Worldwatch Institute (Washington, DC)

25 June 2012

Africa: Becoming Great Ancestors - How We Can Protect Future Generations

press release

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a talk by Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, about how our society can become great ancestors by protecting future generations from pollution and a toxic environment.

In a presentation she gave in January at TEDxMaui, "Becoming Great Ancestors," Raffensperger discusses the importance of the precautionary principle, which is the idea that if there is any risk involved in making a major decision, you should instead seek out the best alternative and choose that. She relates this principle to the Iroquois Confederacy's "Seven-Generation Rule," which states that before making a wise decision, consider the impact it will have in seven generations.

Raffensperger's presentation is inspired by her work with an abandoned mine near the Arctic Circle, after calculating that its 237,000 tons of arsenic trioxide pollution will negatively affect the next 10,000 generations. She calls for the designation of "legal guardians of future generations" that will "audit" current actions and decisions as to how they will affect the future. "Imagine if future generations actually had rights," she says. "They have the right to be born without being polluted." Furthermore, "if we take care of future generations, we are likely to take care of this generation."

Click here to watch Raffensperger's talk.

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