Countering NIMBY with the story of a child in front of a tank: Seven generations and seven continents

By Madronna Holden

Imagine the world we would live in (and what our children could look forward to) if we all held to the standard proposed by my student, Rachel Brinker, who recently wrote:

“Consider the effect of your actions on not only yourself, but your children, seven generations from now. I would like to base a paradigm shift in our culture on this concept, and I would like to extend this idea to seven continents, as well as seven generations. We should consider the effect of our actions on the next seven generations, on all seven continents. The distance between ourselves and the effects of our actions are vast when our economy is based on “externalities.”

“The convenient thing about globalization, for us in the western world, is that we get to enjoy all the new gadgets and goodies we could possibly consume without having to think about the exploitation of the people and the destruction of the environment, because those things are happening on the other side of the globe. The idea of protecting the next seven generations of your own kin is a good first step, but let us remove the idea of “other.” Let us see all seven continents as our backyard. Let us refuse to let ANY person’s quality of life be considered an “externality” of our economy.”

Abiding by this standard, we would attend to the stories of those we may not agree with — but whose experiences bring us closer to a true global community–as in this story passed on by another of my students, Carol Gift:

“Last summer, I went on a long fishing trip with an ex-Harrier jet pilot who flew in Iraq. He is very red (pro-Bush Republican) and so we are at odds on many issues. But one of the stories he told me was about a convoy he was in that was halted for some time, and when his guys finally found out what the holdup was, it turned out to be a little girl who’d sat down in the middle of the road next to a land mine to warn the soldiers it was there.

“Now, when I think of Iraq, I don’t think of some far-away war I’m removed from: I think of how it would feel to have my nine-year-old daughter sit down in a road in front of a land mine.”

“The more questions we ask and the more personal experiences we tap in to, the more hope we all have of shifting cultural paradigms and perspectives toward human compassion.”

259 Responses

  1. Can we experience compassion–and thus responsibility– for those we never see face to face? I think we not only can but must overcome the distance the global economy sets up between our actions and their effects. This is what makes the NIMBY attitude so dangerous in enforcing the current disconnection between our actions and their consequences.

    And the words of my two students here bolster my hope for our shared earth — as do the words of so many whose wise comments are posted on this site.

    • My comment is on your first question here. Can we experience compassion (and responsibility) for those we never see face to face. I believe it’s possible and imperative. Without compassion for others across the continent or across oceans, this generation or seven generations from now, we are missing a great opportunity to be part of a global community all striving toward one goal: saving our planet for the generations to follow. When we pull ourselves away from egocentric thinking, we gain so much more than when we stay inside our small selfish box.

      • Thanks for responding to this question with the answer that it is not only possible but imperative to spread the compassion that a child felt for soldiers ensconced in a tank. I agree that egocentric makes us so much smaller than we might be.

    • The dualistic NIMBY attitude truly perpetuates through the generations. Not only by poisoning our children, but by stalling potential scientific and technological studies. If we worked together and pooled our resources as a one earth species where would we be in terms of medicine, science and transportation?

      • Good point: but we will also have to work through our notions that science should be “objective” and thus value free– an ironic stance in terms of the hanky panky going on in the pharmaceutical industry, for instance. Thanks for your comment. Think indeed of what we might accomplish if we both worked together and got our ethics in line.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Paula– and the opportunity to clarify. The seven generations have to do with the amount of time we are responsible for the effects of our actions– not the amount of time we have to change things. Perhaps we might say that caring for the seventh generation in the future makes it imperative that we act NOW to deal with things such as climate change?

  3. This idea of thinking for seven generations seems so logical, so base to our survival that it almost feels silly to have to speak (or write) it. As I’ve thought about how to get people to shift to thinking in this long term vision, I’ve always come back to the reality that we need to find common ground with each other: So that it is not the leftists vs the right, or the environmentalists vs the corporation, etc. The story that Carol Gift shared above is one that brought me to tears, as I know it would for most parents. This is common ground — a place where communication has the opportunity to cross internal borders and potentially shift values. It is a lofty idea (sadly) to want people to think of seven continents when most North Americans hardly think of their neighbors. I truly believe though, that most people really want to do what is good and with education, communication and common ground we may just eventually be able to work towards a future that includes seven generations on seven continents.

    • Thanks for this touching response, Dazzia. It does seem to me that the way to shift values (as you indicate) is not necessary with lofty or sweeping ideas, but with personal stories that make us present to one another across the cultural and spatial walls and across the times that might otherwise divide us. To embrace such inclusion is, after all, to enlarge ourselves as well.

  4. Human compassion does not seem to be a common virtue in the heart of policy makers. Ignorance teaches them that those are not their children, who are saddened by the daily impact of war. When talking about dangerous threats, Iraq became so close to the United States of America. The distance seemed to be that of a stone’s throw. But when talking about compassion with those hundreds of thousands who died or were injured and those millions whose lives are accompanied by lasting mental alienations, Iraq seemed to be so far away that even the moon appears to be closer.

  5. I like the seven generations and seven continents concept. It helps in understand the magnitude of our environmental problems. I think realizing that although we may speak different languages and have different cultures we are the same species. Therefore we should be concerned with our welfare as humans beings here in our country or globally. The only question I have is how do we reach such a goal as global compassion?

    • Thanks for this comment, Ann. I think your last question begins with an answer from each of us and builds to the ideas that support cultural shifts that allow us to see our world without walls.

  6. Well i absulutly love that story, i can almost see her mom saying no dont go out there, and the daughter despite who they were did not want to see anyone get killed. This message gives hope to those who think we cant change or are always for ourselves and never help others in times of need.
    For years we have not excepted the affects of our actions, we treat land and places we live in like it will always be there, which time has proven to be a wrong assumption. We must change the way we live and how we use our resources if we exspect our sons and grandsons in the future to live as comfortable as we have.

  7. One little brave girl – the effect that one act of compassion can have on many people. What a little hero. Did she even realize what she was doing? Saving lives the most unselfish act of all with her at the center of it. When reading of this story I cried because who knows whose son, brother, husband, daughter, sister or wife she saved. When a child of this age can step forward and act, what possible excuse could any of the rest of us have?

  8. This is a nice article. It sounds good. Imagine what the world would be like if humankind took this stance, especially with such pressing environmental issues that are global. There are no boundaries in the rock cycle, and the hydrological cycle. The waste from recycling which is shipped to Asia from the U.S., is global in nature.

    But, throughout history we have not been a globally peaceful specie. There is reason to believe this will not happen. But, we’ve not experienced this situation in ecology before. So, maybe things will change.

    I think the example of the little girl shows a spiritual heart with individual responsibility. It’s a very touching story.

  9. I hear the commandment from the Bible in my words, …love your neighbor as yourself and without love(compassion), I am nothing. My neighbor is all people, from all continents. Living in a world with walls is meaningless. Living in a world without walls is the way to understanding others. Living in perspective of seven generations from now definately changes my view right now.

  10. If I understand NIMBY, as a culture we need to realize that everything effects us in some fashion. We can deny that we put hormones, etc. into cattle to insure that we have a cattle industry that grows the biggest and the best meat for the least amount of money, yet we cannot deny the affects it has on our children and ourselves. We are impacted even though it is not in our backyard. Maybe denial is the greatest enemy. That one child did not deny the danger that was in front of her. She saw the partnership between herself and the soldiers and took responsibility to ensure their safety. She could have ignored the obvious and the ramifications would have been deadly .

    I have watched since the 1950s as America was building and growing this great country. In our quest for growth and money, we choose to ignore the obvious and now are paying the price as we repair the damage. This ability to ignore the obvious is occurring in the developing and industrial countries in their quest for growth and money. The damage to the air and water does not just affect their countries as the impact is global. I am not a believer in global warming – but I am a believer in ensuring that all people deserve the right to clean air and water. We must take care of our environment simply because it is the right thing to do and by doing so we can provide a future to our children. If we do this, global warming or not, we will have not ignored the obvious and like that beautiful little girl we will save the life of our planet.

    • I like your image of the child who did not express denial as she stood in front of the tank- sometimes it is our children who have not yet been socialized into wearing blinders about the effects of our actions on others. I very much also like the way you see her as symbolic– in all her courage and hope– for the future children to whom we owe the inheritance of a vital environment. Thanks for your comment, Liz.

  11. A little over a year ago, my high school freshman daughter started a fund raising project to buy desks for a school being built in Jinja Uganda. She was horrified to learn that children were forced to fight as soldiers in the LRA. She called her fund raiser “Project Our Turn,” and held bake sales and called on corporate sponsors and is half way to raising the $6200 for the desks in this high school for orphans that are victims of AIDS and child soldiering. Raising money in a crumbling economy is no simple task, particularly for a teenager, but she has stuck with it.

    This week she is there in Uganda delivering 40 soccer balls and a bunch of team t-shirts and participating in the dedication of the high school. She did this by partnering with other organizations like Assist International who in turn partnered with Action for Empowerment. Both organizations are sound non-profits without a lot of overhead.

    Many children are making a significant difference in this world, and the ones that do are spreading the word, it’s our turn to make a difference. We need to get involved and do something, not just learn about it. I’m obviously a very proud and biased parent, but I also know that it takes a fresh perspective to be willing to take on such an enourmous task. When I was younger I felt I could take on the whole world, now I’m happy to be going back to work and have the chance to pay my mortgage and feed my family.

    • It is deeply touching when we have such idealistic and compassionate children, David. Psychologist Alfie Kohn believes strongly that compassion is a part of our innate make up–something that comes naturally to all human children– and our society have to work to train it our of young people by selling them on competition instead. Congratulations on leaving this part of your daughter’s spirit vital and in tact! You are a proud parent for good reason.

  12. Personally, I try to conduct my life asking myself the question, “What will this do to/for my grandchildren?”. That question alone is at times a stretch for me so it is difficult to envision what my decisions will mean for 7 generations on 7 continents. It is a worthy goal.

    More information such a product labeling that reveals the true ecological footprint of our marketplace choices would go a long way towards helping us realize our impact on future generations living on other continents.

    • Product labeling to somehow indicate these things would be a great thing, Julie. We can’t make ethical choices without information–and though none of us can absolutely know how our actions will play out in the future, we can certainly hold to some values (and some wisdom from past experience) that tells how to avoid particular kinds of harm we are now inflicting on future generations through just plain carelessness.

  13. In order to ensure that humankind can sustain itself, I feel that the ideals in this article are important. It would be beneficial for everyone if we would look at the world with a more holistic view in mind. When taking into consideration that what we do affects our children for generations to come as well as affecting those that live across the planet, people may be more inclined to practice more compassionate values as well as attempting to better ways of life. The story of the little girl protecting the troops from the mine is interesting. Children have innocent eyes. One would almost never find a fully grown human out standing between a land mine and soldiers. It is unfortunate that as humans grow older, their natural compassionat inherency dissappears.

    • I think that the inherent compassion, as you put it, does not always disappear–some societies foster this in their members. It is time for us to become that kind of society.

  14. In response to Julie’s comment above, I find it very hard to shop these days – I would love to see some “ecological footprint” labeling such as she has proposed. I recently moved to England, and was overjoyed to find in the supermarkets that nearly all of the food is labeled (and quite prominently) as being grown locally (at least what can be.) British Peas! British Pork! British Milk made from British Cows! The Europeans are much more conscious about keeping their farmers on the land (and not just the agribusiness giants either), and the EU does a lot of subsidizing in order to make this possible (though what this does to commodity crop growers in the 3rd world is another story…) However, that aside, I’m glad to be supporting a food economy that doesn’t exploit 3rd world labor or necessitate transport costs from halfway around the world. I wish we saw more of that local food labeling in the States.

    • Great point about labeling. Consumers have been fighting to have genetically engineered foods labeled for years here without success–in spite of the fact that some gmo material (brazil nut genes spliced into other foods are notorious) cause severe allergic reactions to those sensitive to certain products they might not be watching for in say, tomatoes. But industry (Monsanto, that is) has poured huge bucks into stopping this move, since their polls tell them consumers would buy less gmo foods if they were labeled. Perhaps the new US administration will provide a climate that looks more to health and environmental concerns that the big buck.
      In the meantime, consumers (and some scientists and health professionals) have been taking proactive steps: note the “consumer information” links on the right of this website. Some of these sites are specifically working to spread the word about the social and environmental costs (not to mention, health risks to consumers) of certain products as opposed to others. Though most of these sites as US-based (though they trace global manufacturing processes), a British site was one of the first to rate consumer products along these lines. I don’t have the link any longer, but you might be able to surf and find it.

  15. The story Carol Gift told gives me hope that there still is compassion out there, and not everyone externalizes bad will and suffering. If we were to talk to this child, I would imagine she doesn’t even know what all this fighting is about anymore, and it seems to me nobody cares to find out. The point is…I bet her main goal wasn’t just to stop harm to the US troops, it was to try and get some ADULT to think and reason things out. My God…it takes a child to try and stop suffering, pain, even death from occuring to someone she doesn’t even know! Would an adult have done the same? Maybe so….but they didn’t, a child did.

    I’ve heard many people say, “I’m just taking care of myself, because nobody cares about me or what happens to me…it’s a hard world out there.” My response, yep and you are falling right into the trap… enabling that very attitude.

    • I find this incident touching and hopeful as well, Patrick. The “nobody cares about me” whine is obviously an excuse for acting without care for others– that is self-defeating in the end. Good point!

  16. This essay was interesting to me because I think it is very optimistic and could be helpful along with education and changing worldviews. However, at this current point in time I think its a little unrealistic because so many people have the mind set that they will be “dead and gone” in seven generations, so they don’t care how their actions will effect the future.

    • Hi Karen, I know that many do believe this, but I also believe that there is a bit of denial in this stance. I think that we all want a legacy in some part of our consciousness. And I think this statement about being dead and gone comes from either a laziness or a sluffing off of what we don’t want to deal with. It is easy to pessimistic in our current world, but I have been fortunate to have seen many, many things (and people”!) that have given me hope. And let me pose this question to you– facing our current crises, do you think we should debate what is realistic about facing it- or just do what needs to be done?

