I come from the generation of explosive activists who held sit-ins and teach-ins and street demonstrations for the clean air act, civil rights, women’s rights and opposing war and nuclear power. We passed many laws through the 1970s addressing the most obvious signs of pollution, and the most egregious of injustices. In most cases, these laws dealt with the symptoms without really changing the underlying problems. They put corks in the smokestacks, stoppers in the emission pipes and liners in the landfills, but did not address the underlying sources of pollution, or injustice and inequality.
Now we see the accumulated effects of our continued poisoning of the earth. Even with permits and regulations, the US alone spews 3.6 Billion pounds of toxic materials into the biosphere. (EPA Toxic Release Inventory) Much of this comes from the continued combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal. The laws of physics and chemistry and the responses of living organisms and ecosystems to this barrage of poison will proceed, with consequences that are not negotiable. Nature wins, always. We ignore the evidence of damage at our own peril.
But, we children of the 60s, who now dominate the governance of our country, must take heed to the voices of our children, whether they vote or not! The decisions we make today about our energy use, our ways of using resources and our food supply system determine the fate of millions who are not at the table to speak. The fate of the unborn generations is in our hands. Whether our personal ideology includes accepting the evidence of a screaming earth or not, it is prudent to err on the side of caution when dealing with issues with consequences spanning hundreds of years.
Listen to the wisdom of our youth. If we decide to accept the moral obligation to provide for their future, we will treat climate change as the emergency it is. In the words of Jonas Salk, “We must be good ancestors.” Preventing the destruction of our fragile life support system is a worthy legacy.
See the letter of the Australian Youth Coalition to the G-20 below, and take heed of their plea.