There's an ancient Native American proverb that resonates deeply within my soul and represents a fundamental shift that I think we all need to make in the way we view our world.
"We do not inherit the land from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children."
Throughout my life, I've witnessed so many people fighting to preserve the cultures of the past. We instinctively resist change and those who want to create it, and sentimentally embrace the simpler times as being the better times.
In 1989, Jon Bon Jovi romanticized it perfectly. "Once upon a time, not so long ago, Johnny used to work on the docks, until the union went on strike ... and Gina worked the diner all day, working for her man, to bring home her pay for love." That song actually inspired me to become a waitress, which in turn, quickly inspired me to finish my degree. "Living on a Prayer" wasn't as fun as it sounded.
I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a college education wasn't always necessary to secure a solid career with GE, GM or International Harvester. A hard working person could raise a family in a secure lifestyle with modest vacations, full health care, and a respectable retirement. We might not have had the sexy New Jersey docks, but a man could work hard in a factory and support his family with a middle class standard of living. But now, with a declining manufacturing sector and stagnant economy, automated factories and the outsourcing of jobs, the prospect of the American Dream is dwindling.
I recently had the privilege of living in the mountains of West Virginia for a few years, where whole Appalachian towns are still supported through the 12 hour days of coal miners who do back-breaking work in darkness underground. People there support coal and resist alternative energy development. Their livelihoods are rooted in the mines, and they proudly fight for their "granddaddy's way of life".
And all I can silently ask is, "What about our children's way of life?"
It's time for us to Wake Up to the realities of:
- the 9 billion people that will be living on our planet by 2050
- the massive amounts of waste we generate from packaging to plastics
- the pollution of our soil, water and air that has been generated through fossil fuels and toxic chemicals in our factories, businesses, homes and automobiles
- the individual health effects and environmental costs of our current massive production and consumption of meat
Our grandparents' way of life is threatening our children's future. Only awareness and action will allow us to create a sustainable future for generations to come. It's no longer "us" vs. "them", or "you" vs. "me". Only a collective "we" can make a difference. Ask yourself if you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution.
Photo by Tony Frantz