‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it’


From: Bruce Montplaisir

Several years ago a person was speaking, who I believe was Ted Sizer, and as a part of his talk he mentioned that he and his wife had been to England. As a part of that trip they visited an old church with magnificent beams holding up the roof. In passing he asked the guide how they would ever be able to replace those beams if there was a need. His guide happened to be the chief maintenance person as was his father before him and his grandfather before that.

This was a very old church, and when it was first built, it used the trees in the forest surrounding the church for the beams. When the church was built the monks replanted the forest with trees intended to be available to replace the beams when they were due. Four hundred years later the beams were in need of being replaced, the forest was used, and the forest was replanted. This process was repeated again after another 400 years.
Four hundred years later the beams were replaced again, and a developer offered to buy the land surrounding the church, which was having some financial problems. The monks debated among themselves for several days and when it came time for the vote a decision was made to sell the land by a slim margin. Later that same afternoon, the monks were feeling they had made a big mistake. A second vote was taken and a large majority voted not to sell the land. The forest was replanted again, and at the time of the speaker’s visit the forest was over 200 years old.

Ted Sizer has passed, and I wanted to go back to the original church. So I searched for “old church in England with a forest to replace the beams” and came across New College, Oxford, and other examples of the forest replanting practice, but I’m not sure I located the church from the speaker’s story.

There are nations and societies that are planning for centuries ahead. There are nations that deal with consequences of actions if those consequences might come before the next election.

A few years ago a politician on TV said we have enough oil in the ground to last another 100 years, so we should just pump it out as fast as we can. Keep in mind it is already more than 400 years since the first non-natives landed on this land we call America. I’m not sure if that particular politician had any actual data or if he just tossed out a number that sounded good. However, the idea that nothing will happen as a result of our actions for another 50, 100, or 200 years is enough of a reason to do things if the current population doesn’t have to live with the consequences seems a little short sighted.

A lot of people with that attitude have children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren that will live with the consequences of today’s actions. If things go well enough, those great grandchildren will also have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren living with the results of actions taken now.

There are times when we don’t know what the results will be of the things we do today but we do know a lot about the results of actions taken in the recent past, such as covering our planet with greenhouse gasses, putting prescription drugs into the water supply by flushing them down the toilet or putting them into landfills, dumping garbage into the oceans, killing off species we depend on for our livelihood, putting chemicals into the land and groundwater, transporting non-native species around the world, and salting the earth and eventually the aquifers with road salt.

Some nations plan for the health care of their people and still keep spending in line with the income so they don’t saddle future generations with debt. America used to be one of those nations and can be again.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote “The future belongs to those who prepare for it.”


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