The average reader of this website is 26, exactly half my age. Which means you have 60 years or so left on this earth. Which means you’re screwed.
If the scientists are right about climate change — and so far they’ve consistently underestimated its effects — then by your prime, the planet will be well past its. Unless we work quickly to get off coal and gas and oil (far more quickly than any government currently plans), the temperature will rise 4 or 5 or 6 degrees in your lifetime, enough to make sure that superstorms, megadroughts, and other hypercrises will be the order of the day. You thought you’d gone to college for Business or English or something fun like that; turns out you’ll get to spend your lives in an ongoing emergency response drill.
Unless we do the right thing now, and fast. Not a little bit of the right thing, all the right thing. So, for instance, in his first term Barack Obama tightened auto mileage standards, which will help. But in his second term observers think he may be getting ready to approve the Keystone Pipeline from Canada’s tarsands, which will carry oil with carbon emissions equivalent to every single car on the West Coast, not to mention Florida and Michigan. And oh yeah, New York. Combined.
It turns out that age is the key variable in how concerned most Americans are about global warming. Old people don’t, as a group, care all that much, which makes a certain amount of sense. They’re going to be dead before it really kicks in. Young people care about it more than almost any other issue, because they recognize it’s a crucial test of intergenerational ethics. It would be nice if the proceeding generations left you a working Social Security system. But it would be even nicer if they left you a working planet.
That’s why those of us who are trying to build a Fossil Fuel Resistance sometimes seem a bit … heated. It’s why we’ve been to jail, and why we’ll probably have to go again. It’s why we hope you’ll join us.
Five years ago, Bill McKibben founded 350.org with seven college undergraduates. It’s gone on to become the biggest global climate campaign, operating in 191 countries.