We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
(No heredamos la tierra de nuestros antepasados; la tomamos prestada de nuestros hijos.)
The year ahead is like a blank page waiting to be written. New beginnings are always full of new promise. Just now, I came across the quote above and it has set the tone of my thoughts for the week. I repeated to myself: I do not inherit the earth from my ancestors, I am borrowing it from our children.
It is believed that the previous quotation is part of a longer one that comes from Chief Seattle, a leader of the Native American Suquamish Tribe, who warned the white man: Teach your children what we have taught ours, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Humankind did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
This poignant thought focuses on responsibility (responsabilidad in Spanish) rather than on ownership. I believe, we are all responsible for what is given to us by nature, it does not belong to us, nor even to our descendants, as they too will have the same responsibility to deliver in the future.
The term “responsibility” has its origin in the word responsible (responsable in Spanish). It comes from the latin “respōnsum”, “responderē”, which means to answer to. As the English term “to respond” comes from the same root meaning to promise in return and to pledge on.
Following the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer in 1980s, an international agreement took place to resolve the issue. As a result, the international community reduced its dependency on the destructive gases that depleted the ozone layer and now the hole appears to be shrinking. Although this was not a holistic “answer” to the problems we create with our environment, it shows a change of consciousness towards a new way of caring for nature; understanding that we are a part of nature and not a separate entity.
This proactive action reminded me of the plea made by Bruce Witzel in Practical Change, as to what is urgently needed being a change of consciousness about how we relate to ourselves and to our habitat; which I discussed in my previous article Echo, Economy and Ecology.
Another milestone, the recent conference in Paris, the COP21 , reached the most ambitious international agreement ever proposed on climate change. Amongst other goals and measures it was agreed to pursue to keep the global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) above the level they were in the 1850-1899 period.
I, and I hope you too, will acknowledge that we are borrowing the earth from our children. The year ahead is full of new promise and I urge you to engage proactively with the changes needed to harmonize our relationship with the natural world and the nested ecosystems within it wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
1 January 2016
 The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France.