To my dearest Gabriel,
I began working on climate change in 2006. Over the past 9 years, I have come to understand the severity of the future impacts- the increased number and severity of storms, changes to agriculture and water supplies, people forced from their homes due to sea level rise. Despite my concern about climate change, it always seemed so far away in time and location.
But then, almost two years ago, you were born. I remember in those first weeks or months that someone told me to enjoy every day, every moment. The time goes by so fast they said. Another said, “the days are long, but the years pass quickly.” In the almost two short years that you were born, I know this to be true. When I look at you and think about your future, I can see the time passing quickly, faster than I ever could have imagined.
In just five short years from now, you will be 6 years old. I can imagine you sitting in your first grade classroom reading a book and learning that three minus two equals one. I already know that you will talk a lot in class and that on some days your teacher will get mad at you for talking to your best friend in class.
In just five short years from now, the year will be 2020. The next five years will be pivotal for the US in terms of changing its energy policy. I see a glimmer of hope in the mobilizations around Keystone XL pipeline and in the victory against hydrofracking in New York State. But are we mobilizing people fast enough? Developing the right technologies? Will we meet a 20 percent renewable energy target by 2020? When I think about 2020 as a number, it still seems so far away. But then I imagine you as a six year old and I know these days are quickly approaching.
2050 is another important year in the climate movement. People say by 2050 we will need to reduce our emissions by at least 80 percent.
In 2050, you will be 37 years old, just one year younger than I am now. I have faith that you will have found your professional calling and someone to spend your life with. Perhaps you will have your own family by then. I hope you will be happy.
When you are the age that I am now, I wonder if we will have reduced our emissions. Will we have made the changes needed for our energy, manufacturing, and transportation systems? Will there be inexpensive, clean energy sources in countries all over the world? I don’t know the answers. But I do have a vivid memory that gives me hope.
When I was about seven years old, I thought the world was complete, perfect. I felt so lucky to have been born after radio, televisions, and telephones. I thought everything that was needed in the world had been invented. But then came the technological revolution. I was born before people used the Internet, personal computers, and cell phones. My mom and dad- your Nanny and Buppa- were born before civil rights, and my grandparents were born before the end of WW2, and so on and so forth. You were born before the next great change, perhaps the greatest of all—a societal transformation from a dirty fossil based energy system to a clean renewables-based, energy efficiency, and low carbon economy.
What gives me hope is what is yet to come, what you will experience in your lifetime. I don’t know what this will look like; I can’t even imagine it. What I do know, however, is that it will be amazing and that I am committed to making this happen.
I commit to being part of the climate movement. I will think and talk about climate change and the legacy that I am leaving for you. I will support ideas and policies that address climate change, while tackling our other great societal challenge- addressing poverty and inequality.
I will fly less for work, opting to meet by phone, conference calls, and skype whenever I can. And I will make small changes in my life. I will turn off the lights when nobody is in the room, unplug electronics that are not being used, recycle more, buy less, compost, spend time without electronics.
Together, we will take more walks, ride bikes, and take public transportation every chance we get. We will shop at the farmers market, eat less meat, and sit down together for home cooked meals. We will spend more time at the local playgrounds, parks, libraries, museums, so that we are using shared space and shared resources with others in our community.
This year for your second birthday, we will plant a tree together, so that we can watch it grow. It will show us of how beautiful and precious life is, and will remind me of our commitment to grow together as a family.
To be honest, I am having a hard time finishing this letter. The answers that I have come up with so far are nowhere near where they need to be. I promise that this is the first of many letters that I will write to you during my lifetime. I will need to revisit these ideas, reflect on what I have done/not done, and rethink what I need to do. When you are a little bit older, we will discuss climate change solutions. I will listen to you because I know you will have amazing ideas to add, a new way of looking at this changing world. I am looking forward to these conversations.
I love you.