  17. This article moved me at immense proportions due in part because I have a daughter of my own, who is the most important thing in my life. Rachel Brinker made an excellent point about how we need to think about those who are destined to be a part of our world several generations from now. What also really stuck with me was how she not only put emphasis on the fact that we need to think of our own family but of others who are on other continents. We are all connected to one another in some way and so it is most definitely vital that we make the right choices both locally and globally. Making more and more right decisions can make such a difference in a world that is faltering; I definitely know that by thinking of those who will be inheriting the world that I live in now, I want to make a difference for the better so that they won’t have to face the consequences.

    The story of the little girl in Iraq who was sitting by the mine and warning soldiers of it, truly moved me. I think what saddens me the most is that people are so focused ending the war or winning the war that they tend to forget that there are so many children over there that are being thrown in the middle. When people say that they don’t understand the war, painting a picture such as a child sitting next to a land mine should certainly make them more aware of what is going. As a parent reading of something like that not only makes me feel fortunate to have my daughter in a safe place but it also makes aware of the global issues that although are in faraway places are in fact affecting everyone in the world.

    • Thanks for your heartfelt response as a mother to this young girl’s courage. I concur that there is no priority so strong in a mother who loves her daughter than having her be safe.
      I hope this little Iraqi girl knows that she is influencing not only the lives of those soldiers but others thousands of miles away with her act. And perhaps this is a lesson for each of us– that the influences of our actions, for better or worse, are more far-reaching than we know.

  18. I think compassion for people we can’t see will be challenging and need to be integrated into our culture for it to be successful. Not saying it can’t be done, but it will require an entire and willing change from all of us. I love the idea of seven generations and seven continents, but the truth, for me, I have trouble planning day to day. I’m working on it and one of my goals in this class is to learn to make better choices. It will be a challenging and on-going process.

    The story of the little girl; my only response is “WOW!!” I can’t think of a better or more appropriate response. That pretty much said it all. The courage that little girl showed is more than most people show in their entire life. The story was certainly humbling. I hope she made it beyond childhood. She shows a lot of potential for the future.

    • We live in a complex and sometimes befuddling culture with all the information–and lack of it, Christy. There are websites that help us with oversight, but personal choice takes time. The good news is that once we become informed, we can make decisions more easily. That is a great goal: if we were all responsible citizen-consumers, the way we vote with our dollars might well make impressive changes. One way to look at this is that you are empowering and validating yourself by voting your values.
      Touching response with reference to the girl in front of the tank– an observation of one who expresses the caretaking we need to nourish our young!

  19. Wow! Rachel Brinker and Carol Gift sure helped to put things in perspective. Globalization does seem to be a huge problem for us. I admit I have difficulties when a new toy comes out and I’d like to try it. As long as we don’t see all of the kids who sweat over putting it together, under horrible conditions, it’s okay. Out of sight, out of mind. This is why I think Carol has a great idea about incorporating more human relations. The more we can relate to others and understand their difficulties, even to know what exact problems they are facing so we think about that in our day to day living, perhaps this could change our unfortunate habits.

  20. Thank you for sharing the thoughts of your students. I have always had a hard time with politicians who talk about how important their family and children are, but they keep making decisions that are going to lead to a miserable future for their children and grandchildren. I don’t understand how they can’t worry about the future for those they love the most (even if they don’t care about the rest of us).

    When I think about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I keep thinking about the people there who are just trying to live their lives and keep their families safe. It must be terrifying for them. It isn’t the people who want to fight who are suffering when we drop bombs. The regular citizens are the ones who suffer. I try to put myself in their place. What governments decide is not always the will of the people, and not everyone is the enemy because they live in a country where some people do bad things. I think Carol Gift is right, we need to meet our “enemies” face to face, so we can see that they are people with lives and feelings. It is the only way we are ever going to find understanding and peace.

    • Thanks for your compassionate response, Christina. It seems to me that if we truly love our children, it would lead to our ability to care for the children of the future and the rest of the world as well.
      And you are also one of my student-teachers– thanks for sharing your thoughts as well.

  21. The post by Carol Gift really made me realize how far reaching human compassion really is. For a child to sit in front of a land mine to protect these soldiers from harm without any regard to her own life just makes my heart sink. Compassion is something that we all need to put into our daily lives and then just maybe our world would be a better place.

    • Hi Rita, thanks for your comment. This child certainly showed how compassion must sometimes be interwoven with courage– and at the very least, must leave behind our petty egoism.

  22. I love this idea of considering how your actions and decisions here and now will affect people on our seven continents and seven generations from now. If we actually assumed this thought process so many wrongs could be undone, such as children STILL being exploited for cheap labor, farm workers exposed to pesticides and other chemicals, forests being destroyed in the mining of precious gems, to cite a few. I acknowledge that in order to make a better decision/action it would require a little more time, energy and research however it is more than worth it in the long run.

    • I certainly agree with you, Yensi. Such a decision making process would not only expand our sense of justice– but our wisdom in caring for ourselves and our own communities.

  23. One of my librarian pals has a bumper sticker on her car. (In fact, most library people seem to have bumper stickers.) Hers is especially good:
    ‘The shortest distance between two people is a story.’
    What that young Iraqi girl did required, as many of you have said, courage and compassion of epic proportions. Worthy of a story that clearly bears repeating. I’ll be sharing this one. Thank you.

  24. One would think that as our technologically savvy world would bring us closer and establish a better understanding. For example, the impact Twitter had in the Iranian protests after the election. I was appalled at the apathy of most Americans about the situation there, especailly getting a stream of updates. I guess the 120 characters is not a substitute for a face-to-face interaction with someone where a story is told.

    • I think the potential is there for things like the internet to bring us closer and establish a better understanding, as you put it, Coral. Such things can be great tools for getting the word out– but just as oral tradition is far richer in context than the written word, face to face interactions with real people engages us in a way that takes some motivation to duplicate if we only have things like the internet–and 120 characters– well, I don’t think we can treat any idea with serious respect in this way. To me twitter is about analogous to the ring on a phone– it says there is a message to be had, but not a whole lot else.
      Maybe some do better than I in communicating in 120 characters…but that’s why there isn’t any link with Twitter on this site.

  25. It is exciting to think that we have the power to touch people seven generations from now on all seven continents. I have been using the brand 7th Generation for quite some time now, but I’ve never stopped long enough to really think about what it could mean globally. On the front of my bottle of dish soap there is a quote from The Great Law of The Iriquois Confederacy: “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” Those first four words are so powerful. Sometimes we think we have to do enormous things to make an impact, but if we could collectively start with our every (small) deliberations, we could go so far. I want to consider that how I treat people, what I say, how I think, and how much compassion I extend to my neighbor next door or across the world will reverberate seven generations from now.

    • Hi Staci, thanks for the reminder about the ways in which we might expand our decisions–and our personal power for change– by expanding our perspective. That is a very large task you have set for yourself in your last sentence– but perhaps it is nothing more than an apt phrasing of the human task, that is, of our journey here on earth, linking our responsibility to our power as we place ourselves in the interdependent circle of life and time.

  26. Having read multiple articles on the NIMBY attitude, I have gotten to a point where my frustration level is close to explosion. This perspective makes us look and seem like fools, with no regard for our environment among other things. This article speaks of the idea of considering future generations as well as all other continents that exist on this planet, in todays society and culture with as much evidence that is available we can no longer act ignorant about the consequences of our actions. The story of the little girl in this article breaks my heart and should everyone reading it, think of your family, would you behave the same way if you knew that could be one of yours.

    • Thanks for your comment-and your passion, Emily. All this personal care is well turned into action and educating others.
      I agree that it is both foolish and lacking compassion to pretend that what we don’t see does not exist.

  27. This is truly a wonderful essay. I have already passed it onto my sisters and parents!

    I think we do become very disconnected as a country to what is occurring in other countries. It is amazing to me that we are not educated more in worldly views, world news, and even geography!

    I was talking with one of my clients, who is a national retailer. We were discussing how they can become a more sustainable company, and yet also be competitive. Our economy in general has not placed true “costs” of a product in mind, and therefore, to compensate for changes needed to be greener, they must generally either cut their profit margins, increase their prices, or do both. Then it comes down to the fact that regardless, other third world countries are playing catch-up, so they are not having to follow the rigorous standards that either our government or the public has demanded, therefore they are producing the same items and selling them at much cheaper costs, albeit only monetary. They are not even aware the environmental ramifications due to their production of certain items. Because they do not even have the infrastructure in place to handle technological advances, they are worlds behind us.
    In any case, my point was that we DO need to think of the next seven generations as well as the seven continents as ALL of our children.
    Also, I found it truly inspiring that such innocence could be found in the middle of a war. That little girl embodies love at its deepest core!

    • Hi Danielle, thanks for your comment–and your enthusiasm for the compassion of this child– and compassion of your own that moves across continents to honor her and her story. Thanks for passing it on as well!
      I applaud your business discussion. It is sad that our system rewards third world countries that are poor indeed compared to ourselves for taking the low road in terms of environmentalism. But a bit of news: those countries throughout the world with the toughest human rights and environmental standards also have the highest level of employment.
      You might be interested (in all the spare time I am sure you have a student!) in looking at Natural Capitalism. And for a totally different sense of business leadership: Max DePree’s Leadership is an Art (this is a very fast read readily available in paperback. )

  28. Great story about compassion, understanding and hope. It’s funny how we just don’t think about things that are happening far away, but we only focus on the silly things that don’t really matter in day-to-day life. Like who our friends are, what we’re doing for the weekend, what should we do to entertain ourselves? But when we stop to think about our young men off fighting a war and this little girl sitting next to a mine to try to steer the opposing “team” from getting hurt gives us something truly bigger to ponder.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reminder to evaluate the things that are really important in our lives, Katy–and to learn such lessons from those whom we sometimes ignore as being too far away to care about.

  29. Having three daughters, the thought of one of them at a young age sitting in front of a landmine is incomprehensible. However, I would be very proud to know my child had the foresight to see danger and risk her life for those she didn’t personally know. Raising children is not only the responsibility of the parent, but as many have stated “it takes a community to raise a child.” Children will model and learn from those that surround them. This little girl who sat next to the landmine possibly had others in her life that represented the philosophy of reciprocity.

    With a Western culture and current worldview thinking of some, the idea of raising generations of self centered, narcissistic people is frightening. Reciprocity of helping those who are unable to help themselves will return in abundance to those generations that take on this practice. I tried to instill this practice with my children. My youngest child at age six came up with the idea, all on her own, to help those people who did not have a home and were, as she described, “needy.” Through the help of her elementary school she did a clothing drive and accumulated an entire garage full of clothes to give to a shelter. It took five moms with large vehicles to get all the items downtown. I couldn’t have been prouder! Today she still has a heart for others. And she has been blessed many times in return.

    I have been impressed with the outreach to the Haiti people during this recent time of crisis. Fortunately deep within us the sense of caring for those and serving humanity is not a lost endeavor.

    • Hi Marla, reading this story as a mother makes it especially poignant; thanks for sharing this perspective. Many children are more open to this kind of need than are those of us who have learned to be less open to the others in our world. It is touching to see your child enacting this compassion– and certainly says something about yourself in encouraging this in her.
      I too feel hope when I see that such caring for others–as the response to the situation in Haiti– is within many us. This is great in times of crisis- it would also be great to see it spread into other areas of our lives.

  30. Thinking seven generations ahead is perhaps not an idea that our society is well-acquainted with. History education is a central part of any education yet we do not consider the flip side given that is uncertain. Yet there are some things about our future that our certain: America will not be a nice place to live if we continue current environmental exploits. The past repeats itself is a common catchphrase but it seems as though Western culture does not take heed it: more specifically, to what the experience of future Americans are to endure in regards to environmental catastrophy. Our current environmental trajectory is inconsiderate of present and future life-forms. Thinking seven generations ahead is a great catchphrase that might inspire people to consider the future for others accordingly.

    • I agree that thinking several generations in the future might allow us to expand our responsibility in such terms–and thus change our actions, in your words, to be “considerate of present and future life”. Thanks for your comment, Sky.

  31. Can we experience compassion–and thus responsibility– for those we never see face to face?

    I’m not entirely sure this is the root of the problem for many Americans, or even populations of the World for that matter. In our country we possess a media machine that feeds and grows off of ignorance and fear. I think that most people would care about a nine year old that sits down in front of a land mine to ward off soldiers, but honestly how many would know about such a thing? We turn on television and open the newspaper and headlines read “Cowboys win Superbowl”, or “Man brutally murdered in his home” or “Real Estate prices drop even further”. We do not provide the tools as a society to inform those around us about the issues that are truly important to our continuation as a species. The real problem is that many in our country are uneducated and lack the ability to dissect information on their own. This in turn causes what we perceive to be apathy on the part of the industrialized World, but the true problem we face is ignorance. Sure, there are those with apathy around the issues, but they are the ones with large corporations and billions of dollars with so much to lose if people became informed. Many of these individuals would see the ruin of all mankind if it would protect their own lifestyle. Our battle needs to be fought through the increase of education and the transformation of the media. I am constantly thinking of the lives my future children will live, and I agree that my own limited perspective could be more effective if I expanded my thinking to include problems of those I don’t see or think about, but we must begin by taking the first step. If we could get people to start by just thinking of their own lineage first we would certainly begin to see instant change.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Damien. I agree that we are fed adrenaline-laden bad news (it turns out that ad studies have shown people get a kind of rush from this– even if a negative one–and it causes them to tune in more and thus potentially buy more). I agree that we need a broader (and truer) view of the world that models something better for us to live up to in our human potential.

  32. Dr. Holden,

    This particle one has hit home in at least a few different ways today. I have two little girls, both still toddlers, and both are my whole world and I was deployed to Iraq a few years ago. They have changed the way I see EVERYTHING. I really did not give as much consideration to children as I did my fellow “shipmates” at the time. This, of course, has changed tremendously – the remark from the pilot was a brutal reminder of how limited my thinking was back then. I think about my grandchildren, what their lives will be like because of me. I rarely think much past great-grandchildren in this respect but I think about children and what they will experience a couple of hundred years from now…they are always very young, I guess a product of my life now. I see the young orphans on CNN experiencing the disaster and Haiti and am crushed to think of what they are going through and how my consumer habits have contributed to their lives. Then I read about the atrocities in developing countries and how my actions/inaction are impacting those situations on a daily basis. I am constantly aware of how small our world is but find it difficult to remember these things when my daughters are asking for an inexpensive toy at the store. One of my goals is to change my consumer habits to reflect what is best in a larger sense, but I think that viewing it as 7 generations, 7 continents may help me to narrow it down enough to lend it a sense of reality.

