Dear Jamie and Jason,
You’ve never known a world without climate change. I’m so sorry. I so hope that decades ago, my generation finally woke up and truly started showing that we cared about our kids and grandkids.
You both showed me that the solution to the climate crisis was simple; we just needed to listen to you.
As you know, in 2013 I made a career change, leaving the world of high tech to try to have an impact on climate change. My inspiration was the two of you. It started with thinking about the world you were inheriting and what your future was going to be like. But then you taught me how important it is to listen to you – to listen to young people.
Jamie: in 2014, you were nine, and had just learned about climate change. You asked me if we could do something about it, and I said, “Yes, we can.” You then said, “Well, Diddy, let’s just stop it.” My instinct was to tell you it was more complicated than that. But I stopped, because I realized you were right. It really should have been that simple. The climate crisis was eminently solvable, and had been for a long time. We had the knowhow. We had the technology. All we needed was the will and the courage to do it.
Your question was also an emotional gut punch – a great example of the power kids have to reach us in an emotional way – and helped me realize that emotions and personal connections are the key to social change.
Jason: I’ve always admired you. When you were four years old, you decided to be a vegetarian, initially because you didn’t like meat. Then you learned meat came from animals, so you decided you didn’t want to eat them. When you were six, at a museum exhibit on climate change, you learned the impact meat has on climate change. Both Mama and I noticed right away how much this interested you. Later that day, with your beautiful young mind making all sorts of logical connections, you said to us, “Mama and Diddy, I challenge you to give up meat for a week for the earth.” We were blown away. We were traveling at the time in a not-so-vegetarian-friendly place, so we made a plan to give up meat for a month shortly afterwards. I’ve never been so proud to see my child proud of me for doing something. You forever changed the eating habits of our family.
Then, Jason, about a year later, you did something that once again reminded me how effective young people can be at figuratively smacking us upside the head and saying, “wake up; you need to think about this differently!” You had come home from school and we had just gotten some snow. Out you went with your small red plastic shovel to clean the steps and earn 50 cents. A while later Mama realized you had been out there for a long time, and went out to check on you. You had nearly finished shoveling our entire, fairly large driveway with your little shovel. She said “Jason, what are you doing?” And you said, “Mama… climate change. If I shovel the driveway then the truck that plows our driveway won’t need to and we’ll save fossil fuels!” Well, needless to say, we cancelled the service – and since then, have shoveled the driveway ourselves.
So now, as I write this, I’m working with iMatter to support young people to step into their power to take meaningful action toward ending the climate crisis. Through this work, I’ve seen the lesson you showed me about the impact young people can have play out over and over on a larger scale.
I do sometimes have mixed feelings about the work, because climate change is an issue that I wish had been dealt with. I wish we didn’t need young people to take action. But it is your future, and you and your generation deserve to have your voices heard, especially because my generation is doing a lousy job right now at protecting your future.
I have so much hope, based on both of you, and based on the young people I support in my work with iMatter. I really hope we listened to you soon enough.
P.S. The photo is of the 3 of us at the People’s Climate March in Washington DC in 2017.