It feels like we’re living in an apocalyptic age. Our actions feel futile, our ambitions feel petty, our lives feel meaningless, and the world seems to be spiralling into chaos. Maybe it’s the intuition we humans have honed over the ages, maybe our bodies sense that something is very wrong with the world- that the world which nourished the human soul for millenia past is on the verge of collapse.
Maybe in the shrieks of collapsing glaciers and crackles of forest fires, the body feels climate change at a visceral level.
The signs of decay and death are all around us. With every passing day, something valuable and irreplaceable is being lost. The once-vibrant Great Barrier Reef, whose colorful pictures adorned our primary school textbooks and filled us with wonder and giddiness, is now bleached as sea temperatures rise. All over the globe, groundwater is drying up, sea levels are rising to consume human settlements, and wildfires are levelling entire forests.
The planet’s woes are compounded by huge corporations that spend millions of dollars lobbying against climate change legislation around the world. Just 100 firms are responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions. British Petroleum (BP), a criminal enterprise that played a key role in overthrowing the democratic regime of Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh and putting Iran forever on a collision course, holds a top spot in the list of carbon emitters. And yet, with nothing to show for it, BP shamelessly advertises itself as the foremost firm investing in clean energy and working to combat climate change.
The drastic, permanent consequences of our actions need to be understood. As much as we all love ordering useless, vanity trinkets from the comfort of our living room and burning fuel to go on blissful joy rides into the desert, the next generation should not have to hold us responsible for negligence as their future erodes and collapses. Inaction is criminal. The stakes are too high to roll over and binge watch another season of Ozark. Failure to act would mean all our progress as a species has been for nothing. The energy used to power high-tech laboratories, the coal burned to make frigid settings habitable, the water used to grow the cotton we process to wear as fashionable clothes- all this should not have to come at the cost of our planet and the lives of thousands of other species!
These are extraordinary circumstances. We are extraordinary. Just like the Class of 1920. The Class of 1920 graduated into a world ravaged by war and crippled by disease. The world had barely come to terms with the horrors of the First World War and was mourning the deaths of millions who fell victim to the Spanish Flu. Tasked with rebuilding a collapsed global order, that generation had a rendezvous with destiny. Fortune or curse, our generation too will determine the future of this planet. And our legacy will be our fight with climate change.