Monday, August 31, 2009

Climate Change's Last Generation

My single most infuriating experience at Worldcon came at a panel I attended on geoengineering - technologically modifying the ecosphere in order to stave off the negative effects of climate change. There was an old man seated a couple of rows ahead of me who criticized the entire concept of climate change, and when anyone made a comment on the necessity of geoengineering in order to avoid dangerous climate change, he harrumphed and humbuged more than loud enough for the room to hear.

Leslie Kaufman's August 28th article in the New York Times, "A Sometimes Lonely Trek for Global Warming Awareness," reminded me of that day again. It follows 65-year-old Greta Browne, who's walking from New Orleans to upstate New York to raise awareness of climate change - and that, on its own, discourages me greatly. It's 2009. People shouldn't have to be made aware of climate change anymore. We have known about this for decades. Back in 1991, when I was in Grade 4, there was enough awareness already that I didn't have any trouble getting books out of the library to write an essay on what was popularly known then as the greenhouse effect. We just haven't done anything.

What's refreshing is seeing an older person like Ms. Browne bringing attention to this, because the rest of her generation is often pulling in the other way. Too often I encounter elderly people like the man in the Worldcon panel who seem to believe that climate change is a myth with a convert's zeal. This absolutely infuriates me. What I'd really like to say to these people is that, in this respect, they do not deserve a voice. Why? It's simple. Not only are they responsible (if an individual member of a society can be held responsible for greater trends, at least) for the problem we're finding ourselves in, no matter what roadblocks they put up, by the time things get really bad they will be dead. People like me are the ones who will have to deal with it.

Maybe it's a subconscious reaction. Maybe when people think about these things, when they start to realize that the way they lived their precious little lives mean that their grandchildrens' lives will be tarnished and broken in comparison, they don't want that guilt. Maybe denying climate change is a desperate grab for absolution - "nothing bad is happening, so it's not my fault at all."

It could be I'm reading too much into this.

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