    Maria Gilmore

    • This is one of the things children do for us isn’t it, Maria–teach us how to see the world differently. Congratulations on your journey toward integrity and education in your consumer habits. It is such compassion that will turn our world around.

  33. I totally agree with this essay. I don’t know how the mother of that nine-year-old felt but having a nine-year-old with me now, I know exactly how I would feel. It really brings home to me how close our world neighbors are and how entwined we are whether we like it or not. Going through a massive mind shift regarding my life paradigm myself I am realizing how dramatic that can be. It is scary, it is uncomfortable and in some ways it is actually painful. I think that is why some find it easier to be NIMBY. It isn’t scary, it isn’t uncomfortable and it doesn’t cause direct pain but ignorance can only sustain you for so long before something will make you open your eyes and SEE! I am not sure yet whether or not I am thankful but I am definitely feeling the change.

    • Thanks for a compassionate response between mothers of nine year old children Cendi. I think the NIMBY attitude seems “easy” in some ways, but it also is difficult to live behind fences and take a defensive stance with respect to the rest of the world…

  34. Considering how our actions today will affect the world seven generations from now would be transformational thinking for this culture that thinks about short-term benefits. It would be an effective step towards realizing the interconnectedness of all things and how our actions affect them. Carol Gift’s story brings the results of our policies and actions home in a most human way. So many messages were relayed through one action of the little girl. The retelling of the story and our ability to relate to the little girl and all the emotions it evokes, make the messages all the more potent. It is stories like these that drive home the need to be informed of the polices of our nation and the consequences they have, which you brought up in your other articles (strawberry farms, fences). Carol Gift’s story vividly demonstrates that we have much in common with all other people regardless of what country they live in.

    • It is absolutely necessary that we become informed of our country’s policies (and the policies of corporations we support with our dollars) if we wish a true democracy. We can only take part in democratic decision-making with such knowledge. Thanks for your comment, Sue–and for reminding us as does Carol how much we have in common with the rest of the world.

  35. I like Carol Gift’s thought about her daughter. What a great way to really bring the concept home for other readers. It’s easy to ignore the issues when they’re happening thousands of miles away, but thinking of someone you care about in that issue really opens your mind. I also really liked Rachel Brinker’s idea. I think those are the types of ideas we need to move forward ethically as a global community. What a difference it would make if we all thought about others for a change.

  36. I think we have become so desensitized. It would seem that with the advent and pervasiveness of worldwide media, people would be so outraged by what they see and hear that huge shifts would begin. But, people can watch the evening news (me included) and see devastating scenes of war and suffering while eating a bowl of ice cream. It doesn’t seem completely real, and even seeing it does not change the fact that we are removed from the situation. Also, people ignore all the awful things that are occurring because it seems like too much to handle. No one wants to disrupt their comfortable existence with the preoccupation of all the terrible things that are happening every day. I believe that trying to empathize with people we will never meet, and habitats we will never visit takes work, but shouldn’t we be expected to do that work? Humans are capable of such amazing ingenuity, and if this was applied on a grand scale to solving the problems of this world, think how much we could get done!

    • I do think the evenings news has the capacity to desensitize us– to make us think that what we see is somehow happening to someone in a movie script– or the advertising that we want to ignore. Or in fact, some psychologists have researched the fact that “bad” news gives us an adrenaline rush to which some seem to be addicted– but of course, this has nothing to do with compassion for those depicted on the media. It seems that it was very different during the Viet Nam War, when the reality of this on TV was a prime motivation for the protests against this war.
      I agree that humans are capable of immense ingenuity and I also think we are compassionate by nature: the trick is to foster social environments that support rather than dampen our better attributes. thanks for your comment, Laida.

  37. Some thought provoking stories. I liked the first one because when you look at seven generations in the scheme of the world it doesn’t seem like that long. You find yourself thinking, “How much could humans really go wrong in only seven generations?” Then you remind yourself that it has only been that long since the Industrial Revolution and you realize that A LOT can go wrong in that time.
    The problem is that we are still very much trying to live down the fallout of our European forefathers’ ideas. It is apparent that using the planet only as a body of resources to foster unlimited progress with no regard for “other” people is flawed. All the major environmental concerns that we currently have, stemmed from this worldview. And as Albert Einstein famously said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
    Thus everyone should find some way of attaching themselves to the world. Some way of viewing the world as unified, not distant or “other.” Though it is easier to ignore the concerns of distant people and lands as we go about our daily lives, I think it would do us all good to imagine our loved ones in the same peril that others, like that little girl, are exposed to. In this way will we become truly concerned for the human race and thus act for its greatest good.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Spencer– and for reminding us that there is not only an ethical imperative but a profound power to the compassion that helps us “attach ourselves to the world.”
      You present a bit of powerful perspective in your take on the seven generations of industrialism and just how much harm humans can do with their power in this time. I like to imagine that we can create just as much good by chancing the worldview from which our problems stem so that we will not, as Einsten said, be saddled with the ineffective task of trying to solve problems with the same mindset that created them.

  38. The idea of removing “other” from the equation of social, environmental and economic justice is very appealing. Rachel’s statement reminded me about there not being a word for “my” in the Plateau Salish language because the concept of ownership of another soul (be it animal or human) was so foreign to them. This goes right along with the Lesson 2 readings because it speaks to the deep and undeniable interconnectedness not only between the individual and the natural world, but also between individuals. Imagine if the Western world view had no word for “other” but instead we were all connected as equally important parts of the world community where we realize how each of our personal actions affect not only ourselves but the all of the world, its processes and inhabitants. It would be utopia. Small shifts and small steps could make all the difference.

    • Hi Molly, thanks for your comment. Small shifts and steps are the ground on which larger ones are built–and make each of our actions important. Your tie all these issues into the notion of dualism or us/them mentalities is right on.

  39. I found this post very powerful. I think the image of a nine-year-old girl sitting down in front of a land mine to act as a warning of its presence would strike a special place in anyone’s heart (assuming they have one). A child is a child. You do not stop and ask yourself what color the child is before deciding how you feel about the situation. You do not stop and ask where this child is from before doing so either. I think that children have a special way of encouraging compassion and care in a way that teenagers and adults just cannot. I am sure a lot of it has to do with their implied innocence. Whatever the reason, the special power of the child makes the concept of protecting the next seven generations more powerful itself because the next generations are our children, our kin. We cannot know what the future will bring, but we can know that we will love our children and want the best for them. Thus, we cannot discriminate against any generation on any continent because we are all connected. Thank you for sharing those stories!

    • I like your observation that ” a child is a child”, Kirsten. It is my hope that children can teach us much about care and life–and respecting our future.
      And thank you for your comment.

  40. This article really grabbed my attention. As I was reading I started to try and picture members of my family seven generations from now and the environment that they will have left to live in (if there will even be one). As we have read in many of our readings, there are already a good number of things that I myself may never get to see or experience due to people’s ignorance, this boggles my mind when I compare it to the things that people seven generations from now may not have. I think that this idea of seven generations across seven continents would start to change the way people think about things, and quite frankly, would make an incredibly good commercial/PSA.

  41. I believe that the necessary impetus for change lies within each and every one of us. It is only when we begin to enact a personal story of environmental redemption that a change in cultural paradigms will shift. Yes, this seems like a daunting process, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step. If each of us begins to take that step individually, then eventually we will be on the collective journey. I think this idea is captured well in the idea of 7 generations on 7 continents. If we each begin to focus on our generations in the future, and realize the interconnectedness of the world, then we have begun a process of healing that we may not fully appreciate, but will be appreciated by our families generations from now.

  42. (PHL 443 Student Reply) Wow, what a powerful story. Being in the military and having deployed myself, it particularly struck home with me. By thinking of seven generations and seven continents with every action we make, we are now placing ourselves in the equation we have always separated ourselves from. Personal accountability is necessary in order to place morality and conscience as high standards. The author is 100% correct in stating that we have all of the benefits of an interconnected world and none of the drawbacks. Due to this separated view of ourselves in the world, we have approached everything from a dualistic view as opposed to the holistic one we should be striving towards.

  43. This was a great essay. I truly agree with Rachel. We have to look now to what we are doing, and have done to nature and fix it. Following seven continents and seven generations is a paradigm that we all need to follow. If a little girl in Iraq can sit by a mine to help soldiers that she has never met, why can’t we protect the environment like that little girl protected the soldiers? We have to think of how we are abusing the environment. If we don’t, we are all living the NIMBY lie. We will continue to do so until there is nothing left for the next generation much less seven. We have to develop a united people, poor or rich, to protect and restore the environment before we and future generations lose.

  44. Rachel’s words are truly inspiring. I, too, sincerely believe that we need to focus beyond ourselves and our society, and consider the effects that our actions have on the rest of the world. I think that many of us try not to think about the conditions in other places of the world. We enjoy our nice new sneakers without thinking about the child labor that produced them. We drink clean water without ever thinking that people in other parts of the world have to walk miles to access clean water. Sweeping these thoughts under the rug as we continue to live the same way does not seem to be the answer. I’m not saying that sneakers are bad or that clean water is bad, of course. I’m saying that we should be grateful for what we have while consciously looking for ways to help others. I believe that if we all adapted a mindset wherein we tried to help others rather than compete with them, the rest would work itself out. We would probably see a decline in our standard of living, but it would just be us getting rid of the unnecessary crap. We would see other communities built up and see the global standard of living increase, and our hearts would be happy. I don’t know if I’m rambling here, but this is certainly how I feel. On another note, I am absolutely stunned by how many of my friends reacted to the recent disaster in Haiti. So many people on my facebook page or that I converse with in real life said “We need to only help America and let the rest of the world figure it out for themselves.” And yet, we have far more than we need in America to make sure everyone has a decent standard of living. Haiti certainly does not have the luxury of saying that. I just wish that people would be a bit more considerate about everyone else (and, of course, the things that are more-than-human). Just a simple attitude shift, and I believe that things would start to become okay.

  45. I literally got goosebumbs when i read “I think of my nine year old daughter sitting by a land mine” I dont have children of my own but I instantly felt a sense of sorrow. There is a mother somewhere out there whos nine year old daughter was sitting by a land mine.
    I do not feel so removed from the war because I have a lot of friends who are either over there or married to someone over there. The stories they tell when they come back are astonishing.

  46. The idea of the “seven generations and seven continents” also reminds me of the idea of “pay it forward”. It is based having a positive consciousness concerning people that we may or may not know. It is about doing what is right on the sole fact of it being the right option to choose. Repairing damage to the environment in our lifetime might not benefit us but it will certainly help our children and their children. This means adopting a type of selflessness and compassion where we worry not how we can benefit in the short-term but how everyone else has the potential to benefit in the long-term. The story of the little girl definitely struck a cord with me and I always try to treat people with the mentality that they are “somebody’s someone”. I would hope that when my loved ones go forth in the world that people treat them with respect and take the care that I would to make sure that they are loved, safe and have their needs fulfilled. Especially when working in the public sector it is difficult to work with strangers all day long. But keeping this mantra in mind helps me to keep a good perspective and to try and go above and beyond my duties.

    • I can imagine that it is difficult to work with strangers all day long, Ashley. But keeping in mind as you do the idea that each person you deal with is precious to their family and/or community (or perhaps just to the circle of life) is a wonderful way to compensate for this. This is a great model of respect for these strangers, as well as a way to extend our community to those others–and the hope that they might respond to our own loved ones in the same way. Thanks for sharing a great perspective!

  47. This made me think of how important telling stories is in terms of how we relate to the world around us. Just consider how the story of that little girl and the land mine personalized Iraq for Gift. When we communicate with others, particularly on the personal level, we exchange stories to tell people who we are or to emphasize what we consider important (and/or why). It’s how we connect. And it’s why we tend to be more interested in news stories that share the experiences of individuals rather than ones that state bald fact, because a face is a person whereas a number is often just a number (even if sometimes a shocking one)–something abstract, in a sense. I think it likely that more we come into contact with such stories, the harder it is to think of people and the places they live in as “externalities” (or so I hope).

    • Great points about stories, Crystal. Oral tradition brought the world close in time and space in these ways for traditional cultures. As a storyteller, I saw how stories put us in the place of others in this way. I hope with you that we can recover and put to good use as you suggest, this essential aspect of our humanness.

  48. If more people thought how these two students do, there would be major change happening right now. Maybe, people are now forced to become more aware of our environmental issues, or our war issues, but that is only because major events have slapped them in the face telling them to wake up. We have major environmental issues, we are depleating this earth of its natural resources, and just now we are starting to slowly change? Truth is it sounds nice for people to care about the whole world and the big picture, but in reality the majority of people are driven to better themselves not the human race as a whole. Example the rich oil owners, they don’t care what is happening to the environment, they are making billions!

    • You have some thoughtful concerns, Brandon. I wouldn’t put large oil corporations into a mindset indicative of the whole of human thinking. I think our problem is precisely that a few have benefits that others do not in this economic system– one of the reasons why CEO Jeffrey Hollender who would like businesses to do better has asked for regulations to change this (see our “quote of the week” sidebar here). I find this a hopeful sign. I also think that we can and will need to re-define what “bettering ourselves” means. If we think it means stepping over others (includes the natural life that sustains us), we are only acting self-destructively.

    • I mean this respectfully, but isn’t it NIMBY for us to demonize the oil industry when we are hopping into our SUV’s and driving to the store? Where do we think the oil is going to come from to satisfy our addiction to the internal combustion engine? I just find it a little disingenuous for people to be standing out with their “anti-BP” signs and then getting into their Escalade and driving home.

      This is very similar to what is going on in the nuclear industry in trying to force someone to house the spent fuel rods/materials. “Insert City Here” wants the power, but “Insert City Here” doesn’t want the waste materials.

