Do It for the Future of Our Children

Parents — those who hold their child’s health to be their greatest priority — should be the strongest advocates for mitigating climate change, says Mark Hertsgaard. In this article, Hertsgaard discusses how most parents still remain passive and aren’t facing how climate will impact on their children. He lists three reasons parents are submissive towards climate change: 1) they simply do not know of it or choose to not believe what the science says; 2) those that do accept it as a reality, would rather not face its disheartening nature and choose to simply ignore it, and; 3) they believe there is nothing that can be done to halt its progression. Finally, Hertsgaard summons parents to take a stand and do something to fight for the future security of their children.

Parents Need to Act Against Climate Change for Their Kids’ Sake
Cross-post from The Daily Beast
by Mark Hertsgaard

The dream is always the same:

His daughter is crossing the street, holding his hand, when he hears a whistle blow—loud, mournful, insistent. Behind her, in the middle distance, he sees a train racing toward the intersection.

He tightens his grip to hurry them across. But suddenly they’re unable to move, like in the games of freeze tag he played as a boy.

Instantly, his torso drenches in sweat. He shouts to passers-by: “Help us! Stop the train!” But they ignore his cries, as if they can’t hear.

Again the whistle groans. The train keeps coming. He screams louder.

Then he wakes up, heart pounding, and no more does he sleep that night.

This dream belongs to a journalistic colleague who, like me, has covered the climate story long enough to understand the implacable science facing his child as our planet continues overheating. But after he shared it with me, it became my dream too. Except in my version, it was my 7-year-old daughter, Chiara, and I who were crossing the street, frozen in place, as the climate train bore down upon us.

Now the deadly heat, drought, wildfires, and storms afflicting the United States this summer have made this dream seem all too real. “This is what global warming looks like,” Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press. The death toll is approaching 100 and certain to rise further, for the heat and drought are projected to continue through the end of July. In our country’s most extensive dry spell since 1956, the U.S. Agriculture Department has declared 1,000 counties—one of every three in the U.S.—natural-disaster zones because of extreme drought. “It’s like farming in hell,” Fred Below, a plant biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told BloombergBusinessweek.

Beyond the distress and discomfort, the record-breaking heat raises a puzzling question for anyone who cares about the future of our young people. The laws of physics and chemistry—the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades after being emitted—mean that man-made global warming is just getting started on this planet. As a result, my Chiara and millions of other youth around the world are now fated to spend the rest of their lives coping with the hottest, most volatile climate in our civilization’s 10,000-year history. Think of them as Generation Hot.

Why, then, are so few parents taking action to try to protect their beloved children from this gathering catastrophe? And why has no one asked them to?

It made a certain sense when, in 2007, Al Gore urged young people to start “blocking bulldozers” to prevent the construction of coal plants. After all, who has more to lose from unfettered climate change than the kids of Generation Hot? And in the last five years, many young people have indeed targeted coal, the deadliest conventional fossil fuel, energizing a grassroots effort called Beyond Coal that helped block the construction of 166 (so far) proposed coal-fired power plants—the biggest victory against climate change you never heard of.

But what about parents? Why aren’t we up in arms? Protecting our kids is our core responsibility as parents.

Parents could bring enormous moral authority to the climate fight, not to mention social and financial resources, but no major environmental group appears to have organized them. Nor have many parents organized themselves in the way, say, Mothers for Peace did during the Cold War. Today’s parents don’t vote as if the climate matters. Even in green-minded San Francisco, most parents I know don’t even talk about climate change.

Having covered climate change for 20 years and written a book, HOT, about how our kids can survive it, I think there are three main reasons for parents’ surprising passivity.

First, many parents don’t know, or choose not to believe, what science says about the climate threat. Most people get their information about such matters from the news media, and media in the U.S. report climate change through political rather than scientific lenses. Scientists are virtually unanimous that climate change is happening now and very dangerous; the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and its counterparts in every other technologically advanced country have affirmed this repeatedly. The message coming from the U.S. media, however, has been far less definitive, if not dismissive. Only 3 percent of media stories about the wildfires ravaging the West this summer mentioned climate change, according to the advocacy group Media Matters.

Second, if parents do face the facts, they understandably find them depressing. Who wants to think about their kids inheriting such a perilous future? It’s easier to pretend it isn’t happening.

This is especially true given the third reason: a widespread belief that there is nothing one can do to change the situation. The problem is too big, the political system too broken, the polluters too powerful.

As a result, many parents end up practicing what I call “soft denial.” Not to be confused with the denial purveyed by right-wing ideologues, soft denial does not reject climate science per se. No, a soft denier accepts the science, at least intellectually. But because climate science’s implications are so disturbing, the soft denier acts as if the science does not exist. In psychological terms, such a parent is in denial.

Read the full article here.

If you are a parent that wants to get involved in taking action towards climate change, visit Climate Parents.

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