Have you ever been on the receiving end of a child’s request that you do something for them? Having children or grandchildren provides many opportunities for such experiences, but even those of you without children have neighbors, friends, family members with children, and so, surely, occasionally, you have had a child or children come up to you, the older person in the room, and entreat you to do something for them. Even if you haven’t had this direct experience, you can probably imagine it. Well, keep reading, to have your own experience of children entreating the adults in their lives to do something for them.
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How is one not moved by the fear and sadness and disappointment of these children? The cynical will say that these children were set up to do this performance. The cynical might want to stop reading right now, since their cynicism may be an unsurmountable obstacle to hearing what the children are saying.
What are they saying? WE MUST ACT, not to stop the catastrophic impact of climate change (that is inevitable!), but to minimize that impact as much as possible. And our actions need to be on all fronts. We need to change our imaginations and attitudes about the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the living things we share this planet with, the fragile balance of the earth’s systems that keeps the whole circle of life rolling along. We need to remember we are part of nature, not the mistress of nature, not the arbiter of what is valuable and what is not, not the technologist who sees nature merely as resource, to be exploited, violently, in order to cater to human desires. NO. This all has to change, over time, slowly but surely, and the children are calling all of us to this change.
We need to act personally, on how we eat, how we travel, what we purchase, the temperature of our houses, where we invest our money, how we vote, how we relate to our neighbors. Our history has been to act only in our own self interest or that of our family or clan. This has to be changed, and if it is change for the most self-interested reason of all (survival), ok. But it has to change so that we take into account the environmental cost of our personal or family actions because there are costs, and they can no longer be externalized, that is, consider as NOT a cost of our actions. They ARE. When I put chemicals on my lawn to have the marketing departments ideal of a lawn, the runoff goes into the sewers, which goes into the rivers, which goes into the seas, accumulating that poison in the fat of fish we eat. And this accumulation makes more likely the development of neurological disorders in our children and grand children. There is a cost to our actions and we must take that into account.
We need to act communally, by the way we structure our housing development, measure economic growth, power our communities, harness the imaginations and intelligence of all people in our societies. We have organized ourselves in such a way that we are destroying the very basis of life, as we know it, on this planet. We are doing this consciously, as a society. This must change, by how we vote, by how we move forward in our urban and suburban planning.
Finally, we need to act technologically. It is not that technology has all the answers, especially to the cultural and ethical changes that need to happen in our relationship to each other and the universe around us. However, we have the technology to create more energy efficient engines, to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, to change our food consumption patterns, to live much more lightly on this planet that we do now.
The children are challenging us to act, to listen to them, to give in to their pleadings, their tears, their sadness. To act to protect them, to care for them. Why? They Will Inherit the Earth that we leave them. Would we give our children diseased food to eat? Would we give them filthy water to drink? Would we allow them to sleep in a house that was threatening to fall? Unfortunately, in today’s world, some adults find themselves doing just this, to survive. But do they choose that on its own, or as the only sane choice in an insane situation? No sane parent knowingly puts a child in danger. The question is: Why are we putting our children and grandchildren in danger by the ways in which we live our lives on this planet?
On September 15th we are gathering at Sacred Heart Church for the annual Thomas Berry Lecture. It will be given by John Dear, a nonviolent peace activist, who recently wrote a book that makes a clear connection between the violence of our culture and the crisis of climate disruption. The title of his talk is “They Will Inherit the Earth.” Come to be encouraged to change, to be supported in your change, and, perhaps, hear the children’s call to action.
Tickets are $20. All proceeds go to support the programming of CFET. Read about that here. You can purchase tickets here. Saturday, September 15, 2018, 2PM, Sacred Heart Church, South Broadway & Ferry Ave., Camden, NJ. A reception will follow.
If you want to be a sponsor, contact Cathy Nevins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us that day. Listen to the children in your lives. We owe them our best effort to preserve this beautiful planet as best we can!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
Board of Trustees
Center for Environmental Transformation