The Science and Environmental Health Network

Women's Congress for Future Generations

Women’s Congress for
Future Generations

Guardians for Future Generations has been part of the Women’s Congress and the Science and Environmental Health Network for many years. Our core belief is that future generations have the right to an ecologically healthy environment where they can thrive. We recognize our responsibility to tend and nurture the earth as well as publically stand for what we love.

Why Guardianship at this time in history? Across the country, there is a push to remove protections for clean water, breathable air and healthy soil. When we remove these protections, all life suffers. As Guardians, we are compelled to act and exercise our right to withhold consent to proposals that will cause future harm.

What Guardians Do:

As a project of the Women’s Congress for Future Generations, Guardians tap the fierce spirit in women to protect what we love: our children, our planet, our health and our future. A “Guardian” ensures that a proposed action or law protects the best interests of current and future generations. A Guardian is committed to stand for what they love.

Our Work: Protecting Future Generations and Ensuring Environmental Justice

In February of 2017, we launched a new phase of Guardianship in Minnesota to identify opportunities to protect future generations and ensure environmental justice. A network of Guardians are seeking opportunities to engage local and state governments in adopting a Guardianship approach to their policies.

For example, Guardians urge renewed attention to the Public Trust Doctrine, the government’s obligation to protect, preserve and regulate the assets we all own together, both now and in the future. And, we seek to designate “legal guardians” to review laws and/or regulations for their long-term impacts.

In April, Guardians met with Minnesota Legislators to ask them to become Guardians. We were met with enthusiasm and are currently working on a bill proposal that would enact the “Precautionary Principle” and/or a legal “Guardian for Future Generations.”

The Precautionary Principle states that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

The Women’s Congress for Future Generations project 

For ongoing local events in the Midwest held and co-sponsored by the Women’s Congress for Future Generations project, visit our local chapter, Future First

A Women’s Congress for Future Generations gathered in Moab, Utah September 27th-30th, 2012, to celebrate and express our gratitude for the Earth’s wondrous bounty, and to fulfill the special responsibility that women hold as the first environment for future generations.

At the Moab Congress, we mapped possibilities and pathways toward achieving whole health and justice in this generation and for all generations to come. Inspired by our environmental foremothers, our hope was to craft a dynamic articulation of the pressing rights Future Generations have to a livable world and the responsibilities of present generations to uphold those rights. Our labors yielded a living affirmation of these rights and responsibilities in word, art, music, and story.

Second Women’s Congress was held on November 7–9, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We held an essential conversation among women about environmental, economic and social equity/justice that leads to a growing movement for shifting a world view toward the interconnectedness of all things, and taking action on behalf of all people and our planet. We sought to mobilize a movement of women going forward, fueling actions to shift cultural and political conversations toward a worldview that recognizes the interdependence of all things. Many materials fed into and flowed out of that gathering including:

Women’s Congress for Future Generations Resources


Summary of the 2014 Women’s Congress and the work going forward.

An Owl Economy

Heartland and Headwaters template for action strategizing

A Declaration of The Rights of All Waters

Which was joined with the 2012 Declaration to create Declaration of Rights for Future Generations and of the Rights Held by All Waters.

The Law of Future Generations 

A set of Legal Principles for Mining, Fracking, and Pipelines for defending our communities and future generations.

Carolyn Raffensperger’s “cutting edge law and justice” article in the Kosmos journal:
“We will stand together as guardians of the future. We will tend and nurture the tree of life for generations to come.”

Rights of Future Generations Bibliography  The Resources for the Legal Rights of Future Generations to Inherit a Livable Earth is a comprehensive overview of Future Generation policies that can be adopted at any level of government.  They are intended as tools for communities to use in their efforts to protect the environment for Future Generations.

Law for Future Generations—SEHN/Harvard Project

Two reports by SEHN and the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School show how we can use old and new law to protect future generations. The product of two-and-a-half years of research, these reports address three questions:

1. How do we formally assert that future generations have a right to a habitable planet?

2. What legal and social relationships can embody our duty to preserve our children’s only home, the Earth?

3. What institutions can we create to make those relationships real and effective?

Models for Protecting the Environment for Future Generations
October 2008 describes how ombudsmen, guardians, and other legal instruments could help guarantee a habitable planet for future humans.

Model State Constitutional Provision and Model Statute
November 2008 provides actual blueprint laws that states and tribes can use to implement these instruments and fulfill the ethical mandate to guarantee a livable world for future generations.

Read Tim Montague’s review and summary of Models for Protecting the Environment for Future Generations report, How to Protect the Future.