My Turn: Stand up for the climate, stand up for our kids

For the Monitor
Published: 9/18/2019 7:30:21 AM

I’m writing in praise of two climate articles the Monitor published in recent weeks: “Dear Republicans: Yes, the planet is warming” by Walter Carlson on Sept. 9 and “Global student strike can be a teachable moment” by Sam Osherson on Sept. 4. They actually treat climate change for what it is: a crisis that demands our immediate action. I would like to add some comments.

My “aha” moment came when I read about Greta Thunberg, a then-15-year-old Swede, who sat in front of the Swedish parliament on school days protesting the lack of government action on the climate crisis – the first youth climate strike. Why should I go to school, she said, when I have no viable future to prepare for? She’s now an international icon.

Our youth might be forgiven for wondering who is watching out for their future. For school shootings, they’ve gotten thoughts, prayers and Kevlar backpacks. Peers have become addicted and died from opioids, the victims of corporate deception and greed and failed government oversight. They’ve seen how refugee children have been treated in U.S. internment camps. Crushing college debt awaits them. Then there’s the accelerating national debt, which they shall inherit.

The most galling, however, is the endless dissembling about our global climate crisis. Do you think they missed the IPCC report last October and the Fourth National Climate Assessment last November, both of which screamed that we must act in significant ways now? What has happened since then? Nada!

They watch as our Denier in Chief, who is willfully ignorant about climate change, removes mention of it from government websites and muzzles government climate scientists. He’s thrown the full weight of his office behind fossil fuels, subsidizing already very profitable oil companies while weakening controls on CO2 and methane emissions. At the recent G7 Conference he disappeared when climate change and the Brazil wildfires were discussed.

What of the American people? As Naomi Klein writes in This Changes Everything: “A great many of us engage in (a) kind of climate change denial. We look for a split second and then look away. . . . Or we look but tell ourselves we are too busy to care about something so difficult and abstract
. . . (or) that the science is too complicated and that the scientists were dealing with it … (or) that some technological miracle is going to happen.”

The evidence has been building around us for decades. “How sad to think that nature speaks and (hu)mankind fails to listen,” wrote Victor Hugo.

At the heart of the problem, Klein writes, is “an economic model with a need for constant growth and new profit-making opportunities.” Above all, consume, consume, consume. That model is fueled by fossil fuels, which means a lot of people are invested in business as usual. Our youth are only beginning to understand how powerful and wealthy interests have captured federal and state politicians and have actively subverted the science of climate change.

How can we support our youth? Attend their Friday rallies: Murkland Courtyard in Durham (11 a.m.), Young Student Center Lawn at Keene State (11 a.m.), Plymouth Town Common (noon), Prescott Park in Portsmouth (11 a.m.), Elm Street in Manchester (noon). Ask your local high school principal or school board member what they’ve done to seize this wonderfully teachable moment (thank you, Sam Osherson).

To our youth: Every time an adult asks for help with technology (yes, we’re truly lame) say, “Sure, but what are you going to do about climate change in return.” You have more power than you think.

(Allan MacDonald lives in New London.)

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