My grandson, Jack, is a deep thinker. It’s rather appropriate that he was named after my father because the two of them would have been shown to have very similar personalities and interests. Since my dad died when I was a child few people will ever be able to observe the likenesses of these two. My father enjoyed humor as much as Jack does. Daddy was a sports fan to the max and so is Jack. My dad was brilliant and in many ways a Renaissance Man. Jack is also wicked smart and interested in a vast array of subjects. Both of them received their college educations at Texas A&M University and majored in engineering. For Daddy it was Mechanical for Jack is was Computer.
From the time he was a little boy Jack was an observer of the world. He quietly noticed things that most children would not have seen. He was filled with joy but also asked questions that seemed serious and advanced for his age. When we took him on a vacation trip to the Bay area and Yosemite National Park he engaged us in long discussions about the meaning of life and how to live well while also honoring the rest of the world. He fell in love with Yosemite just as my dad had decades before.
Jack loves music, also like my father, and enjoys playing many different instruments. He does not spend money on four dollar cups of coffee or clothes or luxuries of any kind. He is frugal, a saver and at this moment in his life he is focused on wanting to help to prevent the destruction of our planet. He is incredibly knowledgeable and earnest about this cause. He has engaged me in multiple conversations about the damage that fossil fuels have done to our earth and he has been sounding alarms since he was a young boy. Now in his twenties the subject of climate change has become his passion. For his birthday recently he only wanted to talk with me about how anxious we should all be that the world is mostly ignoring the problem and to discuss how he and I might help to make a difference. He was thrilled when I donated in his name to the Sunrise Movement, a youth group dedicated to educating communities about climate change and providing guidance on how each of us can help.
I used to think that Jack was a bit hyperbolic with his warnings about what is happening to our earth, but events like fires in my favorite parts of Colorado and the unbelievable floods of hurricane Harvey in my own city have shaken my conviction that we have plenty of time to figure out what to do. The destruction of our planet caused by climate change is happening with increasing frequency and at never before seen or even imagined levels of damage. At the rate we are going we will soon run out of funding to help those affected by weather disasters.
Because of my many talks with Jack I have done research of my own and what I have discovered is shocking. It seems that as far back as the nineteen seventies scientific studies at major oil companies like Exxon warned of the detrimental effects of fossil fuels. Instead of taking heed of the findings, a concerted effort was made to bury the reports and push a campaign of misinformation instead. Millions were spent spreading the gospel that climate change was unproven science even though documents show that the companies’ own scientists were predicting exactly what has unfolded. They spent huge amounts lobbying politicians and influencing decisions.
When Bill Clinton began to tackle climate change his efforts were thwarted. Since that time companies have spread the myth that we will be able to quickly turn to new technologies that will fix the problems when and if they occur. Now we are on the brink of reaching increases in temperature that will make parts of the world uninhabitable. There are rivers and dams in parts of that are drying up. We see these things but somehow we convince ourselves to look the other way. Sadly we might have begun earnest work on this problem more than four decades ago, but the cover up and ridiculing of those who were warning us worked and now it seems to be too late to prevent the kind of recurring natural disasters that are tearing up communities at an alarming rate.
Some like to make fun of Greta Thornberg and accuse her of being an insolent child who does not know what she is doing, but her passion for saving the earth is real. Some look at the New Green Deal and roll their eyes, but the reality is that waiting to do something will ultimately cost us more. It’s like keeping up a house. If we repair and maintain things all along we rarely face a huge unexpected bill. If we neglect our homes they rapidly fall apart and bringing them back to a state of working order can be incredibly expensive. We have to join together with the rest of the world and get really serious. We must abandon anti-science attitudes that have become so prevalent and begin attentively listening to the researchers who understand what we must do.
There is so much frustration among those who have analyzed climate change and its effects that thousands of them joined together recently to protest around the world. They complained that nobody seems willing to pay attention to what they have to say. They feel like the boy who sees quite well that the Emperor has no clothes, but when they point it out they are ignored. Like my grandson they worry that the world of the future will be a difficult place to live if we continue to ignore their warnings.
I’m older. At best I probably have twenty to twenty five years of life ahead of me. If nothing is done to address the rising temperatures, the growing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the mounting disasters, the droughts, the killing of wildlife, the destruction of forests those may be some of the most difficult years of my lifetime. For those who are young it might mean a world with fewer of the wonders that we have all taken for granted for far too long. We need to choose to begin acting now, not tomorrow. We should not base our own actions on whether or not other people or nations react. We are past the having the luxury of dragging our feet because we do not want to make the necessary sacrifices. The time is now.
Jack has opened my eyes and I do not think we need hysteria, but we can begin the process of enacting the changes that scientists believe will help. Hopefully we still have some time to prevent the worst case scenarios but our time is running out.