Monday, December 14, 2009

Climate change: A war for the future

Worldchanging's Alex Steffen has a piece on the intergenerational battle over climate change, pointing out that the vast gulf in perspective between the old dead men who "lead" us on this issue, who will almost certainly be dead by the time the effects really begin to be felt, and the young, who will see those effects in their lifetimes. Like Steffen, I'm between the two groups, officially untrustworthy. But I have even odds of making it to 2050, and so my future is at stake too. Which makes the following resonate powerfully:

To be young and aware today is to see your elders burning our civilization down around our ears. To hear scientists tell us we’re in the final countdown, with the risk of runaway climate change (along with the ecosystem collapses and horrific human suffering it will bring) mounting with every day we run business as usual. To hear nearly a chorus of credible voices—from doctors and scientists to retired generals and former bankers— warning that to lose this fight is to lose everything that makes our world livable and gives the future hope.

You wouldn’t think a war could start over such simple ideas.

To be young and aware is to see old people—from the U.S. Senate to Wall Street, from newspaper editorial desks to corporate boardrooms—stalling action on every front, spouting platitudes about “balance,” committing themselves wholeheartedly to actions to be undertaken long after they’ve retired and died. To be told that the world’s scientists are participating in a giant hoax; to be chided for not understanding how the real world works; to be warned that doing the right thing will bankrupt us; to be told that not wanting to melt the ice caps and circle the equator in deserts makes you too radical to take seriously.

To be young and aware is to know you’re being lied to; to know that a bright green future is possible; to know that we can reimagine the world, rebuild our cities, redesign our lives, retool our factories, distribute innovation and creativity and all live in a world that is not only better than the alternative, but much better than the world we have now.

To be young and aware is to suspect that, in the end, the debate about climate action isn’t about substance, but about rich old men trying to squeeze every last dollar, euro, and yen from their investments in outdated industries. It is to agree with the environmentalist Paul Hawken that we have an economy that steals the future, sells it in the present, and calls it GDP. It is to begin to see your elders as cannibals with golf clubs.

"Cannibals with golf clubs" - the phrase perfectly describes Key, McCully, Smith, Groser, the membership of Federated Farmers and the boards of the major polluters who are working to ensure that New Zealand does nothing about this problem, is part of it rather than part of the solution. These fuckers are eating the future - my future, my friends' future, their kids' future. And if we want them to grow up (and us to grow old) in a future which hasn't been ruined by climate change, we need to stop the old now.