      This is not to say that Safety Rules and Laws were not broken in the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but I have to say, at least for myself, I never imagined that it would be possible to drill a hole in the ground and then to not be able to stop what comes out. I realize this was (particularly in hindsight) a pretty unintelligent way of thinking, but it is events like these in the Gulf that open up our minds to new information and allow us to make different and better decisions in the future.

      • I think you have a valid point: we can’t say the spill is about “them” rather than “us” for other reasons as well– such as our failure (as citizens) to watchdog regulation (since BP got away with drilling without an accident response plan). I also think that we must hold these =businesses that broke the rules accountable–and realize that it might make that SUV trip more expensive. I agree with you that one of the better things that can come out of this situation is for all of us to open our eyes and “make different and better decisions in the future”. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mark.

  49. Thinking about future generations, not just those in your own bloodline, creates a mindset that your actions are not personal. The decisions you make and the actions you take effect those you know and love now, along with those in the future that we will not have a chance to meet. It is important to understand that even people we do not know, just like how that little girl did not know any of those solders or their families, can be effected by the decisions we make. This is the mind set we should all have because we all share one thing in common, our home earth. It is important to understand that just because you cannot see what is going on across the world does not mean you are immune to it.

    • Thoughtful point, Julie. I would like to say that our actions might be personal– but not egoistic or individualistic (out for ourselves only). I think that ultimately such expanded thinking expands our own quality of life as well. As you point out, we all share one thing in common– the planet that sustains us all. Thanks for your comment.

  50. Professor Holdren,

    You have had some very bright students and I enjoyed reading their contributions to that article. In regards to the war in Iraq, I was born in a foreign country because my father was in the Military. We have countless numbers of friends overseas and I agree that most people don’t hold the perspective of that world being close to them because they don’t have loved ones in the heart of it. The philosophy about protecting your family for 7 generations and then enlarging that scale to all 7 continents would greatly improve the quality of life for the rest of the world. The real question to ask is, would those of us in the Western world ever actually make a sacrifice that large to help others? On a global scale only time will tell, I suppose.

    • Hi Kurt, you yourself are one of those students, remember! The “sacrifice” you speak of would include some distributive justice: when 5 per cent of the world’s populations uses 25 per cent of its resources, there is trouble. It would ultimately be to our benefit, however, to provide a different model to the rest of the world, since we haven’t the several planets it would take to provide the whole world’s human population with the resource use of the US.

  51. I like the idea of thinking forward seven generations as well as thinking that encompasses all seven continents. Personally it is a viewpoint I wish to continue improving upon. I can understand where the blinders and even blind fold come into play during our lives. I feel that it initially begins with the loss of connection to a greater network be it through society or with mother nature. It is through that connection where we even begin to understand what lies before us and what path has been taken to this point. Instead, we live in a highly individualized societies (within more industrialized areas) where many are left with a focus that turns inward. To me it seems that looking inward, instead of looking through the network (even on an individual level) is what cuts us off from comprehending what life is outside of us in space and time. I think and hope we eventually will begin to see the commonalities between all humans which in turn may work to rebuild the network, or web of our existence, after which I hope we begin to understand today always precedes tomorrow.

    • You an an excellent point about connections here, Mathew. I don’t think there is anything wrong with looking inward (being conscious of our choices and goals and responsible for our own actions), but it is when this looking inward cuts us off from our world (and thus our responsibility as well as the possibilities in our connections) that we run into trouble. Or when we fail to look inward with honesty. Speaking for myself, I find personal authenticity and thinking a hopeful thing as we address our current social and environmental crises.

  52. To me this a sad story, and i don’t even have kids or anything like that but I do think where my nieces and nephews will grow up. Will they be little kid standing in front of the land mine? Or will they not know of that land mine? To me this is real. Yes, many of us may have not seen war on our homelands but anything can happen if we don’t respect the rights of those around us. I think when you mention Iraq not being a far away place, it almost lets us know we aren’t immune to seeing things like the girl standing in front of a mine happening.

    Overall, the article pointed out to me that you can simply go on not thinking about what you are really doing, but if you continue to for such a long time, like most of us have done, it will catch up with you.

    • Thanks for your empathetic response, Christopher. What is most interesting to me is that we can indeed go on ignoring the world outside our backyards– but then something happens, like this little girl’s choice to warn the soldiers, that breaks down our defenses– and from the responses to this story, the defenses of many who heard or read it.

    • Christopher, this story also helped me feel the sadness and reality of what is happening in Iraq. It also reminded me that children seem to be more self-sacrificing than adults. I wonder if the nine-year-old girl in the story saw the soldiers in the convoy as “others” or if she just saw them as people she didn’t want to get hurt.

  53. When responding to your essay “The NIMBY Lie,” I also wondered, why aren’t we viewing the entire globe as our “back yard?” Rachel says something similar to this and also encourages people to not only view all seven continents as their backyard, but to also take into consideration every other life that lives on each of those continents. I completely agree with this and think it would be so beneficial for people to understand the importance of this. However, this concept is one that would be a challenge to many, many people. Some people simply dislike other countries for things that they have done in the past, or leaders they have had, or tragic events that have taken place. It would be difficult for a person like that to view another country as equal and just as precious as their own. Or the people living there just as innocent and worth fighting for as their own children are. It is sad, but true. Hopefully, as younger generations begin to thrive, this view will be accepted worldwide.

    • Rachel does indeed set out quite a challenge for us in her idea of responsibility for seven continents and seven generations, Hana.
      You have something to think about in your idea that past anger or judgment toward (or a sense of superiority over) other societies would inhibit our seeing them as our equal. I don’t think we need to abdicate our personal values to extend our responsibility to others: we don’t have to agree with others to treat them with kindness and respect– and assume responsibility for our own actions.
      Marianne Williams (quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech) stated that our problem is often that we see ourselves as too small– Rachel’s idea challenges us to enlarge the sense of ourselves in time and space.

    • Hi Hana,

      I think the problem is bigger than you’ve described, and therefore, more challenging. I speak only from my own experience, but as the reigning world “superpower” we tend to objectify the rest of the world as somehow not as important as we are. We find all kinds of reasons to think of everyone else as “lesser than” we are, but the effect is that we are able to dismiss everyone else based on lack of importance. Also, I think many of us are in survival mode, which precludes deep thoughts about what’s happening on the other side of the globe.

      I also believe that our media downplays the rest of the world for us. A friend of mine from Australia recently related a story to me that seems pertinent. When he first arrived in the United States he checked into his hotel and turned on the TV, which was tuned to a World News channel. The first story they featured was about something that had occurred in Ohio. He was pretty sure that Ohio was part of the U.S. but told me this as an example that what is world news to us isn’t necessarily world news to the rest of the planet.

      • I appreciate your good examples on this point, Barbara. I also don’t understand exactly what you mean by the limitations in Hana’s comment. Does she not offer another perspective on this issue? It is my sense that we need all the perspective we can get from as many ways as we can see things.
        Your own perspective of the “less than” approach to “others” is one such expansion of a critique of the NIMBY worldview.

      • Professor Holden,
        I agree entirely with your statement on gaining perspectives from others. I also think it’s very important to completely understand an issue from all different sides (even the ones you disagree with).

        Barbara, I do agree with your comment about the media, and what your friend observed. There is so much going on around the world and often times our news channels focus on stories that are so miniscule. Our media, not to mention, is often times very biased which makes some stories skewed and inaccurate. I haven’t traveled much, but I would be interested to watch other countries “world news” channels and compare the types of stories that they talk about with our own “world news” channels.

        • Watching the perspective other countries have of the news should be an informative experience, Hana. That is, if they don’t have the same corporate influence our media does.

  54. The seven generations concept is not a foreign idea, at all, actually. It’s the basis for a very nice, environmentally conscious company of household goods (like diapers, cleansers, etc.)

    Seventh Generation ( bases their company on the Great Law of Iroquois:

    “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

    The Great Law of Iroquois is an incredibly powerful concept and something that so many people say but take no positive action to make happen.

    Cliche ideas abound on blogs and in the media, amongst some of the people I know from work, but I see hardly any of them taking the action necessary to turn a cliche into a world philosophy with examples of people doing the right thing.

    Carol’s story was also very powerful, and I really enjoyed her statement about not thinking of Iraq as this far away place removed from the rest of the world.

    My husband is a US Marine and has done several deployments to Iraq. As an infantryman, he was on the ground in the second battle for Fallujah (Operation Phantom Fury) in late 2004. The things he told me, and those I read and heard during drunken PTSD-laden rants of him and his friends are the kinds of things that motivate me to do what I can to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and to protect the helpless.

    For the record, all of those things tear at my husband’s soul. He is the most compassionate man I have ever met, and the things he’s seen will wear on him forever. But he is taking all of that and making a difference now. He is an animal rights supporter and voice, he is fighter for our environment, and he has been a beacon of this love while in the Corps. He was vegetarian throughout his entire last deployment to the war (2008-2009), which is no easy feat! NIMBY and its ignorance is not present within the Hines household, and like I said in my other post, I will not stand by the blood of my neighbors idly. I will fight for the trees and the bees alike.

    • The CEO of Seventh Generation is linked here: he is quoted on “quotes to ponder” in terms of responsible business practices. And whereas the company models some great business practices, they are not the same as this concept, which, as you point out, is a widespread indigenous one. The Bemindji Statement (in your choice points reading) also refers to this.
      I am truly sorry for your husband’s suffering–and the work your family has in standing by him to work through this. It is sad indeed to carry such things that “tear at the soul”. One small consolation is that this is at least a sign that he does continue to feel his level of compassion in spite of the emotional pain this brings him. It is a testament to his–and his family’s– courage that NIMBY is “not present within the Hines household”. We need those who have been through the fire (literally) and returned to us with their humanity in tact to model what is possible for all of us working together in the human and more than human community.
      Thanks for your own courage and care, Crystal.

      • I realized afterward that this sounded kind of rude there in the beginning of my comment, Professor Holden. My apologies. Emotions and tone inflection just don’t through.

        Thank you for the immensely kind words, Professor Holden. They were very, very kind and made me tear up a bit. I don’t like talking much about all of the war happenings, but for examples like this, the experiences are fitting. He really is amazing and he keeps me on my toes. Together, I think we’re a pretty good team. We try to be the best voice and advocate for our planet and its inhabitants as we can. That’s something I don’t think we’ll ever lose, either.

        Thank you, again, for the kind words, Professor Holden!

  55. “Can we experience compassion- and thus responsibility- for those we never see face to face?” Personally, I’d like to believe that every parent would strive to make their child’s future better than their own. I also agree that it’s not only possible for us to do so but imperative as well. And in my opinion it starts by educating are youth to understand the importance of such a principal concept which would surely promote greater welfare for the masses.

    • I would hope that every parent does indeed do this, Ryan (and work to make the future better for future generations, the children’s children’s children whom we may never see as well). Thanks for your comment–and your obviously conscious parenting.

    • Hi Ryan,
      I also would like to believe that every parent would want their child’s future to be better than their own. I know that my own parents strive for this and I am so thankful for that. They have given me many opportunities that weren’t available for them when they were my age. I hope to do the same when I become a parent as well! I also agree with you that education is a key factor in getting across the importance of this concept. I actually just wrote on the other “NIMBY lie” article about the power of education and spreading awareness. Education is a great tool and it can be used for much more than teaching academics!

    • The same concept extends to those who chose not to reproduce as well. Everybody wants to live a high quality of life. This is why people diet, exercise, take vitamins, etc. Human responsibility is a global responsibility that needs to be treated just as that-a global responsibility.

      • Thoughtful point, Andrew: and this brings up what we model as a developed society to the rest of the world. We cannot expect to use up all these resources to create a standard of living that we then say the earth cannot sustain for the rest of the world.
        All the more reason to get our technology and responsibility for our actions in proper order so that we can offer a model we really wish the rest of the world to emulate.

  56. The story shared about the little girl sitting next to the land mine really made me think. A young child, with little knowledge of how the world works and with presumably very little formal education, risking her life to save the life of foreigners wielding firearms. She had absolutely no idea of what the soldier’s intentions were, whether they were there to cause harm to her family or support them, she simply knew that if this group of people drove over this landmine, they would probably be killed or critically injured at the very least.

    Compassions towards things/people you do not know on a personal level, is probably the truest form of compassion. There is no underlying agenda; rather a desire to practice a lifestyle which promotes care, provides support, and protects others and the natural world which we live in (even though we may not have a personal connection or understand how and why things are the way they are).

    I have found the “Seventh Generation” concept to be very appealing. As human beings, we sometimes forget how incredibly powerful we are. One idea or action, whether positive or negative can extensively affect future generations, and not just those within our proximity, but the world over. I commend the “Seventh Generation” company and their product lines, as presented by Crystal. As someone who wants to eventually venture into and contribute to the field of environmental sustainability (specifically in manufacturing industries and energy production), I see no reason why we cannot maintain our ability to produce useful goods, increase profit margins, and limit our environmental impact so that future generations are not negatively impacted.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful reflection on the little girl in front of the tank, Kazmi. If, as you note, she had little education and knowledge, she had true (as you also point out) compassion.
      I cannot help but wonder about the kind of education that would make us less compassionate– or, as you note, turn us to personal agendas even as we express compassion toward others.
      There are many progressive business leaders who believe exactly what you do: it is just a bit of a change from the anything-goes capitalist style. Hopefully, others will progress to the idea that we might take a win-win approach in this arena.

  57. It seems that human compassion is one of those kinds of things that is easier said than done (or practiced). In a modern world that is self centered and self satisfying, it is often more than an issue of what is happening on the other side of the world. A good example of what I am referring to is the seperation of social classes in the US. Upper class people control a vast majority of wealth, while the middle and lower class enjoy a relatively small piece of the pie. If everyone was compassionate towards each other and enjoyed the “golden rule” the world would definitely be a better place.

    • I don’t doubt that it is often easier to lay out our ethics than to uphold them in our action, Andrew–and I also think that there are certain social and economic conditions that make it even harder to uphold our values. You lay out some of these in the modern world. At the same time, as you noted in a previous comment, each of our actions is very important– so we can take heart in that knowledge as we act responsibly.

