I had a conversation with my son recently about the fate of the world. He’s 18 and graduating from high school, and like many in my generation I feel guilty about the planet I’m leaving for him. Long after I’m dead and gone, he and his own children will be cleaning up the mess we created by polluting the atmosphere, clear-cutting the forests, and killing off nature. And they’ll curse us for not having done more to head off disaster while we still could.
He told me his history class had been talking about climate change from the perspective of how mankind has dealt with it in the decades since it was identified as a worldwide problem. Wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources now produce more electricity in the U.S. than coal. Almost every car maker sells electric vehicles, and Tesla has become one of the world’s most valuable companies. Recycling is a way of life these days. Humans have always found a way to cope with crisis, my son said. “We’ll get it done,” he told me. “We have to.”
We’ve placed a lot of hope in this younger generation. They’ll be the ones to finally eliminate racism, sexism, and homophobia. They’ll do away with war. They’ll fix the environment. They’ll get to the promised land and finish the journey we started before daily life distracted us. It’s a great story I tell myself, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be around to find out if it comes true or not.
Meanwhile, the news gets worse every day about droughts, floods, wildfires, and simultaneous heat waves in the Arctic and the Antarctic. Cincinnati isn’t immune, of course (see “Climate Change Is Just Getting Warmed Up”). And there’s still plenty we can do to make a personal difference in the battle, as discussed in our June issue section “How to Live a More Sustainable Life.”
When my grandchildren ask one day what I did to save the planet, my son can tell them I put our bottles and cardboard in a separate trash can. And I helped produce this issue of Cincinnati Magazine, which possibly convinced you that all hope isn’t lost. Was that enough? Only time will tell.