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A Better Life

This morning as the blur of my sleepy eyes slowly cleared and I scrolled through the morning Facebook posts; feeling like a troller on a fishing boat, moving past the cute kittens, sunrises, rants and numerous jokes…when my boat stopped abruptly.

My eyes focused and read the block of text in front of me slowly, again and again. “The rapidly warming climate is the ‘greatest threat" to global public health, more than 200 medical journals are warning in an unprecedented joint statement that urges world leaders to cut heat-trapping emissions to avoid ‘catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.’ National Public Radio, September 7th, 2021”

So, now we have scientists and physicians telling us there is a serious problem and we are on a collision course with dire circumstances. We have heard from people whose lives revolve around learning - around science and knowledge. Yet, it seems like it’s just another day to most. “I’ve been hearing that the world was coming to an end since I was a child,” is one of the comments I hear often.

The blur of information causes many to shut down, to disconnect and feel like there is really nothing they can do except enjoy their lives. I’m sure many people feel like technology will save them. A manmade invention will occur and like Superman jumping out of a phone booth, everything will be ok again. Our superheroes will save us! POOF!

After all, we have more pressing things to worry about.

Adult things like jobs and economy and money and bills. The environmental concern is for tie-dyed, pot-smoking, Grateful Dead-listening losers who consider themselves conscientious objectors to the gears of a prosperous society. If we listen to them, well this country will fall behind Russia and China and all our other enemies will have an upper hand.

So we ignore it. We read the headline, skim through the news. Disregard what is being written for overzealous information grabs on the part of an anti-Walter Cronkite era of slanted news.

All the while, a system keeps us moving and keeps us dancing: “The kids need a ride to school, the car needs new tires, there are weeds growing in the lawn, tonight is bill paying night, tomorrow I have to get up early to finish a deadline…”

Years ago, when my mother was suffering from dementia and she’d start talking about inappropriate things or continue repeating the same thought again and again, we’d distract her. We’d give her a bowl of ice cream or talk about a pleasant memory from the past. Whatever it took to free up her mind and get her off the continual downward spiral. It was like she knew she was repeating, but couldn’t help herself. It was her brain sending up a warning flag that something was wrong. Sending the message in code, so to speak, but showing her stress and anxiety of the condition. Maybe our distractions of daily life are a way for us to cope with what is happening around us with bigger issues like the environment. We know they are true but we cannot handle the magnitude of the issue so we eat that bowl of ice cream and talk about pleasant things.

In my years of recording oral histories and interviewing people who had lived through the Great Depression and World War II, a resounding remark was made on many occasions by those in front of my lens glass: “I worked hard so that my kids could have a better life.”

So their kids could have a better life. What is a better life? To that generation it meant that they could enjoy their life more. They could work less and spend more time with family and friends. And, today many of us feel the same way. Giving something back to the next generation is really a very kind and compassionate way to look at the future. It is a virtue. Those seniors I interviewed could have taken a different path. They could have cared less about what happened after they were gone and concentrated on simply satisfying themselves.

But they didn’t. They worked and worked and aged and aged. Their hands became worn. Their backs and joints became weak. All for their kids. All for the future that they would not be part of. It is kind of like planting a tree when you are older. You may never see it turn into a towering masterpiece, but you know someone else hopefully will.

Today we are facing something that will affect those who come after us, more so than it will affect us. It is like a growing cancer that we continue to feed. With every piece of single-use plastic, with every dousing of Roundup in our yard, with every blind eye we turn on a beautiful and pristine area being bulldozed for concrete, with every blind eye we turn to our children’s future on this planet, we are knowingly affecting their future.

Severe, historic droughts are occurring. Unprecedented temperatures are happening. Violent and increasingly dangerous storms are on the rise. We are safe for now in our neighborhoods, but how long before our grass turns brown? How long before our water supply diminishes? How long before real food becomes hard to acquire? When will we see that our current path is not sustainable?

Do we simply give the next generation lots of love and gifts while we are here? Or do we commit to do better? Do we make changes now so that they can have a better environment? Do we teach them that materialism is not the answer and that protecting the planet, the place where we all live is more important than any degree you get from a college or how deep your pockets are?

Do we help with the change instead of being part of the problem? And do we try to leave the world a better place so they will have a better life than us?

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