What About the Children?
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Historians--the ones who haven’t drowned, that is--will record it as perhaps the most hideous example of generational betrayal ever, the ultimate demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man.
The generation that will inherit our sordid climate legacy has a right to be in a state of rage over the hell that has been inflicted upon them for no reason. The world’s youth had their innocence stolen and their dignity violated by those who prioritized greed over morality. The damage inflicted upon the world’s youth can never be repaired...and, it seems, can barely be mitigated.
The August 19 New York Times op-ed by young climate activists Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna has the raw power of victim testimony. These young people are pleading for justice in a moral trial. Will their prayers for relief remain unheard in the court of public opinion?
[August 20, 2021] will mark three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike. Even earlier, brave young people from around the world spoke out about the climate crisis in their communities. And today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does.
For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous weather events, diseases and other harms caused by climate change, which is why a new analysis released which is why a new analysis released Friday by UNICEF is so important.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index provides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.
It finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. A staggering 850 million, about a third of all the world’s children, are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in “extremely high risk” countries, the UNICEF researchers report.
This is the world being left to us. But there is still time to change our climate future.
The problem is, there’s not much time--because one generation, which knew damn well about the threat posed by fossil-fueled climate change, refused to mobilize, refused to organize, refused to make the protection of the world’s children from the climate crisis its top political priority. An entire generation chose to ignore the science and the scientists. An entire generation chose cutting taxes over cutting carbon. An entire generation turned a blind eye, a deaf ear and a cold heart to a growing hazard...and another generation is being forced to pay the costs of an earlier generation’s abuse.
35 years ago, John Lydon, the former lead singer of the Sex Pistols, wrote the song “Rise,” about the moral squalor of South African apartheid. At the conclusion of the song, Lydon famously declared, “Anger is an energy!” It will be the righteous anger of the world’s youth---a grievance borne of a prior generation’s unwillingness to confront the political and cultural power of the fossil-fuel industry--that will prove to be the lone chance of saving humanity. The fury of the youth is the only force strong enough to combat the forces of arrogance and avarice that fuel climate denial and obstruct environmental justice.
When I was very young, I was taught that I should learn from my elders. In reality, we need to learn from the youth. They are the ones with the knowledge and courage that the rest of us need. Their eyes can clearly see the fossil-fueled horrors to come. Their voices will be the loudest when the calls for change are finally heard.
As Thunberg, Calderón, Jhumu and Njuguna observe:
We have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow. The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now — we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences. The world’s young people
stand with the scientists and will continue to sound the alarm.
We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis. We will not allow the world to look away.
The anger of the youth is indeed an energy--the cleanest and purest form of energy we need to avoid the very worst of the climate crisis.
D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist and commentator. From 2014 to 2018, Mr. Tucker was a contributor to the Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” blog. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, Commonwealth Magazine, the Concord Monitor, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks. In addition, Mr. Tucker is a former co-host of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network’s “Climate Minute” podcast.