Dear Grandchildren: I can only imagine the wonderful world you are growing up in. I think of that world — your future — almost every day. I think about how to make sure it is a place where all your hopes and dreams can come true.
A long time ago, my parents traveled across the world from Korea to the United States in search of a brighter future for me and my sisters. Today, I am writing you from Paris, a city that I have traveled across the world to get to, in order to make sure the world does the same for you. I’m fighting for you, for everyone in your generation across the world, to ensure that you have more than a fighting chance at that bright future. A world without the dangers of global climate change is the world that you will inherit.
What is climate change? Never heard of it? I’m so very glad if you haven’t. Let me try to explain. I warn you though, this can be kind of scary.
When we first started building up our cities, roads and towns in what was called the Industrial Revolution, we burned all sorts of fuels — coal, oil and natural gas. While these things helped us heat our homes, drive our cars, and expand our cities, we didn’t realize that they also clouded our air, dirtied our water, and made us sick. More than that, the burning of all those fuels made our planet sick. All the other animals and plants that we share this world with were getting sick, too. The planet became warmer, which created a mixed up chaos of terrible hurricanes, tornadoes, raging wildfires, drought and increased hunger, growing rates of asthma and lung disease, and the extinction of animals at an unprecedented rate.
So my dear grandchildren, we faced a choice. We could keep doing what we had been doing, or we could make the choice to take a stand for our future — your future and the planet’s future — by creating the framework to begin to move away from this scary legacy.
The wind turbines and solar panels that power your world, electric cars, high-speed trains and solar airplanes weren’t so commonplace in my time. They required a revolution in how we think about energy, about our relationship to the world, about our faith in our own capacity to innovate and change.
What took us so long? Sigh. It’s a long story, but like many of the children’s books you grew up with, it was a story of greed, short-sightedness and wizards with too much gold. But against these challenges, sometimes with great bravery, people — young and old from every nation –stood up and demanded that we take the steps to curb this terrible scourge.
I hope you will know this to be true. I hope you will remember that many years ago, your grandma and many others across the world stood up and demanded that we make the world a better place. I hope you know that it was a difficult path, just like my parents took so many years ago. And I hope you know we did it thinking of you and the future you now inherit.
Rhea Suh is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Letters to the Future, in conjunction with the U.N.’s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. Letters to the Future is a project produced by the Sacramento News & Review, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Media Consortium, in which a variety of writers, scientists, artists, and others were asked “to predict the outcome of the Paris talks (the success or failure and what came subsequently) as if writing to their children’s children, six generations hence.” To view the entire series, visit here. For more information on the project, visit here.
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