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View previous Newsletters.

May 2007

Dear People,

What I love about the Work That Reconnects is the voices that come through. I mean the voices of our ancestors, the future generations, and the other species with whom we share this planet. They are rarely evoked or even mentioned in public debates about policy options, as relating, for example, to climate change; but we need to hear them if we're going to meet the crises of our time with any moral intelligence.

These voices are right here. Given the deep connections that interweave us with the web of life, they are within us. No special magic is required to call them forth. Those of you who have come to workshops know how simple it is to sit down together, set a shared intention, and by the power of our imagination, speak on behalf of another being. Each time this happens, I am awed by the clarity and authenticity of the words that come through. I think I have never loved people more than at the moment when they slip aside from their persona and lean forward in utter concentration to let another perspective be communicated. In that moment, as we shift our perspective to that of a different being and give it our full attention, the walls around the separate ego dissolve into wider contexts of space and time. Afterwards we are never quite the same; notions about our needs and entitlements have shifted a bit, and so, to some degree, has our sense of who and where we are.

Since the Council of All Beings began happening over twenty years ago, many thousands of people have had the experience of speaking on behalf of another life-form, be it an animal or plant species, or a feature of the environment like a river or mountain or the wind. More recently, as "deep time" work becomes ever more relevant and rewarding, it has brought an array of practices that breed felt connections with past and future generations, and that let us speak to them and for them.

Such use of the moral imagination is urgently needed right now. In response to oil depletion and climate change, the campaign for a new generation of nuclear power stations is gaining ground. In the name of assuring a supply of "clean" energy in amounts deemed essential for a vital economy, this campaign is being waged not only by the nuclear industry and its servants in government, but also by reputable figures allied with environmental causes. These pundits soberly "crunch" the numbers and argue that to maintain an operative economy and tolerable lifestyle, nuclear power is the only "rational" alternative before us.

I'm tired of talking back to these people in my own voice. I'd rather make other voices audible. I'd like the ancestors to chime in and remind us of the millennia they managed without refrigerators, and still crafted lives of nobility and purpose. And how the art and wisdom and discoveries they've left us required no turbines or transmission towers. As for the future ones, who will live with the radioactive wastes we leave behind for ages longer than life on earth, it is not hard to imagine what they would have to say. If they can trace the causes of their suffering, they'll surely wonder at our level of humanity. They might ask us to look at victims of contamination in our present-day world, at uranium miners and down-winders from test sites and children of Chernobyl --and to see in them their own future faces.

Those native to this land have known for a long time how to listen to the future ones. That each choice and change of policy be weighed by its consequences for the next seven generations was a teaching of the Great Peacemaker a thousand years ago. Observed to this day by the Onondaga and Mohawk Nations, it is similar to indigenous practices across the continent. The recently established Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is giving fresh fresh emphasis and institutional form to this regard for the future. At a gathering last year in Bemidji , Minnesota , the IEN issued a statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship. It deserves to be adopted by us all. The full text is available through the website of the Science and Environmental Health Network, www.sehn.org), but here are a few words.

At the outset "the first mandate" is set forth: "to ensure that our decision-making is guided by consideration of the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come"

Then, after addressing the harm that has been done in recent times to the natural world and its indigenous peoples, the statement concludes in this fashion:

"Who guards the web of life that nurtures and sustains us all?
Who watches out for the land, the sky, the fire, and the water?
Who watches out for our relatives that swim, fly, walk, or crawl?
Who watches out for the plants that are rooted in our Mother Earth?
Who watches out for the life-giving spirits that reside in the underworld?
Who tends the languages of the people and the land?
Who tends the children and the families?
Who tends the peacekeepers in our communities?

"We tend the relationships.
We work to prevent harm.
We create the conditions for health and wholeness.
We teach the culture and we tell the stories.

"We have the sacred right and obligation to protect the common wealth of our lands and the common health of our people and all our relations for this generation and seven generations to come. We are the Guardians for the Seventh Generation."

The Science and Environmental Health Network, which we can thank for conceptualizing and promoting the Precautionary Principle under the inspired leadership of Carolyn Raffensperger, worked with the IEN to catalyze the Bemidji event. Aiming to help identify and designate guardians for specific places, species, languages or communities, SEHN is working on the legal framework to be used, as well as on training materials, and eventually a web site to come on line in November. In February I met with some of its key players, when Carolyn, Nancy Myers, and Ted Schettler came for a invigorating two-day visit. It's wonderful to work with folks who operate with equal facility on both the right and left sides of the brain. That's a fine capacity for the Great Turning!

Blessings upon you of this present moment and all our companions in deep time.

Joanna