  58. It really makes me wonder why a ninbe year old little girl had the courage to sit next to a land mine for complete strangers, but no one else had seen the danger or warned of the danger to them? It makes me think thta if we all lived with the innocence of a child and with a caring heart what the world would be like.

    • Thoughtful response, Kimberly. This little girl and her story (thank you, Carol!) has shown many a “caring heart”, as you put it. And her courage is dramatic: would that we would all have the courage to interrupt the harm that might come to others in such a way.

  59. Its true people today are extremely disconnected with their fellow man, that outside their “wall.” Even in our own country most people do not have the compassion to care or feel for others that dont have it as good as themselves. I have seen on countless occasions people needing simple help from someone they dont know and have people just walk on by thinking sucks to be you! this is not how everyone thinks but there are these people out there. This brings me to my point of; if we cant even do this in our own city, think about how much the majority cares about people in another state let alone another country..

    It is a great feeling to see people have compassion for other human beings no matter where they are from. People really need to start thinking like this and realize that we all share this planet, and in essence we are all the same. Why should our good fortune of being born in this country make us feel like its o.k. to neglect what other people are going through?

    If people were to start thinking about there decisions in exploiting others and what that really means the world would work in a much better fashion. Like thinking about our own children doing the dirty work to make your shoes and getting paid pennies.. you wouldn’t let this happen to them so why would you let it happen to someone else.

    • Great perspective about being born to the privilege of living in this country, Jason– that should make us feel grateful, rather than neglectful of those less fortunate (who did not, after all, choose where they were born).
      If we thought of the world’s exploited children, as you note, the way we think of our own, much would change. Thanks for your comment.

  60. This story reminds me that the very simplest values are those we saw so clearly in youth. When I was in grade school, everything was cut and dried. The concepts of good and bad and right and wrong were not complicated by the “What if..” mentality that grew in my mind much later. To that little girl, warning others about that mine was the smart thing to do. It was the right thing to do, and she did it.

    I believe we all know the right and smart things to do, but sometimes let our minds rationalize ways to stop us from doing them. Self doubt, fear of calling attention to ourselves, fear of endangering ourselves or loved-ones, or feelings of disconnectedness can all be very substantial reasons for inaction.

    Sometimes need to remember our nine year old selves.

    • Thoughtful point about the child’s mind, Sheryl. I remember the first time my daughter realized (she must have been about three) that there were hungry people in the world and inquired whether we weren’t going to invite them all to dinner, since we had plenty. But my favorite is the daughter of a student who drove with her mother past a particularly malodorous factory and asked her “What’s that smell?” Her mother replied that the factory was making paper and proceeded to list all the good things we could do with it. Her daughter’s reply: “We don’t need paper that bad!”
      It is unfortunate indeed when becoming an adult means learning denial–and as you also point out, disconnection.

    • Well put Sheryl, I agree with you. We do need to remember our nine year old selves. When I was nine though I don’t think I was focused on helping others but to focus on playing though. It is great that people think and feel this way. If that little girl didn’t sit next to that mine, the worst could have happened. We do know the right thing to do but do we just test our limits and live dangerously to see what will happen most of the time, I know I do.

  61. This was inspiring. I cannot even begin to imagine my three year old son sitting next to a landmine. Could you? We really do need to consider what is beyond our backyards. We need to think of the world as a whole and think of everyone in it. What we do today, will definitely affect what is going to happen seven generations from now. When thinking of all this and what the students said, it makes me think of technology and how far it has come. It and everything around us is going to affect us now and in the future. It will reflect how our children and our children’s children live their lives. This all needs to be considered. Are we really making the right choices? Most of the decisions made are for short term purposes even though it is going to affect everything and everyone in the long run. Again, think outside the box.

    • We honor ourselves and the importance of our actions by considering the ways in which our decisions are going, as you note, to effect the future, Jennifer.
      And this little girl is inspiring indeed! Though she was a bit older than three– so your son has a ways to go yet =). Let us hope that we create a world in which he–and all young children– will never have to make such a decision.

      • So how to do we it? How do we create a world in which all young children will never have to make such a decision? Education and…?

        • I think the crucial point is that we need to address the right question. “The right” question may vary depending on the person, but first, not having a war (or at least try, or at least minimize the death of people who are not interested in politics and/or economy), second, educate children with the fair history and the fair attitude other than trying to brain wash the young children with the interest of others…

        • Very thoughtful perspective about asking the “right” questions, which in this case means larger questions about the world we want our children to share and ultimately inherit, YunJi. It seems to me your two suggestions are inter-related: I think we might cut down our tendency to go to war if we teach our children to see others as people in a “fair way” rather than brainwashing them for our own interests.

  62. A couple thoughts-

    Often times, people with unreasonable thoughts that I have met in the past were regular people who are just uninformed. For example, A few years ago, my friend and I got into an argument about whether the original version of one of the major religion’s holy text had been edited overtime. Later that night, the discussion got heated, the argument turned into a nightmare. The next day, we were able to resolve the tension between us by reading an article about the history of the holy text written by a well known historian (who knows her stuff).
    I think the NIMBY syndrome is same situation as what my friend and I went through. Until we set down and figured out what was the informed story, we were wasting our time and emotion through an unnecessary discussion where we did not care to listen to each other. As the ex-Harriet jet pilot now feels a little different about the Iraq war, if we can all pay attention to everyone’s experience due to my action, someday, I think, we will be able to overcome the NIMBY syndrome.

    • Great perspective (and a compassionate one) on “unreasonable people” being thus because of lack of knowledge, YunJi– I have seen this many, many times over the years–and that is a central reason why education is so important to me.
      Paying attention to one another’s experience, as you so aptly suggest, is a great way to overcome the NIMBY syndrome.
      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  63. I think that something needs to shock people before they can be brought a new perspective. I think it takes a dramatic situation to really make someone realize the selfish ways of their attitude. I agree that the only way we can change the future is to alter the way we act and react to current issues- we can then move along with the same attitudes and get used to the idea of acting without carelessness towards others. What will this generations ultimate shock be?

    • It would be great if we changed before we had to shocked about the effects of climate change, for instance, Samantha. The precautionary principle is something that would let us change without having to endure such shocks.

  64. Reading this, I was left with some intense feelings. Being a mother of two small girls, I was left feeling horrified of the imagery that was conjured by the description of the grave act that occurred, I can’t help but be affected by such a narrative. From this weeks reading we have spent a lot of time discussing “Interconnectedness” but using and example like this adds some more dimension to this topic. It talks about how humans have a responsibility to other humans, and not just other humans existing now in the present, but future humans forward 7 generations. It allows the world view of “Interconnectedness” to transcend time and geographic region. For this reason, this example enriches my understanding of this perspective. Sometimes I think that coming from a western background the challenge of changing ones mindset, and world view, can be of particular significance, especially beginning with the fact that we don’t even demonstrate the type of rich kinship that Interconnectedness ideals advocate. Without even feeling an intense bond with our fellow species mates, how do we hope to begin understanding other ones, non human. The answer to this is posed in this essay. It encourages us through this horrific exposition, that the first step to recovery, is a complete acceptance of each persons liability for the next, and so on and so fourth, continuing on until a global generation of interconnected humans can be achieved, but as the author advocates, until we take it seriously and imagine each human as ourselves, this goal cannot be accomplished.

    • Thanks for sharing your intense feelings with us, Shana, I would hope that your compassionate response would resonate with all of us– not just mothers.
      Powerful description of the reasons we should look with care to those who follow us on this earth!
      I like your phrasing of the change that is necessary in our worldview as “recovery”– it is a healing for ourselves and those lives that share our world that we surely need.

  65. May we recognise the child in us all who would sit by a land mine to save the lives of soldiers from across the world. Who of us did not at some point in our childhood, save a lizard from mean boys who would have quartered it for fun, or give a favorite dress to a fellow classmate who wore the same one for a week, or any other thoughtless act of kindness? By thoughtless, I mean we didn’t have to think about it, it was the right thing to do, and we did it.
    If we can look not only at the next seven generations, but also the one we have lived through to this point in our lives, we can feel the compassion that the little girl in the road felt, and spread it throughout our lives.
    I don’t have any children, having chosen to refrain from adding to the overpopulation of humans on Our Earth, so I don’t have the perspective of thinking of my own child performing such a selfless act. I do have the perspective of thinking of children all over the world who could be seen to do such a thing, and I rejoice in discovering that childlike quality in myself and many others.

    • I like your affirmation of examples of the potential for kindness and generosity in us, Rebecca.
      I think your perspective of thinking of all the children all over the world to whom we are leaving this world is a great one, and your post brings up another idea: the ability to “rejoice” as you aptly put it, in “discovering” the qualities of spontaneous generosity (and the courage to express it) in each of us.
      Thank you for your comment.

    • Rebecca –

      Great analogies! They brought back some great childhood memories and made me think about selfless acts of others that I have appreciated over the years.

      I admire your dedication to the cause of opposing population growth, but I would just offer that the joy you receive from watching your child perform that selfless act is one of the greatest things on earth. If you choose never to have children, at least consider choosing someone like you and imparting some of your ideas and concerns to them so that your perspectives are not lost on you.

      • Hi Gabe, I like what Paul Hawkins says: that what we need to do is work to create a world into which children might be welcomed. This does not mean by any means that everyone should bear a child, but not only that we make caring for a vital and healthy world a priority to pass on to our children, but that care for all the children that come into this world. And just a note: the recent research of the UN has indicated that the best way to lower the birth rate is to give women more economic advantages. It seems women everywhere automatically limit their family size when they have some personal and economic power.

  66. This story is all about perspective for me. Globalization means that we are all connected by issues going on all over, and that we all have the ability to affect the world around us even if it is from far away. The little girl warning the troops about the land mine is awesome, and should be an example of how even a child can impact huge events very easily. The idea of needing the newest things right now does have consequences to millions of people all around the world, and we should be able to see that even small steps by us all can change the despair of the world. Our choices here to not waste, re-use, recycle, and to warn others about environmental issues all help millions of people around the world through ‘externalities’ like the article points out. We should all want to be warning others like the little girl warned the troops.

    • I like the way you point out that the fact that we are all connected also means that actions have great power to effect others– it is such an important point that our “small steps can change the despair of the world.” It takes some courage to face the problems we must currently address–and that courage needs such hope to motivate us as well. I find my own hope in so many committed students like yourself and your classmates.

    • I agree, Brad, that in the actions of this little girl, we are all shown that the butterfly effect does exist. Every action has an impact. This little girl may have simply acted instinctually, doing what she perceived as “the right thing to do”. I am sure she never dreamed people around the world would be discussing her courage. We are all given opportunities to change the world every day.

  67. This essay is another example of the social aspect of NIMBY. We often forget that when we relocate unfavorable parts of our society, the impact is only shifted to the less fortunate. I was also very touched by the story about the little girl and the effect it had on the ex-pilot. To me, this story represented the humanity in everyone. The young girl would have been little more than an enemy child to the pilot before her act of selflessness. The child wanted to protect even the enemy soldiers from harm.

    • Thanks for sharing your compassion here, Melissa. I hope this little girl somehow understands how many she touched with her spontaneous act of caring for those whom she had obviously not labeled enemy.
      It is important to remember the human faces of those to whom we would shift our “garbage”.

    • Melissa,
      You bring up a very important issue. Many of our environmental concerns can be traced back to societal issues. The idea of ‘dumping’ society’s issues on the less fortunate has become common practice. I feel the less fortunate act as society’s scapegoat in many aspects. They do not have the resources and opportunities as middle and upper class members get. This has turned into a dramatic cycle where the gap between classes has grown. They do not have the power to stop the mistreatment of themselves and therefore do not have time or authority to take on issue such as NIMBY. Instead we, as society, just make decisions without taking into consideration the results.

      • This is a sad dynamic indeed, Melissa and Ellie. Environmental racism hurts the less fortunate in the short run- but all of us in the long run. Yesterday, Agnes Pilgrim, Chair of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (see our links here), mentioned that she had been to Australia, where lakes have literally turned to salt pan since her last visit–and she the government officials she spoke with to keep the toxics from being dumped anywhere, because they are going to go into their precious water supplies–and once their water is contaminated with these toxics, humans will not be able to get them out.

  68. It is the shifting of “cultural paradigms and perspectives toward human compassion” that will be the key to peace and environmental sustainability. People must see beyond themselves in the immediate moment to recognize the impact of their actions on others worldwide. For those of us in the United States (and other wealthy countries), it means understanding that the materials we use (and the amount), such as petroleum, may not only be toxic, but could have a direct relationship to others, such as the little girl sitting next to the land mine. We are all responsible, regardless of our beliefs, because we voted with our dollars even if the outcome wasn’t our intention. It’s imperative that we think of others and then act in accordance to those considerations which, in the US, often mean what you purchase and how you vote.

    • Seeing beyond oneself and the current moment would indeed broaden our views beyond the NIMBY attitude, Rory: I like the seven generations and seven continents view of Rachel Brinker here.
      Good reminder that we are all responsible for our country’s actions in a democracy, Rory.

    • I completely agree with you that we take responsibility with each purchase and each vote as to how those decisions will affect many people down the line. I’m afraid that I believe purchasing power is more effective than voting – at least in my opinion. It seems as though our political system has been corrupted by corporate greed. So, if we are going to stand up to that greed, the only way to do it is to hit them where it hurts – their profit margin.

  69. It is important to consider the livelihood of future generations before we commit ourselves to anything. Where did this product come from? Who made this? What was sacrificed so I could have this? These are questions we don’t often think of—even I am guilty of it. We are so used to having little luxuries that we take them for granted and assume we will always have access to them. This kind of attitude is what is bringing down our natural resources and puts some people in terrible situations whether its where they work or where they live. We can’t ignore what price was paid for our lives and we need to come together as a people to preserve our lives now as well as those in the future.

    It only takes a small, selfless act, even once in a while to make a change. Reading about the little girl who put herself directly in harm’s way in order to warn soldiers (from the “other” side, even) of a hidden landmine is mind-blowing. This little human understood the concept of selflessness and risked her own life to save many more. We should all take a cue from her and take even the smallest step towards consideration of others.

