Are We Being Good Ancestors?

As we live through yet another wave of Covid-19 and face new variants of the disease, I am reminded of another period in our history which put fear into the hearts of many of our parents and grandparents back in the 1940’s and 1950’s: the polio epidemic. My family knew children who died from this dreaded disease and many of us have had friends who have had to live with its life changing and often devastating effects.

I was reminded of this when I read a recent CBC newsletter forwarded to me by a member my congregation. (Thanks, Maria!) Author Nicole Mortillaro builds on the research of philosopher Roman Krznaric, who recently published the book The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term ThinkingQuoting Krznaric, Mortillaro notes that Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine back in the 1950’s, was also very concerned about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In a warning he issued to his fellow world citizens, Salk asked an important  question, “Are we being good ancestors?”

This is a good question for us Boomers and older adults too. “Are we being good ancestors?” This is true of so many areas of our lives, but nowhere is the question more urgent than as it relates to the current climate crisis.

Mortillaro outlines how the First Nations’ understanding on decision making is something we urgently need to employ. Indigenous cultures around the world always keep one question before them: how will their present decisions and actions affect those living seven generations in the future? In other words, what sort of legacy are we bequeathing to our children and grandchildren and their great-great-great-great grandchildren? “Are we being good ancestors?” More importantly, what kind of world are we leaving to them and how can we bequeath to them a healthier world by changing how we live now?

I hope you will read Mortillaro’s essay. As Baby Boomers many of us have enjoyed a remarkably affluent lifestyle, filled with far more stuff than we need, while others in our land and in the world have suffered untold misery and poverty. It is time we found ways to cut back so that others today can have the essentials that we take for granted – and so that future generations may simply have life period!

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