Climate Change: A Blessing in Disguise?

The other day I had a thought. It goes like this: Saving the earth could give the youth a purpose for living.

“One cannot live on bread alone.” Or “Shop ‘til you drop.” We live in a consumer society that has provided us with a shallow purpose and short-lived enjoyment.

But, it wasn’t always like this. Not long ago in rural America and now in many cultures worldwide, people are part of communities where their lives have purpose, their work has purpose, and they belong. Those of us who have lived in such communities know the importance of family and community relationships as much more important than money.

Growing up I felt that I belonged. I was in several social groups: music, sports, and a church youth group. It was the youth group that tied them together and gave me a sense of purpose for life. TV didn’t pull me away from social activities.

What I’ve gathered from the news is that today’s youth know that they face an uncertain future and have, for the most part, lost a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Life for them is more about self than community. They seem to drift from one iPhone to the next, reducing person-to-person interaction.

The Climate Change struggle offers the youth a purpose to work together to save their own skins. They will have to because oldsters like me will be dead. It has to be the youth who will save future life because those who caused the climate change problem cannot solve it. Saving the earth needs to be the main purpose of future generations. Otherwise, we humans face extinction.

A little history lesson: The 20th Century has been called the “Dark Century,” characterized by industrialization and by corporate control of the world’s economy, natural resources (especially coal and oil), and capital wealth. This has led to major world wars and regional wars over oil. It’s led to great disparity of wealth between countries as well as between individuals. It’s led to carbon pollution and climate warming and change. It’s led to the destruction of the earth’s environment. Most politicians and the economic oligarchy that hold the present power to retard climate change won’t do much because they don’t want to disrupt short-term profits. The leaders of Congress haven’t yet listened to the scientists who have cried for action now. Delaying action on Climate Change makes it worst for the young.

The youth are living in a society that is slowly sliding downward in all sectors with government dysfunctional at all levels. The big question is: Can they overcome their non-involvement and learn to work together?

My pessimistic optimism leads me to fear that huge climate change disasters overseas will not be enough to galvanize the youth to action. What’s it to them if a million Bangladeshis starve or drown? It may take huge local disasters to strike them in the face before they start to act.

If the youth love themselves, if they love their families, if they love their communities, then they will try to protect life. If they love life on earth, they will try to save it. This could be the great purpose of the future generations.

I wonder what the under-30’s think about this, but I doubt if many will read it. So readers: How can we help them become aware of the peril of no action?

Wayne Kessler is the former owner of Shambani Organics, former Peace Corps volunteer, and founding member of Growing Local.

Following his grandfather's advice, "Grow food. People always need food," has led Wayne to a lifetime of cultivating and processing food. He spends much of his time encouraging people to become more food independent by growing their own.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Fran Rametta says:

    Many of the younger generation I know are “schedule challenged” with working fathers and mothers, and plenty of extracurricular activities after school. I raised 5 wonderful kids with the same grueling schedules. This may be a cause of why the younger generation is not so engaged in the climate change challenge. However, the younger college students are engaged and have over 400 colleges world-wide addressing social challenges. Maybe they are the ones who will make a difference for the future. But it seems like we need to act now to help them out instead of just handing them a challenged world.

    • Avatar Breakfast Guy says:

      Whether the youth today get engaged on this issue in time or not, the rest of us better take a informed look, note the facts and start cutting back on fossil fuel consumption very soon. The Keystone Pipeline proposal through the middle of U.S. land via Canada is only another major oil/environment disaster waiting to happen. Clean energy utilizing cutting edge wind & solar technology can provide the correct energy answers and provide jobs for many at the same time. A booming industry if allowed to flourish.

      Whatever a few climate change deniers & billionaire oil lobbyist hacks are pushing, I tend to take notice of real evidence and what 97% of Climate and Atmospheric Scientists are reporting. This should be of paramount concern for all, in my opinion.

  2. Avatar cheyenne says:

    Education is the key for the younger generation. Unfortunately, that education is beyond the reach of many of the YG due to cost. Without a college degree the young have no choice but to flip burgers or if they want to make money they take jobs in the coal and oil industries, the very industries that contribute to climate change. I interact with many of the oil workers here in the Rockies. One young man, who’s story is the same as others, has only a high school degree but works in the ND oil fields. He lives in man-camps that furnish food and housing. He makes $3,000 a week, a princely sum for one with no secondary education. In time he may be like many of my generation who worked on the Alaska Pipeline and returned to their home communties with enough cash to start their own businesses.
    My route through life and to retirement, like many of the older generation, was through manual labor, first as an auto mechanic then a custodian. Those options are still open but at a lesser degree of financial reward.
    My three children took differant routes.
    My son after working lower pay jobs became a CDL truck driver and now has a good job with good wages and benefits, though bad weather to drive in.
    My oldest daughter joined the Army right out of high school and had her college education paid for. It did require a commitment of eight years, some in conflict areas, but now she is set with a good job and secure retirement.
    My youngest daughter took out student loans and received her degree and now has a decent job with benefits, but crushing student loan debt.
    College students can concentrate on improving climate change because they have their future more or less planned. Most of the younger generation are more concerned with finding a job then climate change.
    Here in Wyoming, coal and oil dependant, the move is into other areas but it will take time. Wyoming has been in the top tier of data center recruiting for three years now. Microsoft announced yesterday that they would be expanding their Cheyenne Data center. Denver is becoming Silicon Rockies and Cheyenne is getting the overflow.
    The windfarm south of Rawlins is set to start construction next year and a $9 billion windfarm at Chugwater, 40 miles North of me, has been proposed and should be up and running in ten years.
    Much of the money for the recruitment of tech industries comes from the royalities Wyoming gets from oil and coal.

  3. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Whatever is coming will not transpire without adequate warning. It is difficult to believe that corporations and lack of leadership have brought us to a place and time where we as individuals are blameless and without guilt.

    “All the questions which can come before this nation, there is none which compares in importance with the central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.” Theodore Roosevelt 1910

  4. Avatar david kerr says:

    The false narrative of “hands up. Don’t shoot”, Occupy Wall Street and Global warming have failed to win the democrats votes in the North State. The statement of vote on the Shasta County website shows the vote unchanged in the elections over the last ten years.

    The main reason it has failed is that democrats are associated with California’s economy.
    California has the highest rate of poverty of any state (according to the U.S. Census) when the cost of living is taken into consideration.
    Progressive policies caused manufacturing jobs to move to business friendly states. Taxpayers and adjusted gross income dollars are leaving the state in large numbers. The worst effects of AB-32 are still coming.

    California was once a leader in capitalism. Now drugs, crime, unfunded pension liabilities and the high speed trainwreck are the legacy of progressive policies in states like CA, IL, NY, NJ.

  5. Avatar mmweidert says:

    I volunteer in first grade with the lowest readers. I have noticed Black Butte School has what looks like materials in place for a vegetable garden, although construction has not begun on the raised beds.

    I hope that’s what the pile of soil and boards are for.

    Children learning to grow veggies as a class project, then harvesting and eating them is a great action school employees and volunteers can take to empower small children to experience the success of raising some food they can eat! Schools in Oakland and Oak Run have done this very successfully.
    Every action like this gives adults a chance to talk about climate change with youth.
    1 Person can make a difference!