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School children march through the city center carrying a banner during a demonstration calling for action on climate change in South Africa, on June 14, 2019, in Cape Town, as part of the international "Extinction Rebellion" (XR) protests.

School children march through the city center carrying a banner during a demonstration calling for action on climate change in South Africa, on June 14, 2019, in Cape Town, as part of the international "Extinction Rebellion" (XR) protests. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images)

A Father’s Day Gift for Myself: Activism

My two-year old will barely be the age I am now when the climate catastrophe comes, and that realization is taking a toll.

Peter Certo

 by OtherWords

News about climate change has been so spooky for so long that it can feel like background noise. We find a way to carry on like normal, even when the news is disquieting.

Well, let me tell you I’m having a moment when it’s hard to do that.

For me the trigger was a recent report by Australia’s Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration, which warns of “a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization.”

How near-term? “The scale of destruction” by 2050, they wrote, “is beyond our capacity to model — with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end.”

In 30 short years, everything modern humans have built could be rent apart by an ecological catastrophe of our own making. Sorry, but that prediction’s too specific — and too near — to tune out.

Donald Trump and his science-denying cohort have the luxury of being dead by then. But I’m in my early 30s. In 2050 I won’t even be eligible to draw down the modest retirement savings I finally started setting aside (and am already wondering if it’s worth it).

Most terrifying of all, my two-year old will have barely reached the age I am now. That realization is taking a toll.

Every little moment with my toddler is now darkened by a fear about what his future holds. This morning I nearly shuddered with grief when he hugged me goodbye and asked me to finish the oatmeal he’d left sitting out.

The night before, even though he was tired, I found myself drawing out the songs and stories we do before bedtime, just to prolong the sweet moments before he learns what kind of world he lives in.

When I finally told my wife what was eating at me, she confessed the same. “When I give him a bath,” she said, “I wonder if I’ll look back someday and just not believe we had water to use.” (In fact, that’s a reality millions of Americans already live today.)

It feels crazy, but we’re not alone. In a Morning Consult survey, a third of young adults cited climate change as a reason to put off having kids they otherwise wanted.

Even worse, many politicians are unabashedly on the side of collapse. The Trump administration is loosening pollution controls right and left, censoring climate science, and pushing for 20-year prison sentences for activists who disrupt pipeline construction — even as those pipelines pump poison into our atmosphere.

In Texas, they’re pushing to sentence pipeline protesters on par with attempted murderers.

And here in Ohio, where my wife and I settled after years away to be near our toddler’s grandparents, state Republicans are trying to use “clean energy” funds to bail out coal and nuclear plants. This is utterly insane.

Floods are submerging huge swaths of the Midwest. And in Dayton, the city where I grew up, armed people are remaining in their tornado-devastated homes for fear of their remaining possessions being looted.

When you see that in your hometown, it’s easier to imagine the wheels coming off everywhere else.

The silver lining is seeing movements waking up — really waking up — to what climate change means and how desperately we need to remake our societies to address it.

Hundreds of thousands of children have walked out of school demanding their right to a future. Hardworking activists put the Green New Deal front and center of the Democratic primary. In Europe, Greens won big in the last parliamentary elections.

When I look at my innocent little child, I feel enormous gratitude for these people. And as a Father’s Day gift for myself, I’m resolving to join them.

If you or anyone you love is still going to be here in 30 years, I hope you will too.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Peter Certo

Peter Certo

Peter Certo is the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) editorial manager.

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