By Larry Feisntein
“I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become One Circle again” — Crazy Horse
The story I wrote last week, “Weehawken,” got probably the best response of any of my nearly 300 stories. You know, I have been doing this storytelling thing for just around seven years, and I have given up trying to figure out what resonates and what doesn’t. On top of that, who knows what Facebook is doing with its algorithms?
I got back home a couple of days ago from my trip to see family. As my obsessive compulsive, writing day approached, I was torn between a personal piece or one of those ponderous treatises that uses the grossly, unappealing pronouns like “we” and “they.”
It’s really challenging to find a way to talk about the big stuff, while still trying to keep it small and personal, resonating with folks who enjoy this medium. Oh, that would you be you guys!
So, here it is, Friday and I’ve got nothing. I had a morning meeting with a really terrific guy, who handles my Apple illnesses, computer and/or phone. He has been converting my blog stories into printed versions that go into a loose-leaf notebook. Yes, I have not canned my old school ways. No matter what happens, barring a house fire, I have a physical record of all my stories, my insurance policy that my grandson will always have access to them, even if electronica has a fit and chokes on itself.
I don’t know how it even came up, but he told me he read this news story about an article written in 1912, addressing the disastrous climate implications of burning coal. As some of you may know, I have a podcast that covers news, peppered with colorful commentary. Every week, I beat the drums of my lungs about our climate emergency and this unusual story skyrocketed to the top of my list.
On Aug. 14, 1912, a newspaper with a too-long New Zealand name, printed a short paragraph in its “science notes and news” section. It started with the small, nearly invisible headline: “Coal consumption affecting climate”.
Here is the short paragraph:
“The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.”
It is so incredibly challenging to write about what I am convinced is “the climate emergency” and find a way to make it matter to each of you on a deeply personal level, to make it a small story. Science is a cold business and just talking about temperature rise or carbon dioxide levels in the air is not the language our hearts speak. It is our feelings that govern our actions, not all this gibberish about statistics and the facts of this crisis.
I have decided that at this rather advanced stage of my life, I want to give my mind the freedom to look for language that can touch others. Saying the same old stuff is not going to get your attention, and why should it?
I don’t know where it came from, but I immediately started thinking about the Native American concept of Seven Generations, hundreds of years before it became a brand name for paper towels, etc. If you go seven generations out form 1912, you hit on 2052.
Sometimes, I wish I was a major league, indigenous dude, with some incredible pedigree, tracing my lineage back to the creation myth. Instead, I am a person from Queens, New York with no serious creds at all. It feels terribly pretentious for me to be talking about stuff I have no business talking about, and it makes me very uncomfortable. The last thing I want to be is some counterfeit pundit, trifling the precious insights of native people the world over.
I did the no-brainer math and slapped seven generations on to 1912 and came up with a critical time, referred to by sharper minds than my own, regarding a fail-safe moment for the planet’s climate and all its inhabitants.
2050 comes up in all the assessments of the climate challenge. One of the things I have learned from my friendship with the Buddha is that truth is a combination of heart and mind, meeting at some divine, undefinable place. I think the Earth will present a choice for us at that special time.
I believe seven generations from that brief paragraph is when the bill will come due. The ideas being put forth that we need to take immediate action will simply not happen in time to address the consequences of our inaction.
Chief Seneca of the Iroquois gifted us with the truth of our existence, and it is crying to be framed for all of us to feel and inhale; “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
As I mentioned, I just came back from a visit with f