Today I listened to interviews of young adults declaring that they are not going to have children because of the earth’s collapsing atmosphere. When I turned 30, I had baby eyes and longed to have a child. The road was difficult. After 2 ectopic pregnancies, infertility, and much grief, we adopted our daughter. My dream did come true. But these kids fear they will not have this opportunity and I feel sad for them. I also feel tense about the state of the environment.
All science (despite the reactionary defense of climate deniers) agrees that the earth’s climate is warming, causing catastrophic changes, likely to make the planet uninhabitable in a few decades. 12 years from now is the time earmarked for irreversible damage, if humans do not radically change their air polluting habits.
It is human nature to orient more to the present than to the future. We devote our life to our current activities and ignore doomsday reports. We want our own conveniences, we want to feel safe, we want to live our life free to expand and contract at our own pace. In fact, people who live focused in the future tend to be anxious. I don’t want to worry about some kind of vague threat that is hard to see. Having only 12 years is so chilling that people are tempted to turn away and distract by using their favorite comforts. I do this too. What can we do about this human tendency to focus in the present and ignore the disaster around the corner?
The corporate world will only stop using fossil fuels when it is no longer cost effective. Do they choose making money over the survival of the earth? Greta Thunberg is the Swedish teen climate activist challenging the lukewarm response of business and governments to this crisis. In her powerful address at the UN Climate summit last week she assertively declared, “I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. You are stealing my future.” Are we?
Both individuals and corporate industries need to take responsibility. One teacher gave her teen students a two week homework task to do something to lower their individual carbon imprint. For examples, one student stopped driving his car for two weeks and another only ate vegan. One thing I am currently doing is attending to tiny things, like I am mindful of every piece of plastic, paper, or cardboard around the house and finding ways to reuse or repurpose them.
One idea is to bring this fear of the future into your present life with actions you can do now. Then dive into your favorite aspect of the planet to heal, be it the rainforest, reducing plastic, or fighting animal extinction. Big business will only change when the public will overrides corporate greed for money. The recent global student walkout and the UN climate conference are steps in that direction. We need to change the way we produce energy and governments need to get behind that. As citizens we need to push for this on a national and international scale.
I helped my 11-year-old nephew memorize the Preamble to the US constitution last week. It says toward the end, “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”
How can we secure the blessings of liberty for our posterity, our children? Young people
may never be in the position to ever ask that question. For us older adults, we can open our eyes to the harsh reality of an imploding planet and climb on one of the trucks going out into the field to plant something green that eats up carbon.