A friend of mine’s third-grade daughter came home from school a few weeks ago with tears streaming down her cheeks. “My teacher say we only have 10 years before the oceans rise, and we are under water,” she moaned. “Are we all going to die?”
That’s a heavy burden to place on the shoulders of a 9-year-old.
Gloomy stories of the coming apocolypse have become commonplace in schools, textbooks, churches, movies and even children’s bedtime stories. The Wicked Witch of the West and Darth Vader have been replaced by the oil companies and auto company CEOs.
This over-the-top campaign of doom is clearly affecting the psyche of the young. We saw an example just last week, when Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl, gained international publicity by passionately telling a United Nations panel that “we are at the beginning of a mass extinction with entire ecosystems collapsing” and “we have only eight-and-a-half years left.”
This poor girl, who some are saying triumphantly is the voice of her generation, sounded terribly frightened. Who filled her head with these morose beliefs that the end is near?
Then there is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the 29-year-old voice of the millennials in Congress whose message is that the baby boomers have ruined the planet for her generation. She says we have 10 years left to head off planetary destruction. We have apparently returned full circle to the early days of humankind when life on Earth was described by Hobbes as “nasty, brutish and short.”
The only difference is that even the Neanderthals had more than eight-and-a-half years of survival in front of them.
Of course there are major challenges for the younger generations as there has been in every age since man appeared on the planet. My parents had to overcome polio, the Great Depression and Nazi Germany. When I was a kid we had to practice bomb drills in school because of fear of Soviets dropping nuclear bombs that would wipe out whole cities.
But to fill the young with false fears of “mass extinction” and so on is to ignore the true state of the planet. It isn’t dying. The young should be celebrating what every objective measure shows; they are living at the greatest moment in the history of the globe.
For those under the age of 30, listen up: You will live longer, healthier lives with more material wealth than any previous generation. You will inherit a world with less poverty, less disease, more leisure time, less pollution, and more material wealth, less discrimination, and more opportunity to achieve your dreams and aspirations than any other generation — except for that of your children’s and grandchildren’s.
You are not inheriting a severely injured planet but one in which a storehouse of thousand of years of accumulated human knowledge make you capable of combatting almost any conceivable problem or catastrophe.
The whole history of modern times is for human ingenuity, innovation and technological know-how to combat the challenges that mankind confronts. If you think global warming is a challenge, thank God you don’t have to deal with small pox, typhoid, tuberculosis, polio or the plague. The black death in Europe killed about one of every four residents. Now that is an apocolypse.
What the young lack today is perspective.
AOC thinks she has problems? It wasn’t so long ago that as many as one in 10 women died while giving birth.
I always marvel that the woe is me refrain from the young today is often recited as they tap on their $600 iPhones (charged with the electric power that they want to do away with) and they carry around their carmel lattes from Starbucks. I tell my kids that without fossil fuels, they may not have the power for their computer games. That gives them pause.
As for the trends on toxic air pollution, cities from London to Pittsburgh to Mexico City to Los Angeles as recently as a century ago were filled with dark and dangerous clouds of smog that choked the lungs and prevented the sun from shining. These pollution levels have fallen by 50, 70 and even 90 percent.
Children are now taught that cars are evil polluters and that the combustible engine needs to be abolished. Really? When Henry Ford started rolling his Model Ts off the assembly lines 100 years ago, he was heralded as the greatest environmental savior in the history of the planet. Why? Because cars replaced horses — which dropped many tons of smelly toxic manure into the city streets. Imagine the deplorable conditions of Los Angelese today if you had 3 million people riding around on horses.
It is sadly ironic that the greens who want to save the planet are also the one’s that turn to the intellectual dead end of socialism and statism to fix things.
The young like to recite the “scientific consensus that climate change will be catastrophic. Maybe. But 30 years ago scientists warned of overpopulation, food shortages, energy scarcity and even mass starvation. All of these scares were combatted through innovation and progress.
Bad things happen. Sometime in the next centuries an asteroid could plunge into the planet or some new version of the plague will afflict us, or the big earthquake could devastate California, causing millions of deaths. Who knows?
What we do know is that as we grow richer and wiser, we will be better equipped with the resources and the brainpower to deal with catastrophes than any previous generation since the dawning of time.
Our responsibility as parents, teachers, clergy and lawmakers is to teach the children how to solve problems effectively, not to preach the end of the world.
America’s millennials will inherit from my generation some $100 trillion of wealth — a bigger treasure chest of knowledge and resources than all of the other generations that have gone before, combined. How about some gratitude?
If the planet continues to warm and the oceans rise, you have the creativity, brainpower and the tool chest to figure out the solution. I don’t know what that will be, but I do know that the solution isn’t moving us backward in time to the pre-industrial and pre-energy age — when life was pretty rotten.
I’m an optimist and a realist. This next generation will figure it out. They will save the planet from extinction. And the really good news is there is a lot more than eight-and-a-half years to come up with the right solutions.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times