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Intergenerational Equity & “Gaia”

Two people work together to pot a plant


#equity #future generations #intergenerational equity #terminology


Doug Fogelson

The Gaia Principle comes from the famed scientists Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock who, back in the 1970’s, proposed that the earth is a single synergistic and self-regulating system of organic and inorganic life. This encompasses the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere. So, as theorized in Gaia, when the earth and it’s oceans become warmer, saltier, or similar, it will impact the homeostasis of the whole system. While the Gaia Principle seems appropriate as a metaphor it has been skeptically received by the scientific community and was always put forth simply as a hypothesis by its originators. 

Intergenerational equity is the idea that humans living in the present bear significant responsibility to those generations that will come after, carrying either the burden or the benefits of our contemporary actions. Financial burdens such as the national debt flow forward as do the many impacts on the environment and all resources that sustain life. We live in a world that we inherited from our predecessors — for better or worse.

The Haudenosaunee or Iroquois peoples indigenous to North America are credited with the concept of Seven Generation stewardship, which considers three generations before one’s own and the three that will follow. Calculating the connections and life spans across seven generations, one can “reach” into the past and future 180 years each way, therefore locating oneself in a 360-year period. Taking that in context today shouldn’t we do all that we can to fight the existential threat of climate change?

  • Action
  • Definition
  • It is estimated that, under current climate policies, people born in 2020 will experience 2–7 times as many extreme weather events over their lifetimes as people born in 1960.

    True Yes. We are experiencing this currently. False No, it is true. We are seeing this increase happen currently.