My dearest children,
It is 2021, and you will read this letter in 2050. That means I’ll be 70 years old, Ethan will be 44, Benji will be 42, Fiona will be 39, Lucy will be 37, and Luke will be 34. Wow, just writing that blows my mind! I wonder what things will be like when you read this. I feel so many different things regarding climate change. I feel terror for the future, I feel despair about things ever being better, I feel resignation that there’s not much I can do anyway, and we’re all doomed. Yet I also feel a little bit of hope that things will be okay. That you’ll be married and have your own children when you read this. That you’ll be well-adjusted, happy, healthy, and kind human beings. That you’ll live daily lives that aren’t so different from mine. But I vacillate so much between the despair and the hope.
When I despair, I wonder where you will live. Will the outer borders of the United States be underwater by then, and will people have all migrated towards the center of the country? Will there be over-population in Nebraska and Ohio and Kentucky? Will daily summer temperatures average 110 degrees in north Texas instead of 93 degrees? Will the months of August and September be spent holding your breaths and you ride out hurricane after hurricane, tornado after tornado, each time wondering if this is the time your home will be destroyed? Will you even have a home? Will people resort to living underground in tiny cellar apartments by the time you read this, in order to escape the extreme temperatures outside? Will there be a visible layer of ozone floating above the earth, and when you look into the sky, you see a constant gray haze instead of clouds dotting blue? Will air travel be so rare and expensive that people have stopped moving where the jobs are, and instead always live near family? Will the air be breathable, or will hospitals be overrun with people suffering from a new disease that affects the lungs? Will fresh, drinkable water be government-owned, and each person is limited to 1 gallon per day for consumption and dish washing and teeth brushing, and will your bath water and water for flushing the toilet have to be pumped from the ocean?
When I hope, I wonder if the sun still shines every day and the moon cools the earth at night, just like it does now. I wonder if kelp farms are all over the world and someone has figured out how to make all cars run on kelp. I wonder if someone has invented an electric airplane that can fly without emitting any fuel. I wonder if hurricanes whose names are remembered, like Harvey, Ike, Katrina, and Sandy, are things of the past. I wonder if the ocean’s depth is the same as it is now, and if glaciers stop melting, and if Arctic animals still galavant around the snow sporting their white coats.
Here’s the thing, my darlings. I love you. I love you more than I love two-shipping from Amazon, so I will limit my online purchases and never choose the fastest shipping. I love you more than eating chicken and beef, so I will choose to eat more vegetarian. I love you more than the convenience of coffee served in a single-use plastic cup, so I will wash that cup and reuse it till it cracks and leaks. I love you more than my comfort when I have to wait in the car, so I will not idle if my wait will be more than 30 seconds.
I already conserve water and I hate waste of anything (food, electricity, the toys and materials that try to inundate my life); so I shop carefully, I turn off the lights, I donate or reuse, or post items on the Buy Nothing Facebook group. I will continue to do this. I will vote for people who support climate activism. I will write my representatives. And I will talk. I don’t think the average person right now knows that aerosols contribute to climate change, and that eating beef supports cow farms, which release tremendous amounts of methane gases into the air. So I will make talking about the climate a regular topic of conversation. I will share what I know, as I seek to know more.
If I am alive when you read this, and you don’t already know it, know that I love you. And if I am dead, know that I loved you. Perhaps my love even reaches beyond the grave, curling towards you in an embrace. I hope it does. And I hope that others will see what I see: that if we want the things that I wonder about when I hope, instead of the things I wonder about when I despair, then bold action must be taken. For the future’s sake. For your sakes. For you.