We are anxious for our next generation to get here and take over what’s left of this world. Some of us older folks are trying to reverse our global climate emergency and we are trying to get our elected leaders and giant corporations to pay attention to us. But we are mostly failing. As members of this older, tiring generation, we pray that the youngest among us may take our places in time to make real differences.

Rollie Atkinson Column Photo

Rollie Atkinson

There are hopeful signs this youth-led movement may be on its way. Last Friday, thousands of Sonoma County school students joined millions of their counterparts all around the world and walked out of school to hold public rallies calling for increased action against our climate catastrophe. One local young speaker said, “I’m ditching school today because you (adults) are ditching the planet.” Ouch.

This week, Greta Thunberg, the teen-aged climate activist from Sweden, delivered the key address at the United Nation’s Climate Action Summit. “I shouldn’t be here,” she told the world leaders. “I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. This is all wrong. You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.” She accused the assembled world government leaders of ignoring 30 years of obvious science facts. (Our U.S. president was a conspicuous no-show.)

We all know all this is true. We only have to look at our local Sonoma County ocean coastline to see a tragically collapsing ecosystem that was once one of the most vibrant and diverse biological regions on our planet. We still remain very scarred from our recent wildfires, our historic floods and mounting evidence of severe weather patterns that could alter what crops we can grow here. We have set a goal to reduce our regional greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint by a historic level. But, now we are being told this may not be enough and we have a national leadership that is taking us in the opposite and wrong direction.

Our current energy consumption is now trapping as much extra energy daily as 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs would release every 24 hours, according to climate scientist Jamie Hansen, considered the father of modern climate science. The Paris Climate Accord, from which President Donald Trump has withdrawn us, would not be enough to reverse our mounting climate emergency. That plan, and other related measures, would only provide a 50% chance of reducing the planet’s warming trend to salvageable levels. “Fifty percent may be acceptable to you,” Thunberg told the U.N. delegates, “(but) you rely on my generation to suck hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air. This 50% is not acceptable to us  — we, who have to live with the consequences.”

Last week, our local students took to town squares and school lawns and were just as impolite and troublesome as Thunberg. They carried signs that read, “This Is An Emergency — Act Like It,” “Make The Earth Great Again” and “Change The System, Not the Climate.”

The historic U.N. Youth Climate Summit attended by hundreds of young climate activists from a hundred countries may help ignite a youth-led revolution. One young U.N. delegate said: “We demand action. Stop wasting time. Stop hindering the work (towards a sustainable future) for short-term profits. We will hold you accountable. And if you do not remember, we will mobilize to vote you out.”

More and more young people are facing a future nightmare scenario, which we older planet inhabitants only acknowledge with lots of talk and too little walk. “We will not let you get away with this,” said Thunberg. “Right here, right now is where we draw the line.” We’re with her.

 

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