In today’s globally connected world, what does it mean to ‘love thy neighbor’? What about our ‘civic duty’? To whom is it owed and how do we fulfill it? And how might we ‘secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity’?
From the spiritual to the patriotic, these are questions of how to live out the values we hold dear. I’m a believer that, in the end, we all want to do right by each other. What actions are necessary then, personally and as a community, to actualize the world we want, for now and for our posterity, all future generations?
Suppose our legal policies, economic systems and social norms were designed to uphold the rights of future generations: their right to clean air and water, safe healthy foods, joyous neighborhoods, a life full of beauty and free from fear. What would life be like for us as a result of protecting the rights of future generations, humans and other living beings too? What opportunities exist for us in this generation to codify, uphold and defend such rights?
These inquires will be the focus of the first ever Women’s Congress for Future Generations that will convening in Moab later this month. Drawn together by a common calling to take a stand for future generations, women (and men, invited to participate as sacred witnesses) are coming from around the world in hopes of transforming the public dialogue about our collective future.
One of the event organizers, Carolyn Raffensperger, is an environmental lawyer specializing in the fundamental changes in law and policy necessary to protect future generations and the Earth. She says: “There are rare individuals who can think in terms of seven generations, and even rarer ones who can think in terms of 100 or 1000 generations. We need to develop the skills of those who can, and value their prophetic voice.”
The plan is to express, not just in words, but also through art, song and performance, a Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations, and to continue a conversation that is underway in other settings among indigenous communities, spiritual leaders, scientists, writers, lawyers, policy makers, grandmothers and activists alike.
Indigenous leaders, for example, are working to get the United Nations to acknowledge the ‘Rights of Nature’. Organizations like the World Future Council and Long Now Foundation work “to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common” and “creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.” An Ecuadorian ruling gives their forests, lakes and waterways rights on par with humans in an effort to protect them from destructive practices.
And just last week , the Whanganui River in New Zealand, was given a legal identity. The river was recognized as ‘an integrated, living whole’ with ‘personhood’, all the rights of a person when it comes to the law, “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests” according to a spokeswoman for their Ministry of Treaty Negotiations.
Moab was selected to host the Congress in part because of its immense natural beauty. But the American Southwest is emblematic of communities everywhere facing big decisions about whether to embrace a clean energy future, or welcome more oil and gas drilling, fracking, tar sands development, expanded uranium mining, even a proposed nuclear power plant. These decisions will have a huge impact on generations present and future, making Moab and the Greater Canyonlands region a powerful backdrop to these proceedings.
Registration for the Congress is open through next Monday and there are many opportunities to get involved. Organizers are looking for volunteers of all stripes, as well as home stay hosts who can provide lodging for participants coming to Moab for the gathering.
Public events associated with the Congress include a screening of the film ‘Arise’ with filmmaker Lori Joyce at Star Hall at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 28 and a concert with Iranian vocalist Mamak Khadem 8:30 p.m., Sept. 29 at Star Hall.
Two local fundraisers are in the works to support the Congress. On Sunday Sept. 22 Visionary Activist Caroline Casey of Pacifica Radio’s Coyote Network News will host an Autumnal Equinox Address to benefit the Congress, and ‘Take a Seat for Future Generations’, an Art Auction that features chairs created by local artists with the theme “Protecting our Beautiful Canyon Country Homeland for Future Generations’. The art chairs are in some 17 locations in Moab, and open for bidding through Oct. 13.