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Beth Hartman
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Dear Ari and Levi,

I am both hopeful and terrified for the future. Hopeful, because I can see that we now have the solutions we need to live in a sustainable way on this planet – and maybe even on other planets too. Terrified, because I can also see that we are not deploying these solutions nearly fast enough. I think we have a very narrow window of opportunity and it’s rapidly closing – we may have even already missed our chance to avoid the kind of catastrophic climate change that could potentially end human civilization.

If you’re reading this in 2030 then at least it’s not quite as bad yet as I think it could be, but current climate change trends have me very worried. I’m pretty sure that once the really big storms, floods, fires, droughts, and more start hitting us harder and harder, with ever increasing frequency, a lot of social systems will start to break down. At least the pace of innovation in solar, batteries, and electric/autonomous vehicles is also accelerating, so maybe we’re still in the race – but it’s definitely going to be close.

We do have the advantage of living in Colorado, where at least altitude helps keep things a bit cooler, there is some amount of fresh water and we don’t have to worry about rising sea levels – but I’m sure the wild fires will get much worse, and there will be a lot of people from places that do have issues with fresh water and/or sea level rise trying to move here, so that’s going to be very challenging. Also, if global food production starts breaking down, it will be tricky everywhere – maybe by the time you read this we will have started fishing and even hunting, or keeping chickens and gardening? Or maybe I’m being overly paranoid and we just have a little bit of food and water stored for big storms, but we can usually still walk down to Lucky’s and get what we need, even if it must be much more expensive.

Hopefully our solar panels are still working well, and we’ve probably installed a battery by now to help during blackouts as I suspect the storms have gotten more severe and the grid is taking a lot of big hits. Also we’ve hopefully been enjoying our Tesla Model 3 for years now, and maybe electric buses all over town as well – I wonder if there will still be any gas stations around or if such things have already become historic relics? Maybe people aren’t even allowed to drive gas powered cars anymore. Maybe it sounds silly for me to even refer to the concept of people driving cars at all, since they probably all just drive themselves by now.

I wonder what kind of classes they have now at school, assuming the schools are still running – or maybe now people either download information into their brains, or we’re back to more of a home schooling type of environment. Obviously, they must teach about climate change, since it will have become obvious even to those that don’t believe in science that this is really happening. Do they teach programming and robotics so you can build your own software and hardware solutions as new challenges arise? What kinds of jobs are people doing, or are robots doing most of them? Did we land anyone on Mars yet?

There are just so many ways that this could play out over the next decade or two, I hesitate to even speculate because almost no matter what I say I’m sure most of it will be wildly incorrect. I hope that my fears about the food chain and social systems starting to break down are totally wrong, because that would be really scary stuff. I’m pretty sure that storms will be stronger and more frequent, so I wonder if we will be able to adapt quickly with micro grid solutions or if reliable electricity will become a thing of the past. I really hope that we have some success with other technology that I know much less about, like artificial intelligence and robotics and rockets, because I think those will be fundamentally important to adapting in ways I can’t even imagine.

Through our work in clean energy, your dad and I have tried to help reduce the amount of adaptation that will be needed, but at this point I think a fair amount of destruction is already baked into the system. Hopefully by deploying a huge amount of clean energy – and likely, unfortunately, reduced demand from some level of escalating disruption – we will be able to bend the curve to the point that civilization and the environment can eventually recover.

I don’t think it’s possible to apologize enough for what we have done to this beautiful planet, and for the many lives that have been or will be ruined. Having the knowledge of what the future likely holds for you and working my hardest to help make it better, while watching as humanity overall fails to move fast enough, has been one of the most upsetting and frustrating experiences of my life.

I wish that we would have made the transition to clean energy decades ago, as soon as the science made it clear that the risks of delaying were too enormous to even bother doing cost/benefit analysis. There is no price that can be placed on a habitable planet. We should have implemented a global carbon tax during the Carter administration. We could already be living in a world of solar gardens and wind farms everywhere, with battery backup and electric cars quietly humming down clean tree-lined streets. We could have followed up our first moon mission with a colony and be well on our way to establishing a sustainable group on Mars.

I’m not sure exactly how our path turned away from this exciting vision of a clean energy and multi-planetary future, but somewhere along the way science became political and we lost sight of our potential as a larger human family. I am so sad and frustrated by this, and yet anger does nothing to help. The only thing we can do is work as hard as possible to understand each other and do everything we can to save each other. I hope that our hard work has at least made it possible for you to read this letter, and that you will both be able to continue fighting for our future.

We love you very much.

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