Image for Be a better ancestor: five ways to be good to future generations

Be a better ancestor: five ways to be good to future generations

From backing future-focused political projects to reframing what people are capable of, here are five ways to act now to benefit those yet to be born

From backing future-focused political projects to reframing what people are capable of, here are five ways to act now to benefit those yet to be born

man in a field
Vote for your great-grandchildren

Now is an age of “frenetic short-termism” writes author and philosopher Roman Krznaric in his book The Good Ancestor. One way to help is to back political projects that look further ahead. So-called ‘guardians of the future’ – like the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales – have a focus on long-term public policy. Meanwhile, evidence suggests that citizens’ assemblies are better at taking a long view than myopic politicians.

Image: Benjamin Davies 

Back justice for all generations

Increasingly, cases are being fought on behalf of tomorrow’s citizens. The organisation Our Children’s Trust has filed a case against the US government on behalf of 21 young people for the legal right to a safe climate for current and future generations.

In Europe, six youth campaigners have taken 33 countries – the UK included – to the European court of human rights for failing to act on the climate.

Image: Li-An Lim

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Play the role of someone from the future

Japan’s Future Design movement draws on the ‘seventh-generation’ decision-making practised by many indigenous groups. It sees citizens gather to discuss plans for the future, with half the group representing today and half donning ceremonial robes and imagining themselves as residents from the year 2060. The latter group tends to advocate for far more transformative plans.

Image: Lakeisha Bennett

small shrub
Support businesses that care about the long term

The renewable energy company Good Energy has invited 12 to 17-year-olds to join its Good Future Board. Those selected have been asked for their input on creating a sustainable future – including telling adults where they are going wrong. Supporting B Corps is another vote for longer-term thinking: they are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on people and planet.

Reframe what people are capable of doing

Research shows that humans are not just short-term thinkers (Krznaric’s term is ‘marshmallow-snatchers’). We can be long-term ‘acorn-planters’ too, when we switch on the long-term part of our brains in our frontal lobe. Fire yours up: imagine a child you care about on their 90th birthday party, holding a tiny great-grandchild of their own. The baby could be alive well into the 22nd century. What do they need you to do in order to thrive?

Image: Pravenn Kumar Mathivanan

Main image: Janko Ferlic

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