If we could talk, I would not be able to bear your gaze as you ask: How could you, the people in a position to change the course of climate change, fail to act?

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Christine Flanagan
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Dear Rowan and Anaka,

In contemplating the world in 2050, I cannot imagine the choices ahead of you. Now in 2020 we have strong predictions about how the climate will change over the next 30 years, but no way of knowing how effective we will be at reducing global warming. And I worry: In 2050, are you living where drought and pollution have not threatened the water supply? Where local food production is secure and supply chains for goods are still in place? Are the local and national economies still functioning for the populace at large or only for the wealthy? Do you live in a safe community? I can only hope.

In 2050, you will be in your forties. You come from strong, sturdy stock and even now, you are good problem solvers. The personal choices you make in response to the coming changes—where you live, when you move, how you prepare your children for challenges on the horizon–will be important, even existential. But as the century draws to a close, I worry about your children, grown up, and trying to raise their own families. If we don’t act now, they will have no good choices when social and political systems fail, crop yields fall, and all, save the very wealthy, will be climate refugees. There will be precious few places offering escape and the dystopia we all fear will become real.

If we could talk, I would not be able to bear your gaze as you ask: How could you, the people in a position to change the course of climate change, fail to act? Knowing that warming would bring environmental and social catastrophe to every continent and country, why didn’t you combat rising carbon dioxide levels? How could you not care that future generations would undoubtedly suffer unbearable hardship, famine, political upheaval, and possibly war over control of scarce resources and suitable places to live?

I will not see live to see 2050, but I can answer your questions now: We in 2020 live in selfish, narcissistic times, when those in power do not heed the science, nor think beyond the next earnings report or election. Our short-term view, for it surely is not a vision, only tallies the costs of action now, and does not see that they are miniscule compared to the future costs of inaction. We have been given the power to see into the future, but not the will to make hard choices and act in our children’s interest. In the judgment of history, we will own the horror that you and your children will endure.

There are people, cities, and even countries demanding action and taking steps. But there is precious little time and already we are feeling the effects of a warmer planet. I hope that over the next 10 years we can unite to halt the rise of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and at the same time find a way to reduce it. We as individuals, regardless of how we feel about broader political issues, must be dedicated to this effort, for if we don’t, you and your children will pay the price.

With much love and worry,
Grandma

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