Think About the Consequences of Your Actions for Seven Generations by Carol P. Christ


Nurture life.

Walk in love and beauty.

Trust the knowledge that comes through the body.

Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.

Take only what you need.

Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.

Approach the taking of life with great restraint.

Practice great generosity.

Repair the web

In Rebirth of the Goddess, I offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The Nine Touchstones are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.

In recent weeks, wildfires have once again been raging in California and in Greece. This weekend, temperatures in Europe have reached over 113 degrees (45 Celsius). Talequah, the Orca whale. and her family are still mourning her baby ten days after its death.

Less than normal rains in winter leave trees dry and exhausted, while out of season rains produce grasses that fuel fire. A German environmentalist says that fish are dying in the Rhine River due to the heat. Scientists tell us that the extended matrilineal family of the dead baby Orca is starving and has been able to rear any babies in recent years.

The sixth touchstone, “Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations,” reminds us that we live in an interdependent world. Each of our actions, good as well as bad, affects human beings and other beings in the web of life. Exhausted trees, dying fish in the Rhine, and a dead Orca baby are all the result of human action and inaction. The cause is human failure to think about or to care enough about the consequences of our actions.

Orcas are starving and their babies are dying because of over-fishing and ocean pollution. Temperatures are rising in Europe and around the world because of global warming and global climate change. Forests are stressed and fires are burning out of control because of air pollution and global climate change.

Native Americans tell us to think about the consequences of our actions for seven generations. If we don’t change our ways and quickly, in seven generations there will probably be no more Orca whales and very few fish in rivers or seas.  In seven generations most of the world’s forests will have burned, been cut down, or died for lack of water. In seven generations temperatures in Europe and around the world will have risen to unimaginable levels. Many more species will have become extinct, and if there are any human beings left, they will be struggling to survive.

In my genealogical research I have traced my ancestors back seven generations and more. Although I never knew my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents, I know that the decisions of their lives contributed to my being here today. If there is anyone around to remember us in seven generations, what will they think of us?

Will they know that we lived in an advanced capitalist system that encouraged us to want more and to take more than we really needed? Will they know that we were told that our greed was threatening life on planet earth? That we did nothing or not enough? That too many of us said, “oh well, I won’t be around to see that,” and continued on living in ways that destroy the earth? That we elected leaders who failed to enact and failed to enforce environmental regulations that could have saved lives in the present and the future?

The way we are raising our children will affect the future. Political scientists tell us that the current generation in America is the first one that will not achieve greater economic success its parents. Political commentators agree that this is terrible. But do those of us who have enough to live and to live well, really need more than our parents had? What if we taught our children that sharing is more important that having?

Is it possible that we can live with less? Of course we need to curb the power of the one per cent. And yes, we need to distribute wealth more equally. But many of us—myself included—could live very well with a lot less than we have and want to have.

Only a major revolution in values can save the world for the generations that will come after us. The task ahead of us is massive. What can we do? The Native Americans urge us to think about the consequences of our actions–personal, communal, and political–for seven generations. This is only a beginning, but it is a very good place to begin.

Also see: Ethics of Goddess Religion: Healing the World , Nurture Life: Ethics of Goddess Spirituality,  Walk in Love and Beauty: A Touchstone for Healing,  Trust the Knowledge that Comes through the Body: Heal Yourself, Heal the World,  Speak the Truth About Conflict, Pain, and Suffering, Take Only What You Need

From Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change : “Everyone knew — and we all still know. We know that the transformations of our planet, which will come gradually and suddenly, will reconfigure the political world order. We know that if we don’t act to reduce emissions, we risk the collapse of civilization. We also know that, without a gargantuan intervention, whatever happens will be worse for our children, worse yet for their children and even worse still for their children’s children, whose lives, our actions have demonstrated, mean nothing to us.” —

 

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $10.98 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Bakas.

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Categories: Activism, Earth-based spirituality, Eco-systems, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Goddess Spirituality

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10 replies

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Carol. You’re right: we do need to consciously strive to live with less. However, people who strive to live in harmony with nature are outnumbered by people who frankly don’t give a damn. How does one convince conservatives (what a word for people who do nothing of the sort) that we must stop extraction technologies and strive for renewable resources? I simply don’t know the answer to that question.

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    • If I did, I would tell you, so many people look to tomorrow but not to the future of the planet or even to the lives of their grandchildren. The environment always comes last. One of the slogans I have suggested to the Green Party is “We must protect the earth, because we cannot live apart from the earth.” Does anyone listen? Even I have not changed my life in every way that I could but I do vote Green, as much as is possible.

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  2. Oh Carol, I just loved this thoughtful and moving post and I am going to reblog it… At this point as you say….”Only a major revolution in values can save the world for the generations that will come after us. The task ahead of us is massive. What can we do? The Native Americans urge us to think about the consequences of our actions–personal, communal, and political–for seven generations. This is only a beginning, but it is a very good place to begin….” If we could just begin.

    Here in New Mexico the drought and fires are terrifying. The beautiful high desert is no longer sage green but fried to a crisp brown. Even the cactus are shriveling. The juniper that I have adopted as my Guardian Tree gets watered and manured – I cannot save them all, but watching this one tree put out new growth, and waft her scent my way as I talk to her reminds me that Nature is so resilient… we could shift this dreadful outcome of our greed and indifference to some degree if only we WANTED to.

    What will it take???

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  3. Oy, this is scary! Some days, I struggle to believe there will even be seven generations after ours. Here in the Dysfunctional State, the western states are burning, the eastern states are flooded, and it’s too hot all over. But who care when we can drive big, air-conditioned cars with screens to distract the drivers? Let us all pray to our goddesses and gods to send wisdom and charity. Carol, thanks for this series of wise posts.

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  4. We keep speaking, even if no one listens. Like a mama Orca holding her dead baby in the air for the world to see.

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  5. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I really appreciate these posts on the Nine Touchstones.

    A question- I was under the impression that the idea of seven generation sustainability came specifically from the Iroquois rather than from “Native Americans” in general (although I assume other indigenous groups probably have similar principles)…do you know if that’s the case? This is not my area of expertise so I may be wrong.

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  6. Looked it up, it was in the Iroquois constitution, but was not the unique idea of the Iroquois. I did not get it from the Iroquois constitution, but don’t have the book here in Crete to see where I did get it.

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  7. I invite you to hear my production of Seventh Generation, recorded at Sonora Recorders in Los Angeles. https://youtu.be/Nqr12sGcF24

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  8. Another wonderful and frighteningly true post. You are exactly right that most of us could easily live with a lot less if put our minds to it and paid attention to habits that we have had all our lives (something is a little worn – toss it out…) and changed them. In my professional life, I work a lot with people who have a compulsive hoarding disorder and I’ve come to see our whole society as having the same disorder. When you hoard , you find emotional comfort in physical objects and project your needs onto them. They have no relation to their actual use to you. I think we as a society are the same – we acquire more and more because we somehow feel that will keep us safe or makes us worthy. To stop hoarding, you have to get to the core problem, which is frequently a disconnection to our spiritual selves, I think. May we all keep working to make that connection for ourselves and everyone else!

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