…who knows the game is rigged; who needs to change the game.
She feels called to the task at hand: To face the fundamental flaws in human systems, so dangerously out of step with nature’s systems, and then to act on this understanding to bring about change. But how?
This is the question the Women’s Congress Companion for Political Change asks: to take the traveler through the political forest, written for those who understand the urgency of the state of the planet but remain in limbo, feeling both passionate and complicit, engaged but powerless.
She has witnessed the dangerous effects of post-industrial human actions… She has made changes in her life to reduce her impact on the environment, but her individual behaviors feel inconsequential and symbolic in the face of such global, complex issues…
Women are rising up. Women are recognizing that we have a responsibility to our communities and to future generations. We bring life into the world, we steward biodiversity and the Commons and take responsibility for it. We have unique wisdom and obligation, which leads to an authority to act. This obligation to future generations leads to women’s unique responsibility, along with men, to uphold the rights of future generations.
Future Generations have the inalienable right to an uncompromised existence, and yet these rights are rarely factored into decisions about how we plan and organize our society today.
The history of work summarized in this study guide is anchored in principles that defend the right to a clean and healthy environment. The topics covered in each chapter challenge existing assumptions in the public square about the role of government, law, and existing institutions and propose new pathways for intervening. The Women’s Congress Companion for Political Change is a guide to how to walk with others and do the good and often hard work of protecting the places you love and wish to pass on to future generations.
The Companion is written as a series of cairns, each a marker for exploring topics and finding ways to apply them to a specific community issue, including: the Commons; Free Prior and Informed Consent; Public Trust Theory of Government; the Precautionary Principle; and Guardianship. The pages offer ways of getting out of loops of despair through the power of communion, tying grief to moral clarity and purpose, giving or withdrawing consent to an activity, finding new political language and strategies, and breaking open spaces to reveal different points of intervention for political engagement.
Through bravery and communion with those on the path with her and the things revealed on the path, the traveler uses the gifts left for her to be fully present in the destruction and violence, in a rigged game, in conflicting identities, personal culpability, compassion, and unique wisdom.
The commons are the environment we all share: air, water, soil, climate, animals, insects, and human culture of music, art, language, dance, and more. We recognize that we owe—and future generations deserve—a healthy commons, passed down from each generation to the next. We must take care of the things we share, and we share a lot. A key role of government is to serve as the trustee or guardian of the common wealth and common health.
Communities, like individuals, have the right to autonomy and self-determination, especially concerning decisions and actions affecting our commons: i.e., our air, water, soil, and other natural resources. We recognize that communities have the right and responsibility to refuse actions that may damage their environment. We recognize that we can, and must, insist that informed consent of everyone affected is obtained before any action is taken.
The Public Trust theory of government, specifically that a key function of government, is to protect the commonwealth and common health for present and future generations. It is the role of government to ensure that the Commons will be cared for generation after generation in perpetuity. Such emerging legal ideas can enlarge the concept of democracy, empower communities to protect their waters and future generations, and provide guidance on decision-making when faced with economic proposals.
Our planet’s future is uncertain. We recognize our responsibility to prevent harm, if possible–to heed early warnings; this is a statement of ethics. As we identify practices that are harmful to our planet, endangering our future, we must hold everyone accountable for their actions today: governments, businesses, communities, and individuals.
Future generations have the right to an ecologically healthy environment, a habitable earth where they can thrive. We recognize our responsibility to tend and nurture that healthy environment. We can all become guardians and participate in decisions that impact future generations. We can designate legal guardians to review regulations for their impact on the future, and to audit the commons under our jurisdiction.
Our planet is a self-sustaining ecosystem and we are part of it. We recognize that we must not take more from the Earth than it can regenerate, or put more into it than it can restore.
An owl economy — as opposed to a bear and bull economy — is a wisdom-based approach to economics calling for a recognition that the Earth is the source of our life and our economic activity. An economic system based on limitless extraction of resources, places, and people is unsustainable and unjust. Our economic tenets re-root our economics in the earth, honoring our relationship with the natural world and with each other.
Read the Owl Economy principles here.
“It is in our hands. The Bird, the Tree of Life in which it nests, the River. The Future. It is in our hands. We have plundered the Tree of Life by what we name as “Economics”. We act as if mining, logging, drilling, and waste disposal, are required for the growth of the “economy”— our “way of life”— all the while forgetting that the soil, the trees, the waters, the air and the living things are actually required for life and community. Our bodies are fractals of the Earth: each one of our bodies is both representative of the whole Earth and a piece of the Earth. We are made of ocean water, the breath of plants, the ground from which we came and to which we will return. To destroy the ocean, the plants and the ground is to destroy ourselves and our children.”
We can withdraw our consent from decisions and actions that threaten and damage the future of our planet. We recognize our responsibility to withdraw our consent from a way of life that endangers our planet’s future. We recognize that when we—the affected, the governed—join together and withdraw our consent from corporate or government actions and practices, those who govern and conduct business have an obligation to respond.
Want to understand these key concepts on a deeper level? Check out the resources below.
A Declaration of the Rights of All Waters, and a Bill of Responsibilities for those Present (2014 2nd Women’s Congress for Future Generations)
Heartland & Headwaters – Setting Goals for Going Forward (Kaitlin Butler, Carolyn Raffensperger, Julie Ristau, for the 2nd Women’s Congress)
An Owl Economy (Carolyn Raffensperger, for the 2nd Women’s Congress)