna Macy, I have come to recognize and renounce the
anthropocentric bias that has dominated our economic,
political, and cultural values and practices. The time has
come to acknowledge our proper place in the universe. As a
species we are the universe becoming conscious of itself and
the sacred journey it has been on. With this new
understanding of our integral relationship to all of our
universal connections we must re-examine our ancient
assumptions and change our ways of knowing, doing, and
being. It is the great work that we have been called to
As an Earth Elder, I invite you to join me
and others who are learning, appropriating, and telling the
great story of the Universe, who are facilitating
celebrations of the evolutionary epic, who are mentoring
others on the journey, and who are advocates for the care of
||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.