This question bags us to listen to our true selves. The ones that we feel resonance with, but whom society has molded into “productive members”. Do we want to be known for only our wins and losses, our reliance on vast reserves of oil, or the elimination of a growing litany of species? I think that demographic trends would confirm that most folks alive in our culture today had been in favor of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the host of federal programs designed to stop the environmental assault. Why then, do we stand idly by while those same laws forty years hence are being flaunted and in some cases weakened? Clean air was supposed to make all citizens able to breathe safe and healthy air. In the United States of America, fly ash from coal burning plants continues to create as many health impacts as adding one hundred thousand smokers per year to our ranks. We have cracked down on smoking through sin tax, socially ostracized and publicized the gory health effects of smoking, yet turn a blind eye to the waste from making all of our shiny devices go whirr and thump.
The same people who came out to protest the bomb are now “of an age” to have significant economic and political power, but you hear nothing about shutting down unsafe and infinitely expensive power generating stations. Our president is from a state that gets 50% of it’s power from nuclear sources, he’s not going to take the lead. Technology has been miniaturizing at such a rate as to allow us to slash our draw, and reasonably expect to make enough power to feed the grid from the roofs of our homes. It is time to make what we wanted then happen today. We will be judged by future generations the same way we judge our fore-bearers. Our National Parks reflect a sense of pride to all Americans, whether or not they ever see them in person. We also judge the harsh reality of the Civil War and our humility,deference and magnanimity in the face of a torn nation.
We need to try as many creative ways of meeting future challenges as possible. Reliance on all fossil fuels is by definition finite. Solar and wind could increase exponentially for years before it would begin to hit saturation. When we are speeding down the highway at breakneck speed, we have the good sense to take our foot off the gas. We are hurling our Spaceship Earth toward near certain collapse, from poisoning the air, the water, or the soils themselves. Turn off a light, turn off the TV, charge your laptop with the sun, do what you can to leave the car in the driveway, or sell the sucker altogether! Visit areas where the people are living more sustainably, ask them how they do it and what unexpected goods come from the exchanges that make up their lives.
The intact, multi-generational cultures that we were all brought up in somewhere back in our history, songs and stories conveyed who we were and who we were proud to be. Loss of this often matriarchal thread has led to estrangement and dislocation. Languages of culture lie in food, music, folklore and dance. Collectively, we need to tell the stories that reflect who we are. We are still the first to have seen the Earth from Space. That should be one of our anthems, one of our successfully negotiated teachable moments. Can we get on with healing the rift between humankind and nature?
Fundamentally, we need to provide future generations, clean air, clean water and “clean”/living and vibrant soils. Anything less would limit their ability to treat the planet with respect and admiration. Nature is undeniably our life support system. Poisoning it always poisons the entire web of life, including us. Spread the word, we’re just not trying hard enough. We are supposed to be a country where the majority rules. We all want a greener world. We need it to be so green that the word is not even used. It needs to become just the way it is. When our only choices are green, the revolution will be complete. People are going “off the grid” or becoming net producers of power daily. What we do today will influence what our children’s children’s children think of what we are doing right now.