Wineke: Our children no longer trust us — and they shouldn’t
MADISON, Wis. — Here are two quotes from the current climate debate:
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Our ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a major extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.”
That was 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg speaking at the United Nations.
The other quote:
“Kids have nothing interesting to say to us. They just report what the have been told by adults with less nuance and maturity.”
That one was from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.
Neither of those quotes is taken particularly out of context. Thunberg spoke with the anger and clarity of an Old Testament prophet. Lowry spoke with the arrogant complacency of a Prophet of Baal (the state priests who always assured people the biblical prophets were just cranks and misfits).
I guess you can make an argument defending either position.
Thunberg speaks with the passion of youth but really offers few solutions to the impending disaster. Lowry notes, correctly, that the world has made strides in combating poverty and misery and that solving problems involves, yes, money and economic growth.
It is also true that it takes a fair amount of money to sail a boat across the ocean, as Thunberg did to get to New York.
We can admit all that. What we can’t deny is that Thunberg speaks for a generation that is beginning to realize it will pay the price for our inaction.
I am an old man. I hope to become an even older man, but I am, personally, very unlikely to suffer major trauma because of climate change. My air conditioner is currently being repaired. I am going to be fine.
My grandson, Will, just turned 10. Climatologists now predict that, by the time Will is 40, many of the world’s major cities, most of the coastal cities in the United States, will, essentially, be under water. The Houston area has suffered a second incredible rainfall event in the past two years. The future is now.
As a nation, we’ve been accepting periodic massacres in our schools for the better part of a generation. So far, our concern about the murder of our children has been a debate about whether we should arm teachers.
Some of us pretend to listen when young people call us to account. Others, like Lowry, dismiss them out of hand.
What unites all of us who are old enough to be called “adults” is that collectively we have accomplished nothing.
Greta Thunberg is calling that to our attention.
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