    • The important questions you present for us to ponder here, Morgan, art part of the reason that I drew up the “Do Not Buy” list on this site– though it is certainly not complete– we live in much too complex a society for that– at least it hits some high points about products to avoid.
      “Small, selfless acts” do indeed make a change–and sometimes large selfless acts like that of this little girl.
      Thanks for your comment.

  70. Stories can be a powerful thing, even more so if they are about someone or something we love. I believe the out of sight out of mind concept is so common in our society. Buying this product with extra wrapping must be best because the extra layers of plastic must mean it’s more sanitized (this is what is best for me). Why not buy it, in our society we don’t see the plastic piling up. We don’t experience the hardships of living without water as we can turn our faucet on and see it flow freely whenever we are thirsty. It is until the lack of clean water truly affects us or someone we love that we will start to take notice.
    So the question arises, do you want hazardous waste piling up in your backyard? Of course not, no one wants to be exposed to unhealthy living conditions. If it is not going to go in your backyard, or mine then where will it go? This leads into other complicated issues such as population (since we have such a large population, we don’t have room for this waste that is not around people!) and of course social classes. If someone has more wealth and resources they will most likely not be the ones fighting NIMBY. It will be those who cannot afford to live in affluent neighborhoods affected by it the most. Our society has created this immediate gratification atmosphere that does not allow us to truly put ourselves in other people’s positions, or see a situation from their eyes.

    • Hi Ellie, thanks for your perspective on stories. If “out of sight, out of mind” is a dangerous dynamic, stories are capable of bringing those “out of sight” people into our consciousness as members of the human community.
      It is true that one of the dangers of our technology is to buffer us from the immediate and long range effects of our actions. Those who live in the developed southwest hardly experience the thirst of the desert, since their faucets (as you point out) deliver water from underground and take up river water from far away– thus disguising the personal experience of need to care for the water. “Immediate gratification” often means disaster in the long run.

  71. I think the idea of concerning ourselves with the future of seven generations after our own is ideal. It is so easy for us here in America to make little decisions every day that inevitably harm those down the road. Some of us are a little more educated on certain consequences, but even then, for the sake of convenience of cost, we sometimes make a poor decision anyway. I am guilty of this. Is guilt the first step in changing behavior? I do think about the workers in foreign countries when I purchase products. I also think about the environmental effects. Yet, like I said, I still don’t always make the “right” decision. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about it, but feeling bad isn’t really going to solve any problems is it?

    I hope that we can start moving toward incentives for companies who have cradle to cradle or even zero waste practices so that consumers can make better decisions about products.

    I also think we’re seeing the downside to the exploitation of foreign workers – unemployment is astronomical in the US right now. If there were constraints on globalization, I think this could have been prevented. I also think that some terrible environmental attrocities in foreign countries perpetrated by US corporations would have been avoided.

    Instead of the my backyard/your backyard mentality, we need to take down the fences, literal and implied, and recognize the human community as a whole.

    • You present a number of things to think about here, Anna. Thanks for sharing your own struggle to do the right thing– none of us– that includes me– are “perfect” in this regard– gives us all something to work for.
      And you are right on in terms of the repercussions of locating so much industry in foreign countries with exploited labor being directly connected to our own high unemployment level.
      And we certainly do need economic incentives that support what really benefits us as a society.

  72. I wish our ancestors had followed the “seven generations, seven continents” rule. Because of them, we have a huge mess on our hands that isn’t getting better any time soon. When I think of this, I’m reminded that 7 generations from now people will probably be thinking the same things. It’s our responsibility to take care of the planet for everyone to live healthy lives.

    We need to adopt the idea that all 7 continents are our backyard and stop ignoring the atrocities that are happening right under our noses. We need to be like that little girl – watching out for others even when we don’t have to.

    • We do indeed “have a large mess on our hands”, Mark. All the more reason, as you indicate, to begin addressing it with a more holistic stance that will not multiply the problem not only for our own children but all life.

  73. That is a very sweet example of the little girl who wanted to make sure that the soldiers were going to be safe. I think that was a perfect way to illustrate that we really should see all humans the same, and that we should respect how each human is treated. Just because they are on the other side of the globe, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care if they are being harmed in some way just for a consumer who wants their “goodies”. I think the problem is too that its not that people don’t know that there are people in other countries being exploited, its just that they don’t want to think about it. It’s easier just to ignore it, and leave it for somebody else to deal with.

    • It is time to spread the information on such exploitation, Michelle–and to put a human face on it, as this brave child did. As your comment indicates, we need not only to ignore such information on how our actions effect the human family– but to seek it out.

  74. I think this is a very intriguing article, which really caught my attention. I find it very hard to estimate what the world will be like seven generations from now, if it even exists. With the way we treat our land with issues such as; global warming, fossil fuels, plastics, clear-cutting forests, etc. I find it hard to believe we can survive seven more generations. If we do make it that long, the earth could be close to a wasteland because of they way previous generations treated it. We are making small changes (electric cars, renewable resources, green building), but it is not enough to cover the damage that we are causing. Everyday the air in our world becomes dirtier, and mother nature is having a hard time keeping up with us. The nature of humans is to act in our own self-interest, and that could cause us to be extinct in the near future.

    • I think that you may be wrong (hopefully) about the “nature” of humans, since there are so many different cultures with different standards of behavior. There are those, for instance, who try to calculate the effects of their actions on the 7th generation– which is, as you point out, hard for many in industrialized societies, with our own short term worldviews to do. As ethnologist Eugene Hunn has pointed out, it is hard for those of us who seem to think we are native to a place after one generation to imagine what it is like to have 100 generations of our ancestors buried in our home places. Thanks for your comment.

    • I must agree with you in your concern that in seven generations our human species may not exist. I wonder though if it is just one more cycle of nature even though I believe it is one that we have greatly sped up because of our actions. Maybe humans are not meant to be present on Earth forever just like some of the elders in Wisdom of the Elders described because of their cyclical view of time. I mean historically species extinctions have occurred at regular intervals, and we, as humans, are really just another species. I guess that sounds fairly harsh, but it is not meant to sound as though I want the human species to end. I think I have just simply come to terms with the idea that human existence is a bit bigger than us. I believe that we need to be more cognizant and kind to the earth and its other inhabitants regardless of species, living or not, but I also recognize the idea that it is the earth that gives us life (as described by many of the elders we have read about) and can thus take it away.

  75. This essay reminded me of a quote by one of my favorite philosophers, Peter Singer: “As we realize that more and more things have global impact, I think we’re going to get people increasingly wanting to get away from a purely national interest.” Yet the essay also emphasizes the importance of not only awareness of others around us, but others who will eventually come to share this earth with us. Our actions affect the lives of future generations, and that concept is effectively conveyed by the innocent children today who will grow to inherit the land and learn from our mistakes.

    • Thanks for sharing this quote of Peter Singer’s– it has implications for expanding human-centered views as well (Singer, as I am sure you know, is an animal rights philosopher): we might add that as we realize that our global interdependence other species, we will hopefully move away from merely human-centered approaches– as if we could ever survive alone in this world. I appreciate your compassionate response here.
      It seems clear that the ways in which we treat other humans and other species is intimately connected: since those with more egalitarian, just, and caring views toward other humans also tend to have comparable views toward other lives as well.

    • Marissa,
      I like your quote about moving away from national interests. I would be hopeful that this one day will happen but as of right now I think people are very close minded and hold close to what they think is the best way to do things, that often being what they did in the past. I would like to say that not just the children of the future but college students and children right now are the ones that are going to have to live with what we have done to the world. Even my grandparents remember our natural world differently than it is right now and wish that things wouldn’t have changed. Unfortunatley, or perhaps fortuntley our generations and the next, with forward thinking, can make progress for our world.

      • It is a sad fact that college students of today have inherited a world with less natural resiliency than the one your parent’s generation inherited. As you noted, time to change that!

    • Maybe we will realize what we are doing to future generations with the increase in globalization. However, it almost seems that with globalization, we are more closed off in a way. We become set in our ways and more tuned to instant gratification. I don’t think the generations growing up now with this sense of instant gratification are going to promote ideas that will affect seven generations down the road. Unfortunately, I think it will be a very small segment of the population.

  76. What Rachel Brinker wrote is very true. I agree that we need to consider our actions and how it will effect seven generations in the future. If we don’t look head our future won’t be a very good one. Also, how it will effect all seven continents is important because we are one Earth and something that happens on the other side of the world can effect us.

  77. I agree Desiree. Not only do we need to take care of our family and our country, but we also need to care for the ret of the world. Even though we may not realize that we are dependent on other countries, we really are. We all share the same planet, so we need to all take care of each other.

    • We do indeed share the same planet, Troy. And if there is anything that modern ecology teaches us, it is our planetary independence. Thanks for your comment.

      • Does everyone realize how hard it is to get 7 people to get along and agree on everything with each other? Its more than likely not going to happen unless religion and values are tossed aside for respect of the planet. I wish things were different and that we were together as one but I’m just being realistic.

        • I think there are societies in which they take the time to create accord between those seven people– and perhaps what we might come together on is our wish to have a decent world for those who come after us.

  78. What an image that brings to mind – it is difficult to imagine that little child sitting so close to danger in an already dangerous place; it’s almost unthinkable. Without such stories, though, it is far too easy to turn a blind eye on the ‘unthinkable’ conditions in places far away. Many of us are so blessed in our lives that we tend to fret about things we believe are upsetting – sitting in traffic, breaking a manicured nail, not getting tickets to a concert – then you think about that little girl, and those things are suddenly very foolish, aren’t they? It’s funny, I used to let myself get bogged down in petty foolishness like that, until my brother nearly died from cancer, and ultimately lost both his legs. He was 33 at the time. Sort of makes not getting that perfect parking spot at the mall a non-issue, right? I look at things much differently now, and I find it irritating when I empathize with someone facing hardships far away and people say something like “we’ve got enough problems here as it is” – really? Have you seen what is happening around the world? Really? Seven generations out on seven continents is pretty bold; I’d be happy if people thought seriously about their own children, to start.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal compassion– and the courage with which was your brother has faced played into that. I am so sorry that you family had to deal with that– but you seem to have the ability to take that tragedy in the best possible way.

  79. It is crazy how small the world has become. This example of humanity still makes me stop to think: Being in the military I have been confronted with a lot of situations in the civilian population asking about my thoughts on Afghani people. One of my wife’s co-workers at Starbucks is Afghani and most of his family still lives there. I have visited with him on many occasions and he is now a very good friend. When he was little, his father moved his wife and children to the United States, though most of his business was still back in Afghanistan, David (my friend) spent most of his life in California, but is still tied closely to his family, he is probably one of the most laid back, respectful, intelligent friends that I have ever had, and to think that our personal histories are so different from each other. It really made me re think a lot of the unintentional prejudices I had developed while being in the service overseas, and what a loss it would have been if I had never given the friendship a chance. The caliber of person definitely does not depend on the “race” it depends on the heart.

    • What a wise statement that the “caliber of a person does not depend on the ‘race’, it depends on the heart”, Michael. Friends like this as a true treasure! Think what you would have missed if you yourself had not had the open heart to become this friend.
      This is why I love the person to person approach of folks like “Doctors without Borders” who go into the most violent situations to bring their healing skills to all sides.
      Thanks for sharing this.

  80. We each carry a story within us, yet we as a society have deemed our individual stories of little importance in comparison to those we have placed on a pedestal. We give actors, musicians, and politicians greater value than we give ourselves.

    My personal story may be dull or drab in comparison to the latest pop star’s life, but when critically viewed, it is has much more depth because I’m living it. We place great value and emphasis on a fantasy world made up of award shows, blockbusters, big ticket fashion and the power of words and media. We have been lead to believe that our lives are common and unimportant.

    We should each make a contract with ourselves to value the life stories we live every day above the fabricated illusion we so desperately cling to. In unison, we can reshape the worldview that “our voices don’t count”, and look to the little girl who sat in front of the tank. Every day we have a story to tell and an opportunity to unselfishly share it with others.

    Instead of going home after a long day of work and turning on the television, get out a piece of paper and write about what you experienced today. It will mean a whole lot more to you next year than the television show you watch today.

    • Hi Dwayne, I would not argue that honoring our personal and unique story is a worthy task– though I would not presume to tell others how to honor theirs.
      How is the “star” culture (which we might also say is linked to what has been called the “great man” theory of history– that is, that only a few “great men” did anything worthy of note) linked to the idea of NIMBY?

      • Basically, from my point of view, the “great man” or “star” theory is linked to NIMBY because it conditions cultures to believe that only a few individuals out of the many are of worthy note. Or that only a small minority have the skills, talent or intelligence to be worth of “star” status. NIMBY tends accumulate power among the few instead of sharing it among the many.

        I think I understand it that way.

        • A very thoughtful connection, Dwayne. I have often seen how the “great man” writing of history that leaves so many out creates apathy along with the belief that what each of us does as individuals does not matter, since we are not one of those “stars”.

  81. I agree with this essay in that we must think ahead seven generations and seven continents. In other words, we must plan to have our children live as one global community in the future and understand the damage which the NIMBY attitude can create for others. The problem with the western world is that we are consumed with the attitude of NIMBY. The attitude of NIMBY is an easy one to posses as long as we have the latest gadgets to occupy our time and don’t have to witness the exploitation on the other side of the globe. There’s a lot that the western world doesn’t have to witness which goes on in the back yards of people on the other side of the globe. For example it’s easier for a president to send their people to war, because of this NIMBY attitude. If the president was first in to battle or if the war was in their backyard, the war would be reconsidered. I agree with this essay when it explains that people of the world must shift their paradigms and see ourselves as sharing a backyard.

    • Good point about the responsibility (or at least consideration) involved in making choices close to us–as in the instance of sending others to war being rarer if we had to be on the front lines first. You are right that the contemporary world has many lapses in ethics because we do not have to witness (or experience) the direct results of our actions. Thanks for your comment.

    • The NIMBY attitude goes on all over the world way to often. People need to change their ways. My friend was an Army Medic in Iraq and he was fortunate enough to patrol the rich neighborhoods with very minimal violence as opposed to the poor neighborhoods where all the bombs were going off. The rich may have been supporting the fighting with money, but they were as far away from the fighting as possible. If the fighting was in their backyard they wouldn’t be happy.

