WAMC MAY 5 for May 6 , 2010
Dr. Steven Leibo is the Director of the Sage College’s Program in International & Globalization Studies
“The Generation of Consequences”
There is nothing like the season of graduations for a frequent public speaker like myself to start speculating on what precisely I would say to a class of graduating seniors. Though having me address such a group would probably be a bad idea. After all who wants to hear negative stuff as one moves out into the world full of hope.
But, quite frankly that is the only message this speaker would feel inspired to offer to what I increasingly think of as the generation of consequences. But if asked I would probably start off with an apology, telling my young audience that they have been betrayed. Betrayed by previous generations who knowingly carried out an uncontrolled experiment on their inheritance; the entire planet earth —an experiment gone bad that has left them holding the bag of an increasingly destabilized global climatic heating system that is already showing the signs of the massively more common flooding, desertification, dying and burning forests long predicted by those who have studied humanity’s suicidal destabilization of the heat balance of the entire planet.
I suppose that apology might begin with who exactly has betrayed them Betrayed by the media so often staffed by people without the scientific literacy to understand the climate crisis and lacking those skills have insisted on turning every topic into a policy battle they can cover by juxtaposing talking heads.
Betrayed by the media that allowed its enthusiasm for controversy to be manipulated by the fossil fuel lobby’s effort to supply them with speakers well trained in confusing the issue so humanity would not act against their corporate profits
Betrayed by the scientific establishment that for too long disdained any significant responsibility for disseminating their findings to the larger public even when those findings –like the impact of anthropogenic –man made climate change required immediate action
Betrayed by the educational establishment that produced too few Americans capable of understanding the science of climate change enough to appreciate the dangers it poses.
Betrayed by the ideologues who deny the science of climate change simply because they are uncomfortable with the need for governments take on the regulatory environmental role necessary to make it profitable for businesses to use energy more safely.
Betrayed by those who pretended we could keep drawing fossil fuels from the earth’s crust without a dramatically increasing our costs in blood and our coast lines like those along the Gulf of Mexico.
Betrayed by all those hundreds of delegates at last year’s Copenhagen Conference that failed to produce a binding international agreement to push us toward a safer green renewable energy future.
No, I would tell them that theirs is the generation of consequences. The generation that will perhaps see the most dramatic climatic changes. The generation that will mostly probably appreciate as their children and most certainly their grand children probably won’t Just how much we will have lost. And embarrassingly have to explain to their off spring why they did not do enough.
But I suppose I could finish off with some words of inspiration. Reminding them that with their newly minted degrees they might still have a chance to save the situation somewhat.
That those with teaching degrees can educate a new generation with the skills and sensibilities necessary to develop more sustainable living habits than the generations that preceded them. That those with engineering and architectural degrees can devote themselves to developing the new technologies of energy efficiency that might well stave off the worse of man made climate change. And for the budding political activists, that right now at this very moment as the American energy and climate security bill languishes in the senate would be a very good time to organize their friends to kick start the international effort to conserve the climatic system as we have for so long known it.
Now that would be a graduation promise worth making. And one that might make their graduating class, the generation of consequences, one of the most historic ever.