Rights for Future Generations - An Economic and Political Solution
You're Invited to a Re-Evolution of Politics
and the Economy!
"We need to take steps to stop catastrophic, man-made climate change. If we do not act, the consequences will be devastating for future generations, especially for the poorest global populations."
— Barack Obama
Educational solutions to the sustainability crisis are vital, but not enough. Our economic system needs a complete transformation — from an inequitable, war-time, fossil fuel-based economy to a healthy, equitable, peaceful and vibrant perpetual*-energy-based zero-carbon economy. And our political systems need a swift and stern reminder that posterity matters!
We need a political movement and an economic revolution that will give legal, economic and environmental rights to our descendants. We need to remind those "in power" that we are a species like any other, and that we must work to ensure our progeny's survival, like every other species does.
For some species, this means scattering their seeds to the wind. For others, it means protecting their eggs until they have hatched, or licking their babies clean so that predators can't detect their scent. For still others, it means long treks, year after year, to find food sources and watering holes.
For human beings, ensuring our descendants' survival means enshrining legal, economic and environmental rights for them into our laws and constitutions. Right now, people in the future have no rights. At present, our economic system externalizes (doesn't consider or account for) the costs of environmental degradation and social injustice.
* Perpetual energy means renewable energy sources minus burning. Burning anything (even biofuels or biomass) emits carbon into the atmosphere, and therefore doesn't have a role in our efforts to achieve a zero-carbon economy and lifestyles.
"If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it."
— Lyndon B. Johnson
Humanifesto for the Rights of Future Generations
We hold this truth as self-evident, natural and divine law, incumbent on all humanity.
Future generations of human beings have the same natural rights as present generations.
Present generations must honour and safeguard the rights of future generations — to the seventh generation.
The living inherited their rights from the will of past generations and it is our sacred duty to uphold and protect the natural rights of the future.
These natural rights are the right to live, in freedom from tyranny and terror, with sufficient security of
- health, and
- safe habitation
and to do so for their natural lifetime.
"We owe at least this much to future generations, from whom we have borrowed a fragile planet called Earth." — Maurice Strong
At this moment in human history, all systems of the biosphere are being degraded at such a rate that the survival of humanity is threatened.
In the not-too-distant future, it may be too late to prevent the collapse of civilization from global climate change within this century — if we don't make drastic changes in our energy production and consumption in short order.
We are witness to the start of the greatest crime against humanity, and the greatest offense against Creation, ever.
This is the result of a system of government, law and economics that denies rights to those who don't yet exist — as if civilization permits the living to plunder and abuse the birth rights of the next generations.
This is not civilized behaviour. It is behaviour without ethics, morality, or justice. It is inhuman — and inhumane.
At this time, we want to be able to ensure the survival of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. But how can we safeguard the future?
We must change the laws and the economics that deny the right of future generations to live a decent life simply because they are not yet alive. We can declare this denial to be the ultimate sin and the ultimate crime. We can declare it, on behalf of the voiceless generations to come, to be evil ... the ultimate oppression and exploitation of the most defenseless.
Any law, any economy and any government that denies these natural rights to those who will come after us has no legitimacy in human civilization.
Thinking Like an Ancestor
How is it that our generation, our culture, thinks it can do anything at all to the Earth, with impunity?
How can we allow our greenhouse gas emissions to continue when we know they will damage the planet our children inherit (because their effect starts 30 years from now due to the ocean heat lag) and when we know that global warming lasts for thousands of years? Today's atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution is damaging "their" Earth — the Earth of our children and all future children.
- When did the rights of future generations to a healthy and habitable planet become so eroded?
- Why don't we feel any sense of obligation to the future?
- Where and when will the interests of future generations be voiced?
- Who is going to protect the future? What can you and I do?
We'd been asking ourselves these questions — and wondering how to put the rights of future generations at the centre of all our deliberations and decisions. Inspired by the guiding question of sustainable design expert, William McDonough ...
How do we love ALL of the children, of ALL species, for ALL time?
... we want to speak up for the voiceless generations to come. That's when it came to us. Of course! A global legal and political campaign that demands their rights. A civil rights movement that gives voice to the voiceless.
It's up to people everywhere in the world to make history by making "rights for future generations" happen.
We must all affirm that our descendants have the legal and economic right to a healthy and habitable planet ... once we're done with it.
"Let us make future generations remember us as proud ancestors just as, today, we remember our forefathers." — Roh Moo-hyun
Precedents for Enshrining Legal and Economic Rights for Future Generations
Humans in our (EuroAmerican) culture sometimes forget that we're a species (like all the others on Earth) and that one of our fundamental roles is to perpetuate our species.
Those of us old enough to remember the 1950s used to hear about it all the time — parents would say things like, "We're working hard to give our kids a better chance in life," or "We don't mind making sacrifices if it means our kids will go to college." Louis Armstrong even sang about it in the heartwarming song, Hello Brother. ("A man ... wants a chance to give his kids a better life.")
How times have changed! Nowadays, sacrifice seems to be a dirty word, and parents who still work hard for their children are considered chumps in many places. The "Me Generation" grew up and forgot about their children and grandchildren and further descendants. There's a bumper sticker that says it all:
We're Spending Our Children's Inheritance
Nevertheless, over the centuries, some human civilizations and societies have adopted strategies for putting the rights of their children and grandchildren first. The following are examples of precedents for "enshrining" legal and economic rights for those to come, or at least heading in that direction.
- The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Seventh Generation principle
- The Magna Carta
- UN Rio Summit agreements (for example, the Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC)
- Germany's Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations on intergenerational justice
- Ecuador's constitutional amendments
- The North American Free Trade Agreement's (NAFTA) Chapter 11 gave corporations the right to sue governments for lost future profits, profits which would have been destined for future shareholders, thereby providing a precedent of legal and economic rights for future generations. The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) still has "investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions that allow corporations to sue governments over public policy and environmental decisions." These provisions steal from the future ... but since the precedent still stands, let's use it!
If you think that human beings in the future have the right to a healthy and habitable planet once we're done with it, please write to your elected officials, and talk to others about this idea.
Thank you, on behalf of all the children — of all species — for all time.
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