      One day we can hope that people all over the world will see how much our choices nowadays are going to effect our future families survival. Everybody wants their families name to live on and the only way to do this is by finding and using more sustainable practices.

      • I totally agree with what you are saying Zach. That was a good example incorporating the president into it.

      • Thanks for sharing this point about the comparative protection of the rich in wartime, Chris. Justice certainly demands that we respond to (and help create more of) an interconnected world between the rich and poor.
        It is my hope that the sustainability will be linked to care for future generations in our minds as we make our daily decisions.

  82. After reading this story all I could do was cry, imagining a childhood so afflicted by war that when she came upon a land-mine, she knew what it was and had the thought to protect others at the expense of herself. And she did it to warn the soldiers- big, strong young adults who were supposed to be protecting her!
    How can we continue to do this to each other? To send our barely grown, ignorant-due-to-lack-of-experience children to shoot and kill “others” whom they don’t know, don’t understand, and in all likelihood would not kill were they given the chance just to share one meal and discuss our differences. And for what? Oil? So that we can continue living our half-baked little lives in the comfort of our own homes, offices, and cars so full of knick-knacks and trinkets that have no meaning and provide no fulfillment?

    • Thank you for sharing your obvious passion for this generous child here, Neyssa. I appreciate your compassion, and you have an especially touching point that this child had a right to live in a world in which adults protected and nurtured her, rather than one in which she was ready to sacrifice her life for the adults.
      And I think we might also say that we might also see this child as a symbol of untrammeled innocence, in which the trust and care of life passed between soldiers and child transcend the more usual depredations of warfare.

  83. I find myself wondering what the world would be like if the “7 generations” mindset was put into practice 7 generations ago. It would mean that my welfare and my home would have been considered in the mid-1800’s or earlier – before the industrial revolution, before the goldrush, before the first drop of gasoline ever touched an automobile. The potential differences are staggering! I don’t imagine a utopia, but many cultures would likely be ingrained with a powerful thoughtfulness that could guide values and actions in a healthy direction.

    It’s a great feeling, imagining this hypothetical world. Imagine how great your family would feel seven generations from now if it were a reality.

  84. If we were able to take our ability to find compassion when presented with ideas that offer connections to the shared human experience and extend that idea to include compassion for all living things because of our shared experience of being alive. We would be in a better place environmentally because people might consider the feelings of the earth.

    • Indeed, Erin. This is one thing that indigenous worldviews did when they extended the concept of family to all life. Somehow this young girl seems to have ascertained — and enacted– a similar idea. I like to imagine not only what a better environment such thinking might generate as we change our choices– but how much larger a sense of self each of us might have as a result.

  85. Social equity and justice for all should be the cornerstone of modern education. Sure, wrap a technology degree, MBA, chemical engineering program or middle school social studies projects around it but the takeaway from the classes should be “how do I use this knowledge for the betterment of all”. Unfortunately, capitalistic goals and monetary reward are driving factors in the United States thus there tends to be a “he who grabs first, gets all” mentality.
    Any backyard could be somebody else’s front yard but ultimately, it is everyone’s yard. We all sleep in the same bed and eat from the same table.

    • I very much like your vision of a central goal for all education. Neither money nor an education which tells us nothing about how to live (or make the choices of how to live) will help us if we run out of clean water, clean air, and fertile soil to grow our crops–and I suppose we need to add, a stable climate in which to live as well.

  86. I think there a lot of disconnect between cultures, continents and our effect on the earth. Considering 7 generations from now is happening just not in the way that beneficial to the world. We worry about the technology and moneys we could have now because if we don’t we don’t survive. Globalization is not always a bad thing. Being able to explore other cultures and peoples is more recent sentiment that comes with it. The barriers of the ocean are being flown over and countries that had previously been unheard of are coming to light.

    • Understanding the ways in which we are indeed connect, is the “good” globalization you mean, Kayli? Very different from that which seeks to impose one way of life on another while usurping local resources for the benefit of the so-called “developer”.

  87. Those last two paragraphs are very powerful. Evoking so much emotion when the war is described as a nine year old girl sitting next to a land mine. I completely agree that “…the more personal experiences we tap in to, the more hope we all have of shifting cultural paradigms…” Two years ago after the earthquake hit Haiti, I had the opportunity to volunteer my entire summer in a poor village next to the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic. I went there to volunteer, but came out with so much more than that. The things people have to go through to survive was heartbreaking. I taught kids from ages 4-8 basic Spanish and mathematics, but I knew I was really there just to love on them. I had one little girl, Jessica, not even in my classes, attached to my hip all summer. My guess, she was around three, but the bodies of children in the DR are so malnourished and fragile, she may have been older. It broke my heart to see her run up to me each day in the same little red dress. Her body was covered in bruises, I’d nearly tear up each time I saw her. I wished I could protect that little girl and bring her home with me, but I couldn’t. These types of experiences do not make the same impact when read about, they mean so much more when they are personally experienced. Moving back to Oregon was more of a culture shock than when I moved to the Dominican. The way some people live so ignorantly, unknowing of the world around them is saddening, yet motivating. If more people were willing to get out of their own back yards for a glimpse of reality, more people would be motivated to create change.

    • This is perfect for the point I would like to get across. The people of Haiti received 6 million dollars a year for 25 years and did not upgrade their buildings to structures that would withstand earthquakes. The leaders of the country are not intelligent and brought the destruction on themselves. They chose greed over preventing disaster. How can a handful of nations police and run the entire world? Their foolishness caused a mega catastrophe and they should not be helped because they can’t help themselves. No, the poor people in the country should not suffer but they should not put up with such terrible leadership. Many countries are still living in the stoned age and the developed world cannot change that.

      • Have you read Tracy Kidder’s work on the US doctor that worked in Haiti? Yes, they suffered a terrible dictatorship, which, unfortunately, was also backed by US economic interests. In fact, the dictatorship would likely have toppled without US support.
        I take it you don’t really mean “stoned age” (couldn’t resist).
        I think any development coming from without (like corporate strawberry farms who threw so many Mexican families off their land near the border a few years back) should not be rightly called “development” instead of exploitation if it takes profit and resources from local people and leaves them poorer. This is what happened in Haiti.
        i am sure that much of Haiti would have glad to rid themselves of this dictator if they could get around the extent to which he was terrorizing the population. Here is a short bit on the dictator…

      • And this is perfect for the point I was trying to get across. Have you ever been to a third world country? People are too quick to judge when they have never experienced something for themselves. “…the more personal experiences we tap in to, the more hope we all have of shifting cultural paradigms…” Personal experiences create compassion. I don’t believe in hand-outs. Giving incompetent people money, such as the terrible leadership you’re talking about, is not the answer. Helping people help themselves is the first step for change. Saying “Many countries are still living in the stoned age and the developed world cannot change that.” is almost a cop-out and excuse. They can be helped if the people able to help would change their attitudes. The program I volunteered with had one of their original students graduate with a doctorates degree while I was there. He is now going back to his villages to help the kids. These people have the motivation to change, some just need help getting started.

        • Thank you for sharing your obvious passion as well as your compassion here, Shanna. Sharing sharing your experience with those who have not been there is an important service along with your volunteering itself.
          And just as an aside, I think Andrew must have meant the Stone Age– I don’t know of any “stoned” age of human society unless maybe the heroes of beer commercials during the Superbowl, whom I would definitely place in a “stoned” age.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience and care here, Shanna.
      I just would add that there are those who think of US citizens as ignorant in our way– since, just as you point out, so many of us never get out of own small worlds– in this way, I wouldn’t label others as ignorant (more like innocent?). But if we want to use the term, most of us are currently as ignorant of them as they are of us.
      You obviously have much compassion to volunteer in this way!

  88. What we don’t realize is that we are all humans even though we are different. Yes the girl helped the soldiers by warning them of a land mine but the reason the army was there was to help those people in danger. It is not the “western worlds” fault that these other countries do not know how to run their own government and to treat their population with respect and provide for them. Our other problem is consuming too much resources. Do you not think that the human species will not develop new technology to account for the loss of these resources? A perfect example of not needing trees in the future is the progression of new technology such as the Kindle. Pretty soon paper will not be needed on Earth because everything will be completed digitally. Natural resources that are used for energy will likely fall apart but will we not develop alternative energy further? I think this article is underestimating the intelligence on this planet. Waste may be the biggest problem. There may be nowhere to put it in the future.

    • I have no way of knowing what this girl was thinking, but it certainly seems her action illustrated how “we are all humans even though we are different.”
      As to the failure of others to run their countries properly, seems to me there is much to be fixed in this country, starting with the fact that a corporate lobbyist gets an average of $200 in government subsidies for every $1 spent on the process of lobbying. Something very wrong there by my reckoning.
      There is plenty of room for alternative creatively developed technology AND moral choices with respect to our future (and the future of other lives). I haven’t yet seen any meaningful way to clean up mercury or POPs (persistent organic pollutants) than to stop producing them: this is why the EU has a list of these that are not allowed to be produced under the precautionary principle.
      If we want to let lose our creativity, I say do it before we release these things into the environment that are currently effecting all natural life.

  89. Each time I read the story of the young girl who sits next to the land mine to warn the soldiers of crossing I get goose bumps and an emotional response of awe and sadness well up inside me. The courage that the young girl showed to warn the soldiers, the “other” people of harm, to me, epitomizes why we should not go to war with each other. The core of us all is human and we all have a sense of emotional humanness to us; but the fact is we can not see the similarities or the uniqueness of individuals and our diverse cultures. Believing in the dualism of “us/them” separates and builds an invisible wall that separates the similar core we all have within us. What is beautiful is that children do not see this, have not yet been conditioned to look in this way and we must be thankful for this. What a beautiful and amazing girl to chance her life for these “other” men’s lives. I find it interesting that stories can make something real through our emotional connections, even if that something is not physically or mentally understood. I do not know war, I have never seen war and yet this story has given me a glimpse of a moment within war and the importance of a single sacrifice.

  90. It would be so neat to see a generation or a group of dedicated individuals that would be willing to make a difference in hope for the future. This would mean caring for the children in the future or future generations. How is it we can enjoy and take pleasure in the things we have when people across the globe are suffering. We live with riches and are selfish with wealth. As a wealthy nation we need to slow down.

    -drive in the slow lane
    -take a long shower
    -take the time to get a cup of coffee with an old friend and really listen/be there.

    We are too caught up in a world that is so fast paced and we don’t take the time to think about the consequences for our actions. How about we listen to the stories and personal experience of our fellow friends? They might have some knowledge we can take to heart. Why not really learn about an area that we aren’t an expert in and that has a purpose to help restore our environment. How about we listen to the stories of those across the globe and really empathize?

    A person that is close-minded goes nowhere. The hope and the start to making a change matters and it starts with us, today.

    • Hi Brianna, you obviously have some suggestions to which you have given some thought about slowing things down in fast paced modern life. Can you tell us how this fits with this particular essay? Can you see that it might bear some relationship to the Solstice essay that we are currently discussing?

  91. Indeed (and I am as guilty as anyone) taking time to really listen to another person’s ideas, stories or thoughts seems almost like a lost skill. I really wish I would have asked my grandparents more questions about their life; it’s too late now. How can we learn how to live and work with others if we don’t learn how to be “other oriented”? The little girl in the story knew that the mine was dangerous to life and assuming she didn’t speak English, she spoke through her actions. This is proof that actions speak louder than words. It’s time to act like members of a global society and maybe the good will begin to happen.

  92. I see many people in the world who are capable of feeling compassion for others they have never met face to face. A good example is when natural disasters hit like the tsunami in Japan. That is when I believe you really see the best in humans. So many people I know donated money, said prayers and shed tears for a continent on the other side of the world they had never been to. Others helped during the disaster in Haiti, the Gulf coast oil spill and hurricane Katrina.

    Something about natural disasters makes humans more compassionate for others and this gives me great hope for humankind. There will always be the naysayers, but when the majority has it right then compassion will continue to be taught to future generations. Wars are a form of man made disaster are horrible, but enlightening when you hear stories like the one about the 9 year old girl. Even in times when humans are at their very worst, like in wars, a young girl can teach a group of grown men what true empathy for unknown others looks like.

    • I love your last point about empathy for “unknown others” talk grown men by this child, Joy. It is heartening indeed that we are capable (we have seen so many examples of it) of “feeling compassion for others they have never met face to face”. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hi Joy, I too really liked your last sentence about the little girl teaching the “other” grown men about empathy due to her actions. It is amazing how much children can teach us, they seem to act from this purer self with no fear of the consequences and with a sense of freedom, I believe.

      I did find your comment, “something about natural disasters makes humans more compassionate for others and this gives me great hope for humankind” interesting. I have often questioned and wondered why natural disasters spurn so much compassion and human interest. I do not say this to be cynical. But I always wonder where this compassion and interest is in these people when others are not in imminent need? Where is the interest in preventing such destruction and death or the interest a year later when the air has calmed? I often feel that our need for help comes from our fear of nature and our lack of understanding its power. Nature’s seeming unpredictability and ability for such destruction undermines our current view of it being an object and when it shows itself as being alive we fear the extent of its aliveness. What is interesting is that most often, nature will show or give signs of something greater coming and we, often times, choose to ignore it or do not see the signs. Please do not get me wrong, I think it is amazing the help offered in times of distress. I also think the amount of compassion people are willing show: to take the time off to go and assist people, is a beautiful thing (it too gives me hope for the future of humankind). But why does this compassion come out so deeply only when nature shows herself as being alive, is what I wonder?

      Thank you for inspiring such interesting thoughts for my morning!

  93. It seems there are times (few and far between) that our society happens to feel this connection with other humans with which they are not familiar with. As Joy stated above, natural disasters happen to be a big one, so what else brings us together? Starvation, bombings and acts of terrorism, and anything with a high death toll can be considered a cross-continental situation that can effect many people from places all over the world regardless of the origin. If we know we can depend upon others for aid in times of crisis, why are we so alone before hand?

