1. Joseph Bazalgette and the London Sewage System
“Joseph Bazalgette was a Victorian engineer who masterminded London’s modern sewer system in the 1860’s, he foresaw the insane population growth and when all the calculations were made on how big to bore the “pipes” underground, he essentially said nah lets double it. Now, infrastructure that would have been unable to cope in the 1960’s is still in use today.”
2. Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund
Established a few decades ago to invest the surplus of the country’s oil and gas sector, the Sovereign Wealth Fund is now worth over $1 trillion. While no dividends are paid out to citizens, 4% of the fund’s assets can be spent annually by the government to benefit the country.
One Redditor wrote, “That generation could have taken a selfish view and just taken the cash, or politicians just gone on a vote buying spree. But it’s independently invested and managed for the benefit of future generations.”
3. The Cassini Family Map
“The Cassini family map, a first of its kind map of France. It took 4 generations of family members and 6 decades to complete.
Imagine being that second family member. Your whole life your father works on this map, only for you to work your whole life on it while raising your son to do the same, and it takes a whole nother life for it to be completed.”
4. Roosevelt and the National Parks
Oft-referred to as “the conservation president,” Theodore Roosevelt established 5 new national parks in the US, signed the Antiquities Act, and ultimately helped conserve over 230 million acres of US land.
“If he never did what he did there wouldn’t be any [national parks] today. Corporate greed would have wiped it all out.”
5. The Voyager Spacecraft
“It’s hard to overstate how much that project changed humanity’s knowledge of the solar system…NASA is still planning future missions based on information the Voyager spacecraft discovered. If alien life gets discovered on Europa or Titan, you can thank the Voyager engineers and scientists….And they won’t see this work through to the end. They can’t. Voyager began the planning stages fifty years ago. Human lives just aren’t long enough. And they knew it.”
6. Public Infrastructure
“People got to live to see the opening of one rail line or bridge, or several, but the integrated network of public infrastructure, that took a 100 years to grow and is still growing.”
7. The Famous Cathedrals in Europe
“I have recently been to Cologne’s cathedral, they started building it in 1248, they stopped unfinished in 1560, then halfway through the 1800s they started building it again, finishing it in 1880. Not only the original builders would not see it finished, but neither would their grandchildren.”
8. Susan B. Anthony
“Susan B. Anthony spent her entire life trying to get women the vote, she was fined for attempting to vote, and spent years organizing people to fight for the cause. She died in 1906, a decade before the 19th amendment was ratified.”
9. Old Japanese Volunteers after WW2 Nuclear Bombs
“The old Japanese people who volunteered to clean up nuclear waste sites from the WWII bombings. They knew that they likely wouldn’t live long enough to suffer the worst of the effects of radiation, so they did it to protect younger people from experiencing it and to clean up Japan for future generations.”
10. The Royal Navy Admiral Who Planted Oaks
“During the Napoleonic wars there was a Royal Navy admiral who when on leave used to wander his country estate planting oak trees to provide timber for the navy. It’s estimated they are about ready now.”
11. William Wilberforce
“He campaigned in the British Government for over 40 years to stop and prevent Slavery. He was successful in abolishing the Trading of Slaves throughout the Empire with the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and then the ownership of slaves altogether with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833…There are many generations living because of this man’s choices.”
12. Hangul (The Written Korean Language)
“One dude (King Sejong) basically sat down and created a whole alphabet so people wouldn’t have to continue using the adopted Chinese hanja that were complicated and difficult to learn. His goal was to increase literacy among all levels of society, not just the wealthy elite who had the time and resources to learn hanja.”
“It is supposed to be the only natural language with a “functional” alphabet, meaning an alphabet where there is a clear mapping between the shapes of the letters and how they are pronounced. That is otherwise only seen in constructed languages like Elvish and Klingon, where it is common.”
13. Nye Bevan
“Created the NHS in 1948, died in 1960. Absolute legend. Sadly his legacy has been slashed to tatters and continues to take damage.”
“He resigned after modest fees for dental services were introduced. I can hardly imagine how angry he would be at the current state of the NHS.”
14. Tree Root Bridges in Meghalaya, India
“Meghalaya has a monsoon season where they get the vast majority of their annual rainfall so the many small streams turn into impassable raging rivers. In order to get around they developed a method of making very strong bridges by stringing the roots of the trees so that they grow across the chasms.
This was obviously a slow process that would take several generations of caring for the trees to complete. In the end after passing the knowledge and responsibility down to their children, and their children’s children, they would have a strong bridge that could last hundreds of years.”
Can You Think of Any Others?
This was a short selection of the many answers the OP received. In reality, there are countless examples – both major and minor – of people doing admirable deeds for the good of future generations. Do you have any to add? Drop a comment to let us know.
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