Consuming today and forgetting the future

I spoke with a senior professor the other day about the future of human civilization and the challenge of climate change. He made the same remark that countless others have made to me over the last decade: “I can’t worry about climate change. I will be dead by then.”

It is a great mystery how so many of America’s best and brightest somehow think they have no responsibility to work for future generations. Perhaps the attitude is born of a consumer culture in which the highest value is consuming for oneself and ignoring the past and the future. Most Americans do not even realize they suffer from this affliction.

 

If we look back at the best of the American tradition, we stumble upon the  “Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.” This fine  constitution could serve as a model for the United States:

“In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

One response to “Consuming today and forgetting the future

  1. Craig February 24, 2013 at 7:13 am

    It’s quite likely this was partly the inspiration – at least in principle – for the American constitution, too. It was well-known at the time that the 6 Nations (originally 5) had a very – almost libertarian – constitution.

    But adopting more of this model would provide better government than we’d like to think. The laws they used to set up their governments were less like ours, in that they eschewed massive state intervention.

    Too much of the left and right today advocates for large states with lots of power.

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