Considering the future that may not exist

Last Wednesday, I opened Twitter to a video I can only describe as reaffirming — NASA climate scientist, Peter Kalmus, chained to the entrance of a J.P. Morgan Chase bank in Los Angeles as he pleaded with the public to heed warnings on the climate crisis.

“We’re not lying. We’re not exaggerating,” Kalmus says in the video as he struggles to hold back tears. “This is so bad, everyone, that we’re willing to take this risk and more and more scientists and more and more people are gonna start joining us.”

Smaran Ramidi / DFP Staff

Major news outlets failed to pick up the story, despite the fact that the LAPD sent dozens of riot officers to the scene. Kalmus and several other members of Scientist Rebellion — the organization responsible for the demonstration — were arrested and later released.

A NASA scientist and a Columbia and Harvard graduate — virtually ignored by the American media. I can’t say I’m surprised, especially considering the number of Black and Indigenous voices being silenced on this issue in the Western world. I am, however, continually shocked by the extent to which the voices of this movement are suppressed in a supposedly free-thinking society. We’re all told this country’s government and its banks and its shiny tech corporations have our best interests at heart, but I just know that isn’t true anymore. I lost faith a long time ago, and now we’re losing time itself.

The worst part is that we’ve known where we’re heading for decades and we just let marginalized communities bear the brunt of it — Line 3, Flint’s water crisis and Louisiana’s Cancer Alley are just some examples of our nation’s failure to commit to the health of its people. Only after years of grassroots efforts from these communities did the government address their demands, and even then, they’re still struggling to get beyond words of promise.

For these reasons, I share Kalmus’ fears for our future. If it takes this much energy for the most powerful nation on Earth to listen to its own people, how do we expect the whole world to come together and fight climate change in less than 11 years? How can we expect nations like China and Russia to prioritize the climate when their economies largely depend on non-renewables?

The more time I’ve had to think about it, the more impossible a good outcome appears.

So just like everyone else, I wake up each day and choose to pretend that everything is fine. I pretend it’s normal that smoke now blankets my hometown every summer. I pretend that it’s normal for there to be a regular drought season when I don’t remember one growing up. I pretend in the new normal because there’s frankly no other option. The only choice I feel we do have, at least on an individual scale, is whether or not to have faith in our slim chances.

As to how that faith translates into action? I have no idea where to start. I’m not even sure if I should be in college right now or learning how to live off-grid. All I know is that our generation’s been dealt these horrible cards, and we have no choice but to play the game, to get smart.

I’d say that educating yourself is the first step, then. Maybe call your local representatives and sign some petitions while you’re at it. I don’t know. Regardless of how you choose to put your hands on deck, just remember that we’re in a stage of mitigation, not problem-solving — the more we do for the planet now means a better quality of life for the generations ahead of us. I can only hope that moral legacy is enough.

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