The following bit of wisdom can be found adorning the bumpers and t-shirts of environmentalists everywhere.
It even get’s its own brand of cleaning products to make people feel a little better about something.
Seven generations… shall we call that 150 years?
Many of the same people who wear the t-shirt or buy the detergent will also either say, or find themselves nodding along to, a statement like this:
Nuclear waste needs to be managed for hundreds of thousands of years. This is contrary to notions of intergeneration equity.
The two statements are utterly irreconcilable. The statement credited to the Iroquois is the vastly wiser of the two for a very important reason.
It does not excessively prejudge either the needs or the capabilities of our distant descendants, thereby not unduly hindering our ability to make sensible decisions on both our behalf and their behalf today. If we can be confident in maintaining something safely for 150 or so years, we can consider our responsibility to future generations discharged. They have the right to make their own decisions, and they will almost certainly be better equipped to handle challenges.
Right now, a 150 year time frame of continuing fossil fuel dependence spells catastrophe for coming generations. Deployment of nuclear fission in exchange for spent nuclear fuel that we already know how to both store and recycle, has the power to kill that dependence.
The bumper sticker is right. We are just screwing up the interpretation and application.