I am so sorry we did not do more. That we did too little so late. Worst of all, we knew the costs which would fall upon your back as we enjoyed the immediate benefits.
We knew for decades and did nothing. Not even nothing. Nothing would have been wonderful in comparison to what we have done. We explored and we excavated and we drilled and we fracked and that which did not spill into the sea or leak across the ground or seep into the air, we burnt. And burnt. And burnt. And burnt. And burnt. And we fucked it all up.
Our houses were always warm, or cool. Whichever we wanted. Our lights were always on. Our TVs, always on. Our computers, always on. Our widgets traveled 6,000 miles from where they were made; American hands just weren’t cheap enough you see. Our widgets appeared at our doors in 2 days, sometimes even less. Our cars were big and they were fast. Our burgers were delicious. But because of our luxurious consumption, we fucked it all up.
Blankets were just a hassle. So was opening windows. It took more effort to get up and hit the light switch than it did to not. The remote was always so far away. The computer just took so long to boot back up. Labor was cheap, oil was cheap; what else was there to consider? The emission costs of shipping goods around the globe? We needed that widget that fast, otherwise… well we just did. That SUV tonnage felt safe. Plus, how else could we bring all our widgets home? And we just had to feel something when that throttle opened. Otherwise, what was the point? Walking took too long. Buses were gross. And seriously son, that beef was delicious. You surely understand why we fucked it all up.
I always thought I would take you to where I had grown up. I could have shown you the street I learned to ride my bike on. I could have shown you the lake I would catch tadpoles and fish in. I could have shown you the park where I used to play soccer. I could have shown you the beach I built castles on. The schools I learned in. The playgrounds I played on. But we fucked it all up and what you know of Florida you learned in American history instead of in geography.
As the hurricanes progressively intensified and multiplied, I saw there was less and less I was going to be able to show you. Too, and ever so slowly, the sea seeped up through the ground and crawled up onto the sand. Our streets became canals for there was no place for the water to flow as the ocean was now all around. The lake down by the house was now the lake in the house. Though, the tadpoles and fish may have enjoyed the new concrete scenery. Soccer fields returned to their wetland ways with ease. My sand castles became the next Atlantis. The schools which gave me the ability to appreciate nature were now reclaimed by it. You surely understand why we fucked it all up.
As the world came together in Paris, America tore itself apart. Just as God separated light from darkness, climate change had separated those who cared for Eden from those who did not. And this may surprise you, but the schism was not worsened by corporate greed. Oil and gas companies, the biggest in the world, supported a tax on their product. No, you see, the divide that fucked it all up came down to human selfishness.
We only cared about ourselves. We did not even care about the future selves we would see in their children. Or our grandchildren. Or the children across the oceans. No, we cared only for our current selves. And it was not a lack of education or evidence, it was a lack of compassion. Climate change was a hoax for the Chinese to “beat us”. How dare we allow them to benefit from coal as we did. How dare they burn coal when they could build solar. They pollute more than we do. Their fault. Their problem. They were fucking it all up.
Yet, each of them polluted less than half as much as each of us. And we had already reaped so much of the benefit. Our GDP exceeded that of the entire EU. But we still did not care. There were as many Indians without electricity as there were Americans in total. But we still did not care. A couple in Indian would need to have 20 children to have the consumption impact equivalent to a single American child. But we still did not care. We ate 50 Billion burgers a year while 10% of the world starved. But we still did not care. Had the rest of the world consumed like we had done in America, we’d need four earths. But we still did not care. Though they had fewer resources, they invested more of them into renewable energy than we did. But we still did not care. The 5% of us consumed more than 51% of them. But somehow it was they who were fucking it all up. We would sacrifice nothing. Not for them. Not for their children. Not even for our own children.
“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind” – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776. As I told you earlier, we needed our big houses, our fast cars, and our tasty burgers. We refused to “sacrifice” anything for you. And we put in charge those implemented these selfish values. You should have seen 2016. Obama ratified the Paris agreement. And while it felt good to some, it was so little, so late. 1°C would be here tomorrow and 1.5°C was already inevitable. Meanwhile republicans freaked out and rejected this small but meaningful commitment to the future. One of Theresa May’s first actions was to abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We fought renewable energy subsides tooth and nail. Oh, and we had a presidential race that year. In all three presidential debates, climate change was never mentioned. You would have thought ISIS was a code name for climate change, seeing how it was talked about as if it was somehow the scariest thing the world faced. One of the candidates even called climate change a hoax and claimed he would cut all clean energy development. I’m sure if you were to watch that debate now you’d be sickened by the issues that polarized our nation. We fought over what women could do with their bodies and in what capacity gay people were allowed to love and what humans were allowed to go where and if the rich were comfortable enough with their current tax rate and if pharmaceutical companies were making enough profit and of course, who could use what bathroom. So many of these issues had clear virtuous answers yet selfishness out rang freedom and liberty. We were all so apathetic as we sat in our air conditioned homes, munching burgers, watching it all get fucked up before our eyes.
Though, you should have seen how much we cared when our past choices began to catch up with us. It was around 2040 South Florida collapsed. The Army Corps of Engineers could no longer pump enough water out. Housing prices had been declining but sudden they collapsed. Who would buy a house when it would soon be underwater? Rick Scott and Marco Rubio apologized for the catastrophe they caused by denying climate change and baring the Florida government from discussing it. You should have seen the news the day the Pope refused to forgive them of these sins of Greed and Pride. Many were outraged by this, but many more were not. New Orleans sunk right along with us. NYC, Houston, and the coast of California followed. Not that we would care, but Shanghi, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, London, Brussels and many more were reclaimed by the sea too. In a sense many bigoted Americans may have been pleased, the Middle East was destroyed by drought. Though, if you would expect the suffering of the Arab people to soften the hearts of the all consuming American to help thy Muslim neighbor, your expectations would be amiss. Even as it was all fucking up we remained selfish.
So, my grandson, because of our short sighted greed you’ve inherited this crumbling earth. We did not act in our full capacity when we could. We remained selfish for so long but we would never need to face the consequences. The long delayed costs of our actions are now yours to bear. For this I am sorry.
This was an attempt to image the future if we do not quickly and considerably change our attitudes and actions on climate change as a nation. We must act today to save tomorrow.
You may keep hearing this is the “last chance”. Though how could it have been the last chance when Al Gore showed the Inconvenient Truth in 2006 and the last chance in 2016 too? Well it is possible. Everyday is the last chance to lessen the impact of tomorrow. In the 1980’s it was our last chance to avoid shooting our children in the foot. In 2006 it was the last chance to avoid shooting our children in the leg. Around now, as CO2 levels rise at an unprecedented rate, it is the last chance to avoid shooting our children in the chest. It has nothing to do with our last chance and everything to do with our children’s last chance and the severity of the damage they face.