Many of my acquaintances feel a kinship with the little red hen. When she was hit on the head by an acorn, she knew that the sky was falling and gathered her friends and neighbors to spread the bad news. There are people I trust who do not hesitate to tell me the evidence makes it clear that our refusal to heed the facts regarding climate change has put civilization beyond the point of no return. They suggest that we are already doomed.
Unlike the little red hen, they may be right! The sky may indeed be falling. We may have already sold our existence on this planet for the sake of economic progress and perpetual growth, and there is no way to turn back. The waterfall is ahead of us and being happy with all our stuff, we sit comfortably in our elegant canoes believing we are on a millpond, not the river. If we don’t have all we think necessary to make us happy, we can burn enough fossil fuels to generate what we have convinced ourselves to be the lack.
On the other hand, while climate change constitutes a serious immediate issue, there are those who hold it may not portend universal disaster. To assume that position, however, may not be a risk worth taking. The honest question is, “What do we do about the evidence we now have?” Turning off the lights when we leave a room and putting the proper things in the recycling bin may not be quite enough. While we may be committed to finding a way forward, most of us come up short even on the direction.
Today’s red hens may, like the one on the old tale, be hysterical for no good reason, but what if they have convincing evidence that irreversible climate change is already underway? That leaves us with a terrible dilemma. What if the sky is falling? And if that is a real possibility, what do we tell our grandchildren?
Even if I have some belief in the reality of a coming disaster, I am not about to impart it to these younger ones, whose lives are before them. I will not lay on them the peril that they are not secure but are doomed along with the rest of humanity. Perhaps the most important feeling children can have is to know they are safe. On the other hand, it would be dishonest for me to ignore the facts. If the homes where these grandchildren live seem oblivious to the reality, and the whole environmental complex is not part of their dinner table discussions, their practices, and their politics, nothing we grandparents have to say will matter. And it is difficult to imagine that any school child beyond kindergarten has not been made aware in the classroom that climate change is real.
I am not suggesting that I have any answers to my question. I can neither tell myself or my grandchildren that we are all doomed. For me, I answer the question by doing as much as I can to highlight the global warming issue. That is why so many of these columns are now dealing with that matter.
In this column I am asking for help. How would you answer that question? What are you telling your grandchildren? How are you helping to make them aware of the critical nature of climate change while not attacking their sense of well-being? It’s a serious question.