Dear L and N,
I am writing you this letter just a few months after N’s birth. L, you are a pre-schooler learning how to be a big brother, and doing so well! I am your dad’s cousin, and since I don’t have children of my own, or siblings, I see you as my niece and nephew. I am so excited that you are part of our family. When you read this, in 30 years, I’ll be 74 and you will both be in your 30’s. It seems like it will be an important time in life for all of us.
We come from a family who has long enjoyed recreating outdoors, valued preservation of natural resources, and also farmed the land. My grandfather, your great grandfather, was a conservationist, ‘before being a conservationist was cool,’ and your great grandma loved to watch the birds out her window over the kitchen sink. She had a compost pile to return natural waste back to her garden to feed the soil, long before we had public works and other companies trying to compost on a large scale.
In 2020, we are becoming more and more concerned that our consumer habits are killing the earth. Sea levels are rising, fires, floods and droughts are more and more common. The fires in Montana and much of the west are burning hotter, dryer, and longer, than what we are used to. We have had a couple of summers here where the fire smoke is so bad that people have had to leave temporarily, and it is hard to breathe. It also has an emotionally depressing effect on many of us. So many of these natural events affect our food supply. I worry that we will go from being able to choose whatever we want to buy to eat from the grocery store, to eeking out our food from subsistence farms and gardens again. Not many of us have those skills anymore, at least where I live in the city.
I also worry that some places will just be gone. The glaciers in Glacier National Park, near our home, are melting and disappearing due to rising temperatures. There is a tiny island called Tuvalu in the south Pacific that is losing land rapidly due to rising sea levels. Their home may disappear altogether.
In 30 years, I think the world will be a very different place, and it won’t have changed in a good way if we do not slow our production of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I even wonder if my home and the land our family has lived on for generations will be livable anymore. Will the home where your grandma and my mom were raised as sisters burn in a massive fire? Will we have to relocate due to drought, or even violence? These things sometimes keep me awake at night. I don’t know the answers.
I do have some hope, however. Young people like Greta Thunberg, Alexandra Villasenor, Isra Hirsi and Xiye Bastida (all girls, from around the world!), are leading the way in demanding that political and corporate leaders around the globe do something major to stop climate change. They are smart, motivated, and passionate young women, and I believe their efforts will make a difference. I am also excited that my church is doing a “Carbon Fast” for Lent this year–encouraging each other as a community to burn less carbon and take on sustainable practices like eating less meat, traveling by other means that single occupancy vehicles, and slowing our other habits of over-consumption. It is more fun and more attainable when we can do it together. We are also going to return to Grandma and Grandpa’s practices, by re-learning how to repair items that have broken, instead of throwing them away so quickly and running out to buy something new, which takes energy to produce, ship, etc. I still worry that these things aren’t enough, but they are encouraging when we do them together.
The major change we need, in my mind, is to fully change the way we produce energy–from extracting and burning fossil fuels from the earth, to using more renewable energy like wind and solar, which we have plenty of in Montana.
Maybe, by the time you are both 30, maybe starting families of your own, we will be operating on majority clean energy, and the US will be a bit more like Europe with efficient public transit almost everywhere (or at least more bikes and busses!), and sustainable practices will be common and enjoyable for you. My biggest hope is that we will still have mountain trails to hike on, cold mountain lakes to fish in and soak our feet, and clear skies under which we will still marvel at the stars. I hope that as a nation and a global community, we will realize that we are in a climate crisis right now, in 2020, and make the necessary changes and sacrifices on a large scale, so that you and I will still be able to go up on the hill on our family’s property, and look for buttercups and rooster tails in the spring, and watch the eagles and deer make their lives next to ours.
I promise you that I will do my part. I am committing to driving less, continuing to compost and garden, and to lobby our current leaders to put our great resources as a country into sustainable energy. I am also going to continue sharing my concerns with friends and family, and to support efforts that protect natural places and public lands. I will also pray that I and my generation will have the wisdom and courage to protect our planet for you and your children, and their children too.
I love you so much. Big hugs and big hopes.