Maybe it is changing, but for the longest time the number one talking point I heard about global warming is that we must act because of our children and grandchildren. As someone with no offspring of my own or my own growing tribe of descendants, this talking point falls flat on my ears. Not that I am not concerned for future generations and our responsibility to hand off a sustainable and stable planet. But with the children/grandchildren arguments, I simply don’t have skin in the game.
In a world where most people do not/cannot even adequately prepare for their own retirements, appealing to the public to act for a future generation is noble but will not get a wide audience response other than, “Aw, yeah, poor kids. We should do something. Later.” No doubt some parents and grandparents have been moved by this talking point, and I am grateful for their passion to make the world a better place.
The problem I find with the talking point:: We need to safeguard future generations from the affects of global warming :: is that it makes it seem like climate change is still some distant event waiting to happen. It doesn’t take into account that since the 1970’s clear predictions stating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will warm the planet began to emerge in public. Even long before when researchers observed the correlation of CO2 and heating, they began to raise concerns.
The planet I now live on is decidedly different from the one on which I was born and experienced back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Not only have we altered the landscape, cleared forests, expanded livestock production, and radically increased the human population, we have steadily pumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and continue to do so. As a result, we already see the affects of over 100 years of pollution.
Want to get a clear picture of the children and grandchildren experiencing climate change? Look in the mirror. We are those children and grandchildren. Our present age is the future that scientists warned us about in the past. No doubt it will get worse, and it will affect people in the Global South and poorer countries more profoundly than many folks in North America and Europe, but the economic costs of climate change are already noted by economists and insurance companies. The security risks have been discussed in the Pentagon. The handwriting is on the wall–we are officially experiencing global warming. We are those children and grandchildren who inherited an unsustainable and unstable planet.
Now let’s work through the grief and figure out what we are going to do about it.