A future apology

 by Mark Chivers

Writing today, I don’t know if you will be born, let alone when. I can’t know what age you’ll be in 2050 or what horrors you may face. However, I do know that it was here, just over a decade into the 21st century, that the decisions we made changed your destiny. We, your Grandparents’ generation, may not be entirely responsible for the mess we left you in but we are guilty of not doing something about it when we could.

Though it may be difficult for you to comprehend, we knew what was coming. We all knew. We may not all have accepted or understood, but we all knew. It wasn’t just a loose theory; 97% of the scientists engaged in the research knew it would happen, the leaders of the world knew it would happen.

You have every right to despise us for not acting on what we knew. You have every right to question how we could have been so stupid. And, hard as I try, I struggle to explain why we didn’t do enough to prevent the nightmare you face.

Maybe it was because it sounded like some distant, futuristic event, like a meteorite hitting us; not in our power to control, not in our lifetimes to suffer. Maybe it was because even where we saw it happening it wasn’t happening to ‘us’. It was and would continue to be, or so we thought, something happening to the unseen and untouched: distant Pacific Islands never visited, bears in the frozen wild, nameless, faceless strangers. Maybe it was because we never discussed what it would really mean to us.

We knew that scarce resources create conflict, and conflict escalates into war, but did nothing to manage those scarce resources. We knew that a temporary loss of petrol at the pumps created chaos within days but did nothing to prevent it running out altogether. We knew that famine and crop failure caused the displacement of thousands but did nothing to anticipate what would happen when such failures were so large the displaced would number millions. We knew how riots occurred when sections of society were alienated or left without basic needs but did nothing to ensure those situations did not grow out of control. We knew our financial sector, despite all its problems, was designed to cope with catastrophes but did nothing to anticipate how it wouldn’t cope when catastrophes occurred with biblical magnitude and increasing frequency. We knew the cost of food and shelter was growing at a worrying pace but did nothing to plan for how we would handle the same at uncontrollable, unaffordable levels. We knew how our coasts were threatened by rising sea levels but did nothing to plan for how we would house the millions displaced or replace the food produced in areas that, for you, are now covered by the sea. Though we knew a rise in global temperatures of two degrees could be disastrous, we accepted policies that left us heading for a rise of three or four degrees.

Economic collapse and chaos, hunger and starvation, millions made homeless, hundreds of thousands queuing at our borders, riots, conflict and war. Not in some distant land but here in Europe, here in England, here in our home towns. This is what ‘climate change’ really meant, and we all knew it, or we all would have if we had stopped to think about it for more than two minutes.

So if we knew, why did we do so little?

Incredibly we knew there were solutions. We knew the technology existed and even started using it (a little). We knew of an alternative model. Our governments and leaders wanted none of it.

It wasn’t convenient. The markets didn’t like it. It cost money, it didn’t make it. They made money from making ‘stuff’. The solution necessitated we needed less ‘stuff’. Those who held the power over the old technology, raw materials and systems did everything they could to continue our dependence on them, accepting the long term problems as a necessary evil for their short term gains. They played down the problem. But they knew.

It wasn’t convenient. Governments didn’t want it. Their solution was abdication of responsibility and more power to the markets. They preached the dangers of leaving a financial debt for our children, speaking nothing of the real disaster that we would actually bequeath. They avoided the tough decisions for fear of losing the next election. They avoided the real truth for fear of losing real power. But they knew too.

So, you have every right to blame us. You have every right to blame all of us.

Blame those who were too eager to believe the sceptics claims that it was all made up.

Blame those whose self-interest, wealth and power led us away from solutions.

Blame those who accepted it when they were told we had ‘the greenest government ever’, who trusted their plans and slept soundly in their beds.

Blame those of us who protested for not shouting loudly enough, for not demanding enough action, for not being more disobedient.

But most of all, blame the leaders of the world and their representatives who met in Durban, South Africa in December 2011 and just like the time before, and the time before that, choose to do too little too late.

For you and your generation I hope I’m wrong. I hope things change. I hope we all wake up and take action. If not, to you, I can only send my love. By 2050 it could be too late for hope.

This article was first published in the London Progressive Journal.http://londonprogressivejournal.com

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