    I had a pastor in church talking about this is a way, he said there will always be an increase in people attending church after something bad happens in their life. We see a lot of people come closer to God when they have already gone through tribulations, so why not seek Him out before hand?

    What is it that keeps us from bridging this gap with others until there is a large need for it to happen or until we are forced? How do we make an effort to reach out before it is too late? I love this idea, but where do we start?

    • Excellent question, which each of us must answer in our own choices. You have one cue here, which is that we not wait until an emergency to put our ethics or care for our communities into effect.

  94. That image of a little girl sitting next to a landmine is tremendously powerful. For me, it takes the notion of a war in a far away place with people whom I’m assured are my enemy and turns it into a very close and recognizable place with families and friends and people just living their lives, not unlike me.

    It is amazing that a child could do something so brave and dangerous while at the same time remaining oblivious and innocent. Those kinds of moments can easily change a person’s perspective on things.

  95. As a consumer, it has gotten increasingly difficult for me to shop. I am overwhelmed by the responsibility, every time I go to the grocery store or even online to shop for clothing or other products. Sometimes, I get to a point where I feel like, “i’m just going to have to buy something that I know isn’t produced under fair trade conditions”. Reading this makes me realize that I, and others, have to continue to stand our ground and shop and act responsibly. Thinking of our actions in terms of the effects on 7 generations from now on 7 continents, really intensifies that responsibility.

    • If all consumers had your ethical commitment (even for all the frustration and sometimes time this can cost), our society would be constructed very differently indeed- manufacturers would not be making all those toxic things no one buys, nor would they be “developing” poor lands to turn indigenous farmers into the oppressed or unemployed who cannot feed their families.
      You are not alone and your choices are very important. I hope that the “do not buy” list here and some of the other sites linked here that evaluate ethical consumption can give you at least some of the information you need to make your ethical decisions.

  96. The seven generations on seven continents idea of how our actions effect the world is a good guiding philosophy, but not one that can be taken literally. I say this in the sense that it is hard enough to get someone to take responsibility for the effects of their actions within seven years on seven neighbors. In order to experience compassion (and thus responsibility) we need to take ownership on a local basis so that we can then share that compassion with other parts of the world. I think this experience of compassion is a personal one that needs to seeked out and that many people will never consider using energy to obtain. The reason that there is not as much compassion about our effects on our environment is because there isn’t much reward for these types of values in our current society. I feel this is going to be one of the roughest lessons learned by our society, only when large numbers of people (workers) start dieing from self-inflicted pollution will we start to place more value on how we affect ecosystems in the long term.

    • You have an important point about the lack of reward for responsible actions in our contemporary society– indeed, the opposite is true, in that corporations are currently richly rewarded for short term goals that entail “internalizing benefits and externalizing costs” (that is, passing them on to someone else.
      It is important, as you also indicate, to have a standard to live up to– but I would not say that humans are incapable of this level of consciousness toward future generations, as this was the active guiding principle in effect among some North American indigenous peoples.
      We could make a start on this with the enactment of the precautionary principle.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • From things I’ve read, I think there are people dying from pollution, maybe not self-inflicted, and still people in western societies are so wrapped up in having what they want, that they find ways to justify and rationalize how their behavior isn’t responsible for the way others are suffering. I think that people are just now starting to take some of the effects of pollution more seriously because people in western society are starting to feel those effects.
      I agree with Madronna, if those in power and those spending the most money (Americans, for example), start to seriously consider how indigenous populations were able to sustain themselves for so long, and start to use some of the strategies it could be a start to counteracting some of the damage inflicted on our planet and the people, especially those of developing countries.

      • There are indeed people all around the world dying as a result of toxic releases (including those dying of cancer in the US), as well as climate change– directly and indirectly.
        It is a hopeful point that those most responsible for creating such problems are beginning to take heed of this– we are the ones most able to do something about it, both on a societal level and in our personal consumer choices.

  97. These students paint some ideal concepts. I especially like the first one about aiming to consider the next seven generations on seven continents. In regards to environmental preservation and awareness I am in in complete concurrence. However, I do not think we should be too hard on ourselves when considering the unknown. Over time, we find out new things, form new opinions, and consider new consequences when making decisions about the future. Seven generations from now, the world will likely be a different place. At that time, we may look back on things that we did (maybe even right now) and wonder how we could have been so ignorant and misguided. We do the best we can with what know. It is necessary to not only learn from our mistakes but also to admit that they are going to happen. We just need to make sure that we recognize when we are doing more damage than good and act quickly to correct it. In contrast, we must also demonstrate patience and cooperation before we condemn the actions of people we consider harmful to mankind. Discernment is a virtue.

    “I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making” – FDR. I feel this quote is timeless and can be applied to many aspects of our great country.

    • You bring up an important point about not understanding the unknown– that is one reason why I think we should follow suit of the European Union and institute the precautionary principle in our new technology– this is the main thrust of the “Safer Chemicals Act” that failed to pass Congress in the last three years– I don’t think there is any excuse for this. (See the Your Choices Matter sidebar here for some connections to those supporting this law–including the current EPA director).
      I think that it is more effective to assume responsibility rather than affix blame elsewhere…
      As for doing the best we can: that is often true. Unfortunately, the contrary is too often true as well where money making is concerned. Deceit and Denial, by prominent social historians, traces the historical path for the last two centuries of the ways in which corporate industries had in hand data about the dangers of their products (beginning with lead and smelter soot) and yet continued to produce their products even as they covered up the damaging data. Devra Davis (an MD and former member of the National Cancer Commission) has a book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, that traces parallel situations.
      The idea that making money excuses all other acts has not left us in good ethical standing with respect to our choices.
      Thank you for your comment. I think it is up to citizens like yourself to make sure out country lives up to the “great” potential that you cite for it.

  98. I was deployed to the middle east last year for over seven months and I found myself asking me the same questions, “What are we doing here? Why do we fight this war” are we really making a difference” and not once was I able to answer them honestly. As we drove downtown to the city I realized that the people only want peace, they don’t care about our gadgets or new clothes, no all they wanted was peace to go about with their life’s, then I started to realize how much we exploit those countries that lack a government and financial profits. As westerners all we look for is how can we make this better but cheaper, and at the same time cost us less to put it all together. Even on camp I found national locals washing our clothes yet we treated them as if they were the enemy when in reality all they want is to be able to care for their families. We always expected better of them, as an example, a haircut on a base here in the US is about $9 plus tip and let me just say that these haircuts are horrible. A haircut on camp in the middle east is about $5 with no tip and those were the best haircuts ever, and they also included a quick neck message (that was the norm) now why is it that we exploit people and expect them to do it better? This is an unfair society, it is hard for an entire nation to give compassion and feel responsible for those we don’t see face to face simply because for being treated unfairly and being exploited. This even happens in America as well with illegal immigrants, we exploit them to do the jobs that other don’t want to do. I believe that we can overcome the distance over global economy and have a global makeover so that even those in the littlest nation can live a good life. We cannot miss an opportunity to pull ourselves away from egocentric thinking and we will jump the wall that has divided us from the rest of the world.

    • Thank you for your service, Moises–and for sharing such a clear-eyed and compassionate vision based on your firsthand experience in this arena. I was touched by your words– there is much wisdom here!
      Your last line sums it up: “we should not miss an opportunity to pull ourselves away from egocentric thinking” to enable us to “jump the wall that has divided us from the rest of the world.
      I also like your insight that these people only want peace– and that even a “small country” has a right to proper.
      Great example on the haircuts and fairness!

  99. I’ve read all three of the NIMBY articles listed in our reading for this week and decided to comment on this one keeping all three in mind. I completely agree with you about building walls along borders; they just stop us from learning about and learning from each other. NIMBY is really a very bad attitude that isn’t helpful to anyone. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is easy to practice but it really does come back to us in negative ways.

    I think that we, especially here in the United States, have become “germophobes!” I know parents who don’t allow their children to play outside in the dirt and/or mud. This is ludicrous to me and, thankfully, my daughter feels the same way as she lets her children outside to get as dirty as they want. There are many good germs outside that can help keep our immune systems strong and I encourage that kind of healthy play in my family. When I was pregnant with my son I had gone into premature labor. At the hospital they determined his lungs weren’t strong enough for him to be born so I spent three days there taking medications to stop labor. I was able to carry him to full-term; however, he was born with brain damage caused by a bug I picked up while in the hospital for premature labor. We have become so overloaded with antibiotics, either from taking them when we don’t really need them or through the meat we eat and the water we drink, that more powerful bacteria have evolved and are causing havoc on us and other beings.

    What I’m getting from this series of articles is that there truly is no “my” backyard versus someone else’s. The earth is everyone’s backyard and when a part of it becomes contaminated or destroyed, we all suffer the effects, whether we want to “see” it or not. I think holding tight to the idea that if one doesn’t want “it” in their own backyard, then one doesn’t want it in anyone’s backyard. This makes sense and goes along with how I try to live my life – “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” I believe this does not just apply to humans but to all living beings, which leads to compassion and responsibility worldwide.

    • I wrote the following reply for a different web response.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if it was NOMP–Not On My Planet

    • I am so sorry that you and your son had to suffer this infection– though from what I know of the two of you, you each made of his life the treasure it was. I saw an analysis that indicated that it is not only the anti-germ drugs we label antibiotics that are causing the problem, but things like Round Up– which one researcher also calls an “antibiotic”, since it is life-killing in a way that destroys a broad range of bacteria in the soil which fight a plant’s ability to uptake certain nutrients and thus its ability to develop an immune system that can ward off diseases that would mean nothing to a plant grown on more healthy soil. One problem is that the Round Up “antibiotic” effect lasts for generations of plant life and not just the single generation that is supposedly genetically engineered to be “round up ready.”
      The principle of the anti-germ is the same– but in this case the “germ” (bad guy) is the “weed”– but the problem in that the effect is so broad spectrumed that we are stuck, once again, not knowing our friends from our enemies.
      There are now, as you indicate, antibiotics everywhere in our environment–and this cannot help but play havoc with the immune systems of all species.
      Your “do unto others” quote is certainly appropriate. This also comes to the issue of “chemical trespass” and the fact that some should not have the right to put chemicals into the environment that “trespass” on the bodies of others.

    • Hi Carol! I especially liked your ending sentences about doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. I think you make a great point when you say there is no “my” backyard vs. someone else’s. I agree that this is the mentality we need in order to spread compassion and responsibility worldwide!

  100. Thank you, Prof. Holden; yes, my son was a treasure!

    I did some research on Roundup and found this “Fact Sheet” from the Ecology Center:
    It doesn’t surprise me that Roundup is a Monsanto product and they initally lied by using the terms “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” to describe the product.

    • We really need to keep our eyes open to the real meaning behind such buzz words that need defining as what is behind them. “Progress” and “family values” are other ones. We could develop a whole list.

  101. Carol Gift’s comment “The more questions we ask and the more personal experiences we tap in to, the more hope we all have of shifting cultural paradigms and perspectives toward human compassion.” really resonated with me. I think it is really easy today to be removed from world issues, and trying to make them more personal would be beneficial! I also think the idea of our backyard being not only our country/region but the entire world is very important.

  102. Yes, people need to think about their actions before consuming. I’ve been try this and at times I fail and then I feel guilt about my purchase. The abuse of consuming needs to stop; now China is going full force on being the largest consumers in the world.

    The story about the nine-year-old girl that sat in front of a land mine gives me hope for a more compassionate future generation. I believe this girl is going to be a leader.

    • We can certainly use this type of leader in our world rather than those who now manipulate the media, Kim– yes? Or those, as I mentioned in a reply to another recent comment, who are spearheading a drive for corporate social responsibility:

    • When I read about how much we consume, I thought about all those ipads, ipods, and other sources of electronics that seem to grow exponentially. I look at some of them and I say it would be nice to have but is it something that is worth it? My answer is no it’s not worth it. Sadly, in our school system, children need to know more about technology and I am wondering how many of our children will ever enjoy an ourdoor’s school or how many will enjoy a nature walk just know more about the plants that surround the area they live in?

      • Throw away technology is indeed a large problem in our waste stream– is production of all this waste really worth what we get in return is an important question to ponder.
        We are just now beginning to deal with electronic waste, and this effort needs to continue to be much more thorough.

  103. This made me think of something that use to hang on the wall in my Grandma Taylor’s living room. The print was of a wooded area by a body of water and at the bottom of the picture was a saying: “Take what you bring and leave only footprints.” We can leave legacies behind for our future generations and hopefully we can leave the natural wonders as well. We have exhausted a lot of the natural resources.

  104. On the campaign trail a few elections ago, the ANWR drilling debate received ample attention. In one of the debates, I believe, a candidate declared there was enough oil in ANWR to last 100 years. This was stated in the pro-drilling stance. I, however, was not impressed with 100 years of oil. How could we consider sacrificing pristine land and home to animals including caribou that have migrated through the area for who knows how long, just for 100 years of oil? After reading your article here, I thought immediately of ANWR and realized I am not sure what has happened since that election. It turns out, just last June the debate to open ANWR to drilling was back in the spotlight. ( An interesting quote from the CBS news article comes from Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska. “America’s resources belong to Americans.” Not only is the proposal to drill ANWR shortsighted (certainly fewer than seven generations and seven continents), but it is entirely blind to the reality of the interdependence between humans and the land. We do not “own” the land and we have no right to take what is “ours” when it never was intended to belong to us or any other human. If only understanding ecofeminism were a requirement for government officials.

    • And of course, given the current climate change, what we do NOT need is more oil to burn. This is especially concerning in terms of the tar sands oil extraction and the Keystone Pipeline– which really lays it on the line in terms of choices. NASA scientist emeritus Jim Hanson has termed the tar sands extraction “game over” for the planet’s climate–and oil companies have complained that if they do not get the pipeline, the oil business just won’t be profitable for them anymore.
      I know where that puts me in terms of support.
      And then there is the new fracking technology (coming into its own since I wrote this essay)– something else we truly don’t need. I am heartened by the recent federal ruling that fracking companies will have to publicly reveal what chemicals they are pumping into the ground– something they fought hard NOT to do.
      Thanks for your comment and keep up the good work educating your students on this.

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