I’m writing to you from a time in the past when you were a little, speed-crawling baby explorer. Yesterday, we visited the beach for your first time. Today you’re chewing on our dog’s toys. Every day is a new adventure.
When you read this in 2050, you will be as old as I am now. During the in-between years, I hope you had every opportunity to achieve all your mother and I wished for you — plus all you want for yourself that I cannot yet even fathom. You should experience all the world offers.
Growing up, your grandparents said I could achieve whatever I wanted as long as I worked hard. In adulthood, I learned that this “American Dream” was attainable mostly to those with financial, educational and racial privileges. Looking into the future, your future, I worry that environmental privilege will be a new concern for your generation.
Climate-related events like droughts and storms were never really a concern when I was young. I’ve enjoyed relative environmental comfort. You deserve the same. I don’t want you and your generation to have to worry whether sea level rise will render homes inhospitable. No one should fear that the next year’s fire or hurricane season will force them out.
Many of the places I have visited and loved, the places that shaped who I have become, may no longer look the same. The mountains and forests of Peru, the coral reefs of the Red Sea, even the Jersey Shore. Here in Philadelphia, climate change is supposed to make it harder for kids to breath and may threaten our drinking water.
In my hometown of Baltimore, climate change is even a threat to our baseball team’s namesake. The Baltimore Oriole may no longer make summer visits. It’s already starting to fly farther north in search of its preferred species of trees.
Scientists began warning us about the dangers of climate change when I was just a baby. Since then, the signs of trouble have become even clearer. Nature perpetually changes. But we are causing havoc faster than nature can respond.
Every disappearing species, every shifting landscape means less remains for your generation, creating greater risk of conflict over whatever resources are left. I have heard the dire warnings straight from the sources. How can anyone listen to these sobering predictions from our brightest minds and do nothing? I cannot.
As a parent, I realize my main responsibility is not just being the fun dad. I have to always be looking out for your long-term interests. Sometimes that means accepting sacrifice or inconvenience. Addressing climate change comes with a cost. Ignoring climate change comes with a much bigger cost. Expecting your generation to pay the cost is irresponsible and immoral.
As I often say, I’m wealthier by driving less and biking more, by using less electricity, by heating up less water. I believe we can maintain our lifestyle without major change, so long as we support the energy sources, food supplies, financial investments, and politicians that align with our long-term goals.
Given the realities of climate change, some of my peers have chosen not to raise biological families of their own. Your mother and I chose to bring you into this world to perpetuate the beliefs, traditions, heritage that deserve living on. You inspire our optimism.
I promise to do all within my power to create a world that’s safe for you and your generation. In doing so, I hope I’ve led by example. Not only by practicing a low-carbon lifestyle. I hope I’ve inspired you to get outdoors, connect with nature, and develop your own appreciation for what needs to be conserved.
Bringing you into this world was my greatest achievement — now I need to make sure you can navigate the difficulties that lie ahead. What we need are new belief systems, new traditions, a new heritage based upon environmental ethics. If our generations collaborate, we can surely find solutions to our environmental problems. I remain hopeful.
With all my love,
Ben Block is the founder of Climate Dads, a digital platform for fathers concerned about the risks posed by climate change.