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.
Good day, my beautiful bounty. It probably feels redundant to someone rockin’ in 2070, a year that’s gotta be wavy in ways I can’t imagine, but… Your great, great-grandpappy is old-school. And when my old-school ass thinks about how the backdrop to your existence changed when the Paris climate talks failed, it harkens to the late-20th Century rap duo Eric B. & Rakim. Music is forever. Probably it sounds crazy that the musical idiom best known in your time as the foundation of the worldwide cough syrup industry could ever have imparted anything enlightening. You can look it up, though—before the Telecommunications Act of ‘96, such transformations happened not infrequently.
But that’s another letter. MC Rakim had this scrap of lyric from “Teach the Children”—a pro-environment slapper that hit the atmosphere closer to Valdez newspaper headline days than when the Web gave us pictures of death smoke plumes taking rise above Iraq. For you, these are abstract epochs. Alaska still had permafrost, the formerly frozen soil that kept methane safely underground. The domino that fell, permafrost. And I could tell you that humans skied Earth’s mountains. Yes, I know: Snow. An antique reference, no question.
That Rakim verse. It went:
Teach the children, save the nation
I see the destruction, the situation
They’re corrupt, and their time’s up soon
But they’ll blow it up and prepare life on the moon.
My bounty, it’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback—the NFL will be around forever, like herpes—from my 2015 vantage point. But I did not do an adequate job of teaching the children about what our corporate overlords had in store for them. Didn’t do it with Exxon or Volkswagen. Didn’t do it when Rakim initially sold me on the premise. And, to be honest, I haven’t done a bunch of it this year, as sinkholes form and trees fall in parts of the Arctic that Mother Earth could only ever imagined frozen solid.
Make no mistake: I want these words to function as much as a godspeed note as one of confession. Good luck with your new methane-dictated normal, and the sonic pollution and spiritual upset of those executive flights to colonized Mars. Or, as the president calls that planet, the Home Office. Conditions should have never come to this though. And we’ll always have Paris to remind us of what might have been.
Alexander is the author of the memoir Ghetto Celebrity and has written for ESPN The Magazine, LA Weekly and other publications. Read more letters to the future here.
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