Monday, December 7, 2020

Climate Change Is A Children's Issue

The older generations, having lived through the Great Depression, World War II,  the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and Watergate, look down from their great heights of wisdom gained from the School of Hard Knocks and see climate change as just another thing to live through.  Dennis Miller, a former Exxon employee and supporter of Donald Trump lives in North Carolina.  "The climate has always changed and what's the bad part of it getting a bit warmer?  I like warm days," he says. 

The younger generations, however, consider any existential threat alarming, but Miller believes they have been misled, especially in thinking that humans can do anything about it, up or down.  Miller's granddaughter, Gemma Gutierrez has a sense of despair and outrage over global heating being met with indifference and dismissal by her elders. 

Kids not yet able to vote feel powerless, but they demonstrate in the streets and on social media to make their voices heard.  Some, like Greta Thunberg, find they can make their voices heard all the way to the United Nations.  And then they turn 18 and vote!  Youth voter turnout was 10% higher in this election.  And 61% voted for Biden.

Now Biden has to deliver on his climate promise.  The Sunrise Movement, a progressive climate group led by young people, want to see if Biden will hold to his word that climate change is his number one issue.  Biden's popularity among 18-29 year-olds 6 months ago was abysmal, but his stance on climate changed all that. 

Climate change is not something happening in the future.  It's happening now and is well underway.  Children are already being harmed.  As wildfires sweep across the land in ever greater size, intensity, number and duration, children's lungs are filling with smoke.  It matters where a child lives.  California's Central Valley, with some of the state's most polluted air, was particularly hard hit by record-breaking wildfire smoke.

It also matters what color and how rich a child is.  Can a family afford an air purifier?  Can they afford air conditioning?  With windows open, smoke comes into the house, and kids breath it all day and all night.  Smoke, particulate matter pollution, damages children's lungs.  It causes asthma and compromised immune systems.  The effects of air pollution caused by wildfires, which are in turn exacerbated by changes in climate, give kids an impending sense of doom.  They wonder if they will live to see the future.

But even kids that can avoid air pollution by staying indoors with air purifiers and air conditioning are affected adversely.  Mental health is affected too.  As we all know after this year of covid-inspired "sheltering" in place, a normal human, child or adult, goes stir crazy. 

It is no wonder that people of child-bearing age are becoming more and more likely to forego having children.  600 people aged 27 to 45, in a recent study, were considering the direction of the climate in their reproductive choices.  They fear any child brought into this world will have to survive what could be apocalyptic conditions.

The older generations are walking on.  The younger generations are waking up.  Under new management, climate change can be slowed, stopped, reversed, before there's no place on Earth left where humans can live.

The Guardian, "Climate crisis breaks open generational rifts in US families"
The Guardian, "A youth group helped Biden win. Now they want him to fix climate crisis"
New York Times, "Wildfire smoke harming children
The Guardian, "Climate ‘apocalypse’ fears stopping people having children"

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