When I was a child we lived in the country, and I played in the woods behind my house. I’d walk back through the pine trees down to a creek where I had a lot of time to think about my future. It was a future full of optimism and possibility. I dreamed of the life I would have someday.
My parents sacrificed to make that life possible. Daddy worked in the shipyard for 17 years until his union went on strike and the company broke the union. Then he took night classes in welding, worked at a pulp mill and eventually worked in a chemical plant until the day he suffered a stroke and collapsed on the plant floor. Mama worked as a bank teller, a typist, and eventually in a nuclear power plant. They made it possible for me to come to MIT and get a great education.
Their parents did even more. They grew up during the Great Depression. My grandfather was finishing a Chemistry degree at William and Mary, when he had to drop out and go to work to support his new family. Their generation conquered the Great Depression, defeated the Nazis, and launched an era of growth and prosperity that enabled my parents to instill in me values of responsibility and a belief that anything was possible if we just worked hard enough.
Now, I am a father. My wife and I have a good life with our kids in a town with great schools. We believed that we would be giving our kids the opportunity for an even better future.
But are we? We can go for a hike in Lowell Woods or Wilson Mountain and admire the natural beauty around us, but we cannot ignore the unsustainable future we are leaving our children. They will have access to college, but what jobs will they have? What will they do for their children? Increasingly, I see a future of an uninhabitable earth, rife with conflict over resources and defined by the constraints of global warming. We’ve heard the warnings for years and nothing seemed to matter.
But then I saw hundreds of young people going door to door on Capitol Hill…not looking for a job like I did many years ago, but demanding action to save their future. I saw a 15-year old girl stand up in Stockholm and expose the futility of inaction. And suddenly I saw people starting to listen.
It’s not enough to follow the patterns of our parents.
It’s time to look up from our daily work and realize that if we fail to act today, all our sacrifice is for nothing, because the world we leave our children cannot support them.
It’s time to listen to the hopes and fears of our young people and ask ourselves: what we are we doing to protect their future?
It’s time to demand action from our leaders to fix what is broken.
It’s time to take action ourselves and save the future for our children.