The Iroquois called it the Seventh Generation Principle, and it was so important that they codified it in their Great Law of Iroquois Confederacy. “The Seventh Generation philosophy is integral to Haudenosaunee life,” said Oren Lyons, a Seneca chief (a member of the Iroquois League). “[The Peacemaker said to] make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today.”
As parents, we need to apply this idea to climate change and ask ourselves a question: Do we make our decisions on behalf of the seven generations, starting with our children?
Climate change is real. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, says that Earth’s temperature “is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6ºF over the next hundred years.” We’ve seen “changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. […] [O]ceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.” That means more hurricanes, fewer coral reefs, fewer glaciers, and fewer Indonesian islands. The causes are myriad but mostly include the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
This is the world we are leaving our children. This is why, as parents, we need to make minimizing climate change a major priority.
If we allow it to continue unchecked, our children will be the first to see the utterly devastating effects of climate change on our world. They will see the utter devastation of New York City, including Manhattan, as sea levels rise, inundating parts of the city and causing massive 100-year floods that will force evacuation à la Hurricane Sandy.
Heat waves could cause “could cause about 110 to 260 additional heat-related deaths per year on average in New York City.” The effects will be so bad that in 2013, the city released a report called the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, or SIRR. It addresses “the creation of a more resilient New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with a long-term focus on preparing for and protecting against the impacts of climate change.”
According to Rolling Stone, a foot of rising sea levels (expected by 2030) could make streets “impassable at high tide, snarling traffic. The cost of flood insurance will skyrocket, causing home prices in risky neighborhoods to decline.”
This is in the Big Apple, but effects will be similar in other coastal cities, including Miami, Galveston, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.
And these are just the disaster scenarios. It doesn’t count the natural wonders we’re losing. The glaciers of Kilimanjaro could disappear by 2030, and we’re losing glaciers worldwide. We’ve had 400 billion tons of glacier loss since 1994. According to the United States Geological Survey, many glaciers in Glacier National Park have already disappeared, and of the 25 left that are larger than 25 acres, “[a] computer-based climate model predicts that some of the parks largest glaciers will vanish by 2030.”
I visited Glacier National Park several times as a child. When I take my children, they will see fewer of the park’s namesake glaciers than I did 25 years ago. Their children will see even fewer, if any.
If we don’t care about climate change, we are robbing our children of the natural wonders that should be their birthright. We are not caring for the Earth to the seventh generation.
Coral reefs are another natural wonder that climate change is killing. The ocean water is becoming warmer and more acidic. This bleaches coral or kills it. According to Teach Ocean Science, if we continue to produce carbon dioxide at the same rate we do now, oceans will reach a PH level of 7.8, which “could cause coral reefs to fall apart.” Forget your children snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or any number of reefs in the Caribbean.
Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to help stop global warming:
1. You can pressure your senators and representatives to hold to the Paris Agreements, which will reduce carbon emissions.
2. You can also pressure them to object to Trump’s pick for head of the EPA, Myron Ebell, a climate change denier.
3. You can reduce your own carbon footprint. For example, use less electricity by changing to compact fluorescent bulbs.
4. Walk more, drive less. Or at least consolidate your trips so you drive fewer miles.
5. According to Conserve Energy Future’s “35 Ways to Stop Global Warming,” you can also reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. Those yogurt containers make great doggy bags at restaurants, giving them a second life and replacing Styrofoam containers.
6. Use less hot water.
7. Plant a tree.
8. Buy things with less packaging.
9. Take reusable totes to the store.
10. Eat less meat.
Most of all, teach your children to care about the environment. Raise little recycling sticklers who can help you sort out the recyclable plastic from the trash. Plant trees with them (you can make it a science project). Take them to see our natural wonders before they’re gone, and talk about climate change.
Teach kids to care for the Earth to the seventh generation. Because only when they care, too, will we slow down the climate change beast.