I have been thinking a lot about what to say to you when you are old enough to ask about the climate crisis. I imagine that, shortly after asking about the climate crisis, you will ask the inevitable question: why did the grown-ups let this happen to the earth?
I imagine you will be 5 years old when we have this conversation. Really I don’t know, but that is what I am picturing. That will be in 2023.
I remember the moment I realised the grown-ups who were in charge were just muddling along doing the best they could – or worse, not doing the best they could, and bringing us, the people they were in charge of, down with them. I was probably a teenager when I had this realisation. (I had this experience again when I was 29 and realised obstetrics is not science-based as I had presumed. But that’s a story for another day.)
I don’t presume that your age of innocence will last as long as mine did. We will have this conversation about the climate crisis and then you will know for sure that the grown-ups in charge don’t always know what they’re doing, and don’t always do the best thing. And sometimes, they royally screw things up.
But along with this loss of innocence, I hope you will learn about a few things that I didn’t know about when I was five years old. Maybe I will be learning these things at the same time as you.
You will learn about the power of humans in responding to a crisis. Not just short-term donations to help climate victims, but the long-term, dedicated problem-solving, leadership and collaborative effort that goes into solving a massive issue.
You will learn about the deep desire that all humans have for justice and equality, and the tremendous contributions we can make towards these lofty goals, once we come out from under the cloud of complacency and denial.
When we have this conversation, it will be in the context of everyone you know doing their part in solving this crisis. Everyone in our church. Everyone in our neighbourhood. All our family friends. Everyone in our extended family. If our leaders in charge are still not taking this crisis seriously, you can guarantee that everyone you know will be working to procure leaders who are fit to hold the title.
Yes, we stuffed up, I will tell you. But not many people actively meant to do harm. The generations before us worked hard and innovated to create a way of life that was better than anything they could have imagined. It is in the nature of humans to innovate, create, and progress. But this way of life created negative consequences for other people and for the planet. For a while we didn’t feel these consequences, but suddenly we did and they were devastating.
It is also human nature to not be able to respond to a crisis until we are impacted by it. We can know about something bad happening, and believe it is true, but not respond to it until we see the reality with our own eyes. That is the way we are.
I am happy to tell you that in 2023 we are turning things around. We are creating a new future for you that combines the innovations that generations before you built, without the unequal distribution of progress or the devastating consequences. We are building a better world.
I am looking forward to telling you that 2020 was the year we started to turn things around.