Thursday, October 22, 2009

"How old will you be in 2050?"

A recent Grist post talked about climate change sparking a grassroots movement that will cross borders:

The prospects for a borderless protest movement will be put to the test on Saturday, selected by grassroots group as a “day of global action” with some 3,000 events around the planet. The brainchild of U.S. environmentalist Bill McKibben, takes its name from a warning issued by climate expert James Hansen, who says atmospheric concentration of CO2 must be pegged below 350 parts per million (ppm) to avoid potential catastrophe.

Levels are currently around 385 ppm and on track to bust a 450 ppm threshold previously viewed as safe.

Launched in March 2008, the Web-based network says it has nearly 200,000 activists in dozens of grassroots groups spread across 170 countries.

“It has worked beyond our wildest expectations,” McKibben told AFP. “We’ve basically got the whole world organized, much of it for the first time. Oct. 24 is going to be, by a very large margin, the most widespread day of environmental action ever.”

Two demographic profiles dominate among’s rank-and-file, McKibben said: educated youth and people linked by religion.

“I was aware of climate change but didn’t know what I could do,” Gan Pei Ling, 22, a student at Tunku Abdul Rahman University in Malaysia, said this month at climate talks in Bangkok, where she had come to lobby negotiators.

Meeting a small node of activists in Malaysia gave her the courage to speak out, and put her in touch with like-minded young people across Asia and beyond.

Gan Pei Ling and hundreds of other 20-something activists who converged on Bangkok—many sporting T-shirts asking “How Old Will You Be in 2050?”— see global warming as an injustice toward the poor and the young.

“Older people don’t seem to care,” said Lokendra Shrestha, a 28-year-old sociology student from Nepal, where vanishing glaciers threaten much of Asia’s water supply.

Nothing makes me feel older than talking to 20-somethings, such as my son and his friends. They are engaged in a global struggle for existence. They know it, and we're only beginning to understand.

How old will I be in 2050? 100. I'll be gone. My wife will be gone. All our friends and classmates will be gone.

The better question is: How old will my kids be in 2050? Seems odd to say this but my son will be 65 -- retirement age, at least that's the way we see it now. My daughter will be 57 -- just a year younger than I am now.

They will have kids and maybe grandkids by then. What will the planet be like? What will their lives be like? Will Planet Earth be a dystopia with our coastal cities inundated with rising sea levels and our high plains prairies turned to dunes? Or will we be coming to grips with our past excesses, those that we're only now beginning to understand?

I prefer the latter scenario.

What am I going to do about that today?

How old will I be in 2050?

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