When the worst consequences of climate change still feel far away today, or the barriers to acting on climate change seem steep today, I do not think about today. I think about you, and your world when you are my age.
You’re three years old now. Smart, inquisitive, and brave. Some things have come easy for you. I can’t really remember a time when you weren’t talking in complete sentences, finishing puzzles, learning numbers, or asking questions about the world.
But, some things aren’t immediately easy for you. We bought you a scooter right after you turned two years old and you got really fast, really quick. You’ve become a fixture in our neighborhood, in front of our building or scooting back from school, with me trailing behind. But, you have used the same foot to scoot every time. Lately, you’ve been practicing using the other foot. It’s a lot harder for you to do, and you get frustrated, often switching back to your preferred foot because it is easier for you, what you are used to. At the same time, you go back and keep trying with the other foot. Slowly, with fits and starts, you’re able to move with both feet.
When you read this you will be as old as I am now. You are probably wondering what it was like to be around when the world started taking concrete actions to curb the consequences of climate change. You’ll already know how successful we have been. I can tell you about what we are doing now.
We’ve been using the same foot to move forward on what powers the world for a long time. It has become natural, what we are used to. But things are changing. We are realizing that we need to move forward with both feet to address climate change, and reduce its fearsome consequences. It’s hard, and it goes slowly at first, but right now we are keeping at it.
We are starting to use both feet. Last year governments from around the world agreed on a framework to finally address climate change in a comprehensive way. Alternative energy sources have become cost-effective. Exciting advances are being made in electric cars. This is progress, made from people and communities working hard to find a different way of doing things using by learning to put both feet forward. But we are just starting.
Today, we have bad news too. Every month is the hottest month ever, and we are in the middle of a presidential election where one of the candidates claims that climate change is a hoax invented by a foreign government for baffling reasons. Many people who care deeply about the impact of climate change are worried that we as a society will not act in time or sufficiently. So, what do we do?
I think we need hope. It’s simple, really. Giving up is not what parents do, and doing nothing is the same as giving up. When the worst consequences of climate change still feel far away today, or the barriers to acting on climate change seem steep today, I do not think about today. I think about you, and your world when you are my age. And this shortens things.
This letter is part of a large community of letters that are shared by friends and family to build a conversation about climate change focusing on hope. This community is your mom’s gift to you. I will share this letter, before you read it, with my friends and family to show them that I care because of you.
You are my son. I love you without limit. It is my job as your parent to open your future to you. To let you be confident, fail and recover, and never stop trying. I am doing the same. This year we started composting at home, and took you to two rallies building movements focusing on climate change. We will actively support politicians who see the importance of acting on climate change. And we will give you hope.
Emily Dickinson called hope “the thing with feathers.” Hope needs ideas, shared, to get into the air, and hope flies on these ideas to create change. As the world struggles to move forward with both feet, I have hope that when you read this you’ll also know that we learned how to fly.
Photo credit: Mustafa Önder