Last night, I had the privilege of attending a panel of youth climate change activists at The Conduit. These young people started taking action in their tweens and teens to fight what’s happening to our planet. I was so impressed by their courage and conviction – not just because at a young age they chose to devote their lives to this cause, but because they did so despite knowing the odds are stacked against us. They fight knowing that now, due to inaction by my generation and my parents’ generation, what they’re fighting for isn’t the world as if the crisis never happened; instead, they’re fighting for a world in which fewer people die. They are going to have to make decisions that affect *which* people die and how many.
Think about that.
And it’s all my fault. And the fault of my peers.
This all makes me very angry and fills me with regret. I remember as a child being taught about the environment. In my elementary school, we celebrated Earth Day. I actually wrote a song about endangered animals in the 4th grade. I taught my family to recycle – and would become apoplectic when my dad continually threw his diet Coke cans in the regular bin.
We were taught that there was a problem. But then when we graduated and joined the working world, we simply plugged ourselves into the very machine that was generating the problem in the first place, without any further thought. It was as if the environment is something only youth have the luxury of worrying about; we adults have to make a living, after all. And our system requires us to degrade the planet in order to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. We were so busy trying to succeed in the corporate world that we never questioned the system itself.
I think, at the time, I figured that the adults had this one. They were the ones who taught us that there was a problem, so surely they were working on a solution. I didn’t need to be that concerned about it because they themselves didn’t seem worried.
That is the greatest fault of my generation – our complacency and trust in the adults in our lives. Our credulity when they told us there was a problem, and then in the same breath told us to join them in ‘business as usual’ when we graduated. My generation should look back at this and hang our heads in shame that we’ve left it to the next generation to finally start tackling the problem – a much much much bigger problem than if my generation had acted.
To the current and future children of this planet, I am very very sorry. But while I cannot atone for time lost, I am ready to join you in this fight, however belatedly.
If I seem slightly hyperbolic, please know that there are still things that people aren’t telling you. If you want to have your eyes opened (and I can understand why many people don’t, and many people whose eyes are opened fear talking about it) I highly recommend you check out this paper called Deep Adaptation. It’s written by a Cambridge scientist, Jem Bendell, who took a year off to just crunch the numbers and see where we’re at. His conclusion is beyond sobering – that near-term societal collapse is inevitable.
Think about that – pretty soon, there will be no ‘business as usual’. What I mean by that is, if you’re uncomfortable with the migrants flooding the southern border of the US, or the refugees from the Middle East and Africa who are pouring into Europe – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Soon, huge swaths of our 7 billion (and counting) population are going to be living in places that are unfit for human habitation, and they won’t be content to stay put. We’re going to see famine, and war, and the production systems that our cozy Western lifestyles depend on are going to break down. All the shareholder value in the world isn’t going to save us when this happens.
I think that the people who know it don’t talk about it because they fear that it will cause despair and inaction at just a time when we need to pull together in the biggest collective human action that this planet has ever seen. But I disagree – I think that people need to know that we’re facing collapse, and even possible extinction, because it’s their lack of awareness about this that’s allowing them to go on leading ‘business as usual’ lives, as if their current lifestyle can and will continue forever.
This is an illusion. And a deadly one.
And that’s why I applaud and support the youth activists. The children of the world are leading the way, and we adults need to do everything in our power to listen to and enable them. It’s the least we can do given the horrible future world our inaction has bequeathed to them.