From: Howard Jacobson <>
Subject: What will future generations think of us?

Can we become "beloved ancestors" to those not yet born?

Today's Plant Yourself Podcast features environmental legal activist Carolyn Raffensperger:

Raffensperger has been advocating for the environment since 1982. She's currently executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and a tireless proponent of the Precautionary Principle when it comes to balancing economic and environmental impacts.

Raffensperger sees the environmental movement's best strategy to reverse the destruction of our planet as one of civil rights litigation. Governments, at their core, are here to keep safe the commons upon which all life depends: clean air, clean water, clean soil. She argues that our current policies are violating the “Rights of the Unborn” to a clean and healthy environment.

The Precautionary Principle sounds fancy, but you know by its more common names: Better safe than sorry; Look before you leap; and the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

Basically, policy grounded in the Precautionary Principle reverses the burden of proof. Right now, a corporation can pollute streams and land and air with impunity, unless some injured party can prove that the pollutants are damaging their health. And given the imbalance in resources between wealthy industrial interests and poor and marginalized communities poisoned by their chemicals, that proof is often impossible to come by. At least, before it's too late.

Right now, Raffensperger points out, the economy always gets the benefit of the doubt in any conflict with the environment. Growth is sacred, while trees and rivers are utilitarian. Polluter avoid financial responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people suffer.

What would our world be like, Raffensperger wonders, if we thought of ourselves as “Guardians of Future Generations”? How would we function as a society if our highest goal was to be considered “Beloved Ancestors” by those yet unborn?

In our conversation, we talk about the current mess, strategies to shift policies and perspectives, and the illusions that many of us still cling to, against all evidence (i.e., “tech will save us”).

This isn't a fun or easy conversation, but a hugely important one. I don't want to be part of the generation of whom future humans say, “How could they do this to us when they knew?”

If you're feeling stuck about your progress to eat better, manage stress, and move your body, here's an inspiring conversation with Paralympic hopeful Sarah Bofinger:

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