Looking at the happy, engaged young people at the Brooklyn Brownstone School, one has to wonder what kind of planet are we bequeathing to them and what preparation will they have for it?
We leave 2012 with a clear picture that global warming is creating a world very different than the one we have known. Not different just in the technology, that’s been ever changing since the invention of the wheel. What’s coming is different in its entirety, in the number of species, in the loss of the glaciers, in the rising sea levels, in what land is habitable and what is not.
What we’re seeing now, the droughts, cyclones, hurricanes, forest fires, the melting of arctic ice sheets, are only the most dramatic signs of the global warming catastrophe that is coming straight at us. By the year 2050, when these young people will just be middle-aged, the conservative predictions are that the earth’s average temperature will have risen 3 degrees Celsius. This will mean an atmosphere heavy with moisture and the predictions are that the so-called once-in-a-hundred year storms that we had with Irene’s 10-foot water surge last year and this year’s 14-foot surge from Hurricane Sandy, will become a regular summer occurrence, and we will be the lucky ones. Unlike some island nations, at least most of our land will still be accessible.
What will not change is that the world they will live in will not be kind to the unprepared, to those who have dropped out of school or learned just enough to get by.
Right now, at six and seven years old, each of these young people have exactly what the new world will require: an endless curiosity and the innate creative genius that is necessary to take full advantage of technological wizardry, to expand on it and use the new tools to create businesses and value and security in life. But these young minds are under constant assault and we need to protect them not only from the challenges on the street, but the systemic psychological violence that targets them daily, that sends their creativity down twisting paths and leaving them not believing in themselves and angry and not knowing why.
In order for these youngsters to be standing tall in their middle age, they have to be fought for now. We cannot allow them to go into that hypercompetitive and volatile future without fully developed minds. These beautiful young people cannot fight for themselves, we have to fight for them. And we have to fight tooth and nail. We have to do everything we can to enrich their lives and give them the gift of awareness of the endless possibilities that lie ahead of them. We need to go back to the old school of the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and “organize, organize, organize.” We need monthly PTA meetings as crowded as this auditorium.
We need politicians who put children first. We must live the words of Malcolm X and open the world up for them “by any means necessary.” Let’s all look forward to a good year of struggle.