The current fad of sustainability is just the latest in a string of social movements that have brought us to where we are today. In fifty or a hundred years, we will look back on these times as naive and somewhat primitive. Just as today our children might seem amazed that “in the old days” all the communications devices had to be linked with wires, or that cars only got ten or twenty miles per gallon. What the future brings is largely determined by what we demand. When we said: “No, the rivers should not foam and flocculate, becoming a colloidal suspension because of industrial discharge.” It did not take even one generation to clean up our mess. When we all saw the Native American in commercials with a tear in his eye over the pitiful state of the environment, we all got a little wiser about our choices. Over the years, many have become complacent, or fallen back into old habits. However, a new generation stands poised to surpass even our commitment to ecological protection, if we teach them and tell them the truth.
My own children and their families drive cars without oil leaks, (unlike what my parents did) drive far less for amusement and distraction (than I did when I was their age) and have found many more ways to reduce their consumption than I have ever thought of. I cannot say definitively that their challenges will be any less than our own, but I can say that there will be every bit as much creativity and drive to make the world a better place in the coming generations as there ever was in the past. I can never know for sure what new challenges will come up, but I do know from past experience that the forces of destruction will continue to play out across the face of the planet. How our children deal with them will be a direct reflection of our own approach to problem solving and behavior that we model for them.
Before you wax complacent, think for a moment what it will mean to the next seven generations if we just hide our heads in the sand, or retreat into the relative safety of ignorance. Vocal minorities have always pushed policy. People making money from the benefits that we all share, like clean water, fresh air and the very soils we claim to love cannot be expected to police themselves. In addition to corporate welfare in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and investment, must we also give them title to our natural resources as well? Taking whatever pollution that they deem necessary for their “survival”as corporations and breathing, drinking or eating it as well? A variety of health concerns are on the rise because the variety of industrial and agricultural chemicals we are exposed to keeps expanding.
If we can find more natural and efficient ways to meet our needs, there is a chance that we can head off this ecological catastrophe, but we can expect little support or help along the path to change from the vested interests that squeal like stuck pigs each time regulations are proposed. The time has come for us to redistribute our own time and energy in ways that stem the flow of capital to those who would abuse us and our planet. Whether or nor we will be able to pass on a planet that is livable will be the true test of our commitment to future generations. How we make our way in the world will determine the possibilities left to future generations whether we admit it of not. When we understand the gravity of our decisions today, it opens the possibility of a brighter future for generations to come. Let us do whatever we can now to help them understand that they were important to us, regardless of our “primitive” technologies.