From the Past–for the Future

While most Americans believe it is important to treat people with consideration, we don’t, for the most part, extend that consideration to the people yet to come, our descendants.  

As a culture, modern America is dramatically different from the Iroquois Nations.  Their culture embraced the ethic that the making of any major decision must include that decison’s impact on the seventh generation to come.  In other words, how would current actions affect the people who would be living as much as 175 years later?  

I would be a lot less worried about our planet and what’s in store for the coming generations if my culture had an ethic similar to that of the Iroquois.  Even so, there have been influential individuals in our culture who have  acted with future generations in mind.  One such person was Theodore Roosevelt.  As President (1901-1909), he established the National Wildlife Refuge System, so that wild places and the birds, fish, and other wildlife that inhabit them would be protected from poaching, over-hunting, and commercial use.  Roosevelt worried that the marvels of wilderness he so enjoyed would not be there for future generations, unless his generation took action to protect them.

I have been reading a book of Roosevelt’s wilderness writings, and am inspired by what he wrote after his visit to some islands off the Louisiana coast.  He had seen the damage that poachers can do, and he made a strong case for the value of federal and state protection:

“The western-most island we visited was outside the national reservation, and that very morning it had been visited and plundered by a party of eggers.  The eggs had been completely cleared from most of the island, gulls and terns had been shot, and the survivors were in a frantic state of excitement.  

“It was a good object lesson in the need of having reserves, and laws protecting wild life, and a sufficient number of efficient officers to enforce the laws and protect the reserves.  

‘Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying that ‘the game belongs to the people.’  So it does;  and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people.

‘”The greatest good of the greatest number” applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction.  Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations.  

‘The movement for the conservation of wild life, and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources, are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.’

Yes!  We need to base our actions on what will benefit, not harm, our descendants!  I am thankful to Teddy Roosevelt for his foresight, for all the wild places he saved from destruction!–April Moore






One Response to “From the Past–for the Future”

  1. James Says:

    President Teddy Roosevelt was a remarkable individual who improved himself through sheer force of will. A spindly child, he developed himself into a virtual he-man. His memory was photographic and he could see a page of text, floating before his eyes from years before, which was ably quoted. Not to be fooled he remarked on the reality of one`s status with this quote: “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” And that is where we are today; as for our conservation efforts, we should recognize, that all forms of life that have ever been have gone extinct – about 99% of every species that has ever been.

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