I have two “kids” who are Millennials. So while I’m not a grandmother yet, given my age and that of my son and daughter, I could be. They’re enjoying being out of college and building their careers. Right now, having their own kids is about the farthest thing from their minds. But me? I’m already worried about the kind of life their children – my grandchildren – might have if we don’t get climate change under control.
The kids and I were talking about this the other day as we figured out when we were going to vote. We have early voting in our county, and can vote pretty easily for the next few days. Even though it’s exciting to be at the polls on the actual day of the election, casting my ballot as soon as possible reassures me that my choices will be counted. Early voting works well for my kids, too. Given their busy lives, it makes it easier for them to do their civic duty when the time is more convenient.
I’ve been carting my children to the polls with me since they were in elementary school, so they know elections need to be taken seriously. Now that they’re old enough to vote themselves, we always talk about the critical issues at stake during a particular election season. When they asked me why it’s so important this year, I told them that it has a lot to do with climate change. “As much as each of us does to reduce energy use and curb CO2 emissions, it’s still not enough,” I said. “We need meaningful public policies to bring greenhouse gases under control and transition to renewable energy. The only way to put those policies in place is through local, state, and national legislation. Every election gives us the chance to vote for legislators who will help pass laws to stop climate change.”
That makes sense to my kids, both of whom have grown up in the climate change era and experienced its effects first-hand. My daughter is terribly allergic to poison ivy, so learning that this noxious vine is becoming more toxic as the earth’s temperatures warm makes her shudder. Both children lived through Superstorm Sandy, an extreme weather event none of us wants to go through again. We’ve noticed a distinct decline in the population of “spring peepers,” the very small and adorable frogs that used to abound at our favorite national wildlife refuge on the mid-Atlantic shore. We almost never see them anymore; warming temperatures have been implicated in their disappearance.
But voting in this election is also about more than climate change. It’s about the legacy my generation is leaving to our offspring, and what they’ll be able to leave to theirs. I want my grandkids to have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. I want them to be able to play outside without their parents needing to worry that they’ll get allergies from excessive pollen or dengue fever from mosquitoes, both of which are madly proliferating in the hothouse our planet has become. I want them to be able to marvel at a bounty of birds and butterflies, trees and flowers. But evidence is mounting that climate change is not just forcing animals and plants to relocate to new habitats. It’s killing many of them off altogether. According to the National Audubon Society, climate change is the number 1 threat to North American birds. “We are fouling their nests,” says Moms Clean Air Force co-founder, Dominique Browning.
My generation is really racing against the clock at this point. We know we’ve only got a few years left to stem greenhouse gas emissions enough that they don’t wreak complete havoc on the planet.
The young adults I’ve raised are guardedly optimistic. They don’t accept that things will get “that bad.” Yes, they’re annoyed when they think of the mess we older folks have made of things. But they’ve got tremendous faith in technology, their own smarts, and their ability to learn from their elders’ mistakes. They believe, not just that they can make a difference, but that they will.
I really hope they’re right.
But I’m not taking any chances. I’m making sure we all vote in this election. The legacy I leave to my kids and theirs depends on it.