World leaders from more than 190 countries have convened in Paris during the first two weeks of December for the long-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference. Will the governments of the world finally pass a binding global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming… or will they fail in this task?
Letters to the Future, a national project involving more than 40 alternative weeklies across the United States, set out to find activists, authors, artists, scientists and others willing to get creative and draft letters to future generations predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks—and what came after. Some participants were optimistic about what is to come; some not so much. We hereby present some of their visions of the future.
I can only imagine the wonderful world you are growing up in. I think of that world—your future—almost every day. I think about how to make sure it is a place where all your hopes and dreams can come true.
A long time ago, my parents traveled across the world from Korea to the United States in search of a brighter future for me and my sisters. Today, I am writing you from Paris, a city that I have traveled across the world to get to, in order to make sure the world does the same for you. I’m fighting for you, for everyone in your generation across the world, to ensure that you have more than a fighting chance at that bright future. A world without the dangers of global climate change is the world that you will inherit.
What is climate change? Never heard of it? I’m so very glad if you haven’t. Let me try to explain. I warn you, though, this can be kind of scary.
When we first started building up our cities, roads and towns in what was called the Industrial Revolution, we burned all sorts of fuels—coal, oil and natural gas. While these things helped us heat our homes, drive our cars and expand our cities, we didn’t realize that they also clouded our air, dirtied our water and made us sick. More than that, the burning of all those fuels made our planet sick. All the other animals and plants that we share this world with were getting sick, too. The planet became warmer, which created a mixed-up chaos of terrible hurricanes, tornadoes, raging wildfires, drought and increased hunger, growing rates of asthma and lung disease and the extinction of animals at an unprecedented rate.
So, my dear grandchildren, we faced a choice. We could keep doing what we had been doing, or we could make the choice to take a stand for our future—your future and the planet’s future—by creating the framework to begin to move away from this scary legacy.
The wind turbines and solar panels that power your world, electric cars, high-speed trains and solar airplanes weren’t so commonplace in my time. They required a revolution in how we think about energy, about our relationship to the world, about our faith in our own capacity to innovate and change.
What took us so long? Sigh. It’s a long story, but like many of the children’s books you grew up with, it was a story of greed, short-sightedness and wizards with too much gold. But against these challenges, sometimes with great bravery, people—young and old from every nation—stood up and demanded that we take the steps to curb this terrible scourge.
I hope you will know this to be true. I hope you will remember that many years ago, your grandma and many others across the world stood up and demanded that we make the world a better place. I hope you know that it was a difficult path, just like my parents so many years ago. And I hope you know we did it thinking of you and the future you now inherit.
Rhea Suh is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. Read more letters to the future here.
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