Friday, August 8, 2008

"Our kids will be angry with us"

This is a sobering reality for any parent. As much as I strive to be a good parent, I will inevitably make mistakes, some of which my children may not easily forget as they grow older.

But what Thomas Friedman is referring to in a recent op-ed about global warming (and "global weirding") is an entire generation of young people who will harbor well founded resentment for the enormous ecological crises they're inheriting and the crippling costs of restoring the planet (and humanity) to health.

It's strange for me to think that at some point in recent years I've crossed over to the other side of the generational divide; after all, I can still belt out The Who's "My Generation" at the top of my lungs. And it angers me that my parents' and grandparents' generations did little to curb our addiction to oil, adopting reactive rather than proactive measures to previous oil shocks/crises. Why didn't Washington lean on Detroit 30 years ago to push for dramatic and vastly accelerated fuel economy improvements, for starters? Why have we been subsidizing the fossil fuel industries for all these years? And how did we ever let Dick Cheney run the country?

Similarly, my own daughters might someday ask me what I did as consumerism transformed out planet into a giant dumping ground. I'd like to think that in addition to certain personal and lifestyle choices I've made, the work I've set out to do as an aspiring legislator might someday exonerate me at least partially in the eyes of my own children.

Our state needs an energy policy (actually we have one--what's needed is the political will to implement its recommendations). We need to spur investment in renewable energy sources. We need to support innovation around green technologies and a promote a clean energy economy. Our community colleges ought to be training people for green-collar jobs (i.e. wind turbine technicians/repairmen). Our public schools and universities should be engines for sustainability. Our state and local governments must direct development that allows for accessible transit; walkable, mixed-use communities; bike lanes; and housing that's close to job centers. We need to step up and provide financial incentives for ordinary citizens to start capturing solar power from their rooftops.

There's much to be done. If our children our angry with us 20 years from now, we'll know we came up short. That's a day of reckoning I'd rather avoid.

Elections do matter. Spread the word.

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