Tag Archives: Seventh-generation

Justice and Sustainability

An attorney friend not long ago asked me, “What is justice?”

Good question.

I had no answer for him, but the very next day, while doing research for a theology class, I read the answer. It came from Matthew Fox’s book A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity. In it, he says: “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.” The flavor of that phrase resonates with me as truth.

Today, of course, I’m thinking about the heart-wrenching oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But I’m also thinking about poverty and social inequities. I’m thinking of the poor people in Haiti without shelter during the hurricane season as the Goldman Sachs people defend their million-dollar bonuses.

I’m thinking about Capitalism and how it is neither sustainable nor just, and wondering what will replace it. I’m thinking about our energy, taxation, health care policies all of which are neither sustainable nor just, and wondering what will replace them. In fact, what policies do we have in place that are sustainable and therefore just?

Few, if any.

Even the way we elect our officials is unsustainable and therefore unjust, but to ask them to effect real change in the electoral system is like asking a knife to cut its own handle. Therefore, it’s up to us.

This is the task that lies ahead for all of us–personally and individually–and as an election approaches, these are the questions we should be asking the candidates. Ask them to define sustainability. Ask them to define justice. Challenge every decision they make on our behalf to consider, as the Iroquois Nation does, the effects of their policies seven generations hence.

 In 1887, Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This has always been true, but these days it can no longer be hidden. Now that it has been exposed, let us hold our elected officials to a higher standard. 

Let’s not let them get away with any of this any longer. Our lives depend upon it.


Filed under Evil, politics, Possibilities, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Do We Care Enough to Act?

Global warming, it seems, is much like the weather: everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything. Well, that’s not true. Some of us are driving more fuel efficient cars, riding our bicycles, recycling our newspapers, reading by energy efficient lightbulbs. Some of us even buy carbon offsets to ease our burdened consciences.

But in our hearts, we all know that we’re not doing enough. We look to big industrial plants in China spewing their poison into the air, and think: “What’s the use?”

Well, ponder this:

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” —Great Law of the Iroquois

What if we considered the consequences of every action we took as it would impact our planet 140 years hence? Would we trample as much of our environment as we do? Would we have as many children? (Would we grant celebrity to status to those who have 8, 14, 18 children?)Would we enact stricter laws so that our children’s children’s children (x7)… would have fresh water, clean air, fertile crop fields, a healthy ecology and abundant wildlife?

Consider the two-generation effect of damming a couple of important rivers in the west.  Salmon runs are endangered because the salmon can’t reach their spawning grounds. Sea lions hang at the fish ladders and eat their fill, so we shoot the sea lions. The bears can’t eat the spawned-out salmon and poop their nutrient-rich waste into the forest, which nourishes the trees.  We put one dam on the river and we’ve upset the entire applecart. Do we blow up the dam? No. Damn the seventh-generation! We need electricity to run our air conditioners! 

Would the Iroquois have dammed the river?  How about shooting wolves from airplanes? How about planting genetically-altered corn? How about sucking all the oil from the earth and replacing those empty spaces with salt water? How about throwing our chemical waste in the lakes, rivers and oceans? How about storing our nuclear waste in leaking underground bunkers? What, pray God, will be the consequences of all these actions in 140 years?

A seventh-generation amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been proposed, but the language is too vague for me. I fear for its viability in our greedy, litigious society. It reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, sunlight and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for use of future generations.” So it isn’t perfect. Let’s work on it.

I ask you to do something concrete to help our planet and our species. I ask you to spend some time seriously considering the seventh-generation consequences to each of your actions today, and then make your voice heard. Call, fax, email, write your legislators, both state and federal. Write letters to the editor.  Pass along this blog link. Call the president. Call Al Gore.

I’ll be doing all those things and more.

Listen. The Iroquois knew what they were talking about, and we should have listened long ago. If we work hard now, we can perhaps avoid global catastrophe.  If the time for this idea has come, their words could sail around the world in a viral fashion and we just might be able to mobilize the masses. When that happens, change occurs.

Let’s do it.


Filed under Bicycle, Discipline, Possibilities, Social Consciousness, Spirituality