Filling the dishwasher with yet another load during this past holiday season, I was distracted by this quote on the front of the soap container: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations.” Intrigued, I filed this away in my brain, and went on to other tasks. But the words haunted me and I contemplated their source and meaning for our actions in today’s world. The quote was stated as coming from The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederation.
The extent of my knowledge of the Iroquois was that they were an eastern U.S. Native American people and that our good china has that name. Research divulged that the Iroquois were a confederation of five, and later six, separate native nations formed before the arrival of the Europeans. They did indeed develop a Great Law, under which their confederacy operated and it is said that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others drew much inspiration from this version of representational democracy in the process of blueprinting our own American system of government. Of special significance to me is that before the traditional Iroquois convened their council meetings, they invoked this declaration regarding future generations. Consequently, any vote they had included an equal vote cast by a representative who spoke specifically for the needs, the survival, and the dignity of those who would live a hundred and fifty years in the future. For the Iroquois, the generational format of their council defined a long-term relationship between government and ecology. The rights of future generations were the very context of policy and conservation the foundation upon which their culture was built.
Consider what might result if our own local, state, & national government, our businesses, organizations, and churches were to operate in a similar fashion. What if we thought ahead beyond our own, and our children’s, generation and considered how our actions, and inactions, affect the world that future generations will inherit? Just what are our responsibilities and what can we do, anyway?
I believe that this earth, and all that lives upon it, was provided for us, but it does not really belong to us to do whatever we want with and we certainly have no ultimate control over it. But we are responsible for it in the sense that we are to cultivate, watch over, deal with, attend to it, and act on its behalf as we are able. We must be discerning and wise, with just judgement as to what actions to take. We must, quite simply, take care of it.
Life is a journey and into this New Year I’ll try to take only CARRY-ON baggage with me:
Conserve - use only what I need of water, electricity, fuels - use alternative sources, as able
Allot time & energy to learn new ways to care for the earth & its creatures
Recycle - whatever, and wherever, I am able - paper products, glass, cans, plastics, compost
Re-use materials whenever possible - be creative!
Yoke together with others in these efforts - share my goals & reasoning
Only buy products made from recycled materials and by “green” companies, whenever possible
Never underestimate the value of time, services, & activities in place of material gifts.