Climate Shame

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 (Mike Newland)

I've hit a wall. This wall scares me, and it's made me stop and think about the repercussions of it.

Last summer, I was trained in the Climate Reality Project. When you sign up, you agree to give presentations. I listed the groups that I could talk to -- academic, industrial and environmental organizations. I've given a few talks, and have expanded to nearly all groups.

Except school kids. How do you tell children about climate change? Surely there must be a way, something that child psychologists know, for telling children that their parents and grandparents screwed up, and that they lack the moral fortitude to steer our civilization away from destruction.

I'm a child of the 80s, we assumed that we or the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear attack and that the world would end. I still dream about nuclear blasts, 30 years later. I don't want that for my kids.

My daughters are five and two years old. I get climate change reports from all over the world. I read these reports, and I look at my two girls. What a massive experiment we are attempting. Those of us in the climate change business talk in quiet corners of the real worst case scenarios -- dire circumstances that are irresponsible to describe in public, in the way that astronomers shy away from discussing asteroids hitting the earth. No one really wants to know. We will either make an unprecedented shift as one species towards a better future, or destroy ourselves more extensively than any nuclear holocaust.


The Environmental Protection Agency has an excellent website for kids -- it's upbeat and filled with common sense ways to track climate change and to prepare for the future. What's missing are the two hand-holding gorillas in the room; namely, those worst case scenarios and the apology from us to our children that goes with them. Let us hope that climate change one day joins nuclear war against the Soviets as a bogey man of the past, and that we never have to apologize for failing to act.

With a Perspective, this is Mike Newland.

Mike Newland is a staff archaeologist for the Anthropological Studies Center at Sonoma State University.