Young voices must echo throughout Glasgow climate meeting


While serving as a young Marine during the Vietnam War, I would find myself jolted from sleep — bolting for the nearest hole in the ground or bunker, rifle in hand. The warnings were obvious — the dreaded whistle of incoming rockets overhead and the screams of “incoming” from fellow Marines. The rockets struck with a wallop and shot lethal shards in all directions. About 5,000 U.S. soldiers — 8.4 percentdied from incoming artillery or rocket fire in Vietnam. The enemy, now our friends, incurred untold casualties. It was not a hoax, we did not debate it, we did not ignore it. It was incredibly real.

Today — 50 years later — I see clearly another real threat bearing down on us: a rapidly changing climate and the need to scream a warning. The recent IPCC report lays out the cruel truth: Humans are unequivocally the cause; the scale of change is unprecedented; weather and climate extremes are occurring everywhere; many of the changes are irreversible, and it’s going to mess — big time — with our future.

But especially the future of our youth — our children and grandchildren.

They hear the whistle of incoming; they feel it, and they are starting to scream. Their voices must echo, must thunder, throughout the upcoming COP26 global climate change meetings in Glasgow, Scotland. I am honored to be there with them.

Globally, nearly 75 percent of 16-25 years old describe the future as “frightening,” and 40 percent are hesitant to have children of their own. Eco-anxiety, a “chronic fear of environmental doom,” among the young is on the rise. Children born in 2020 will face two to seven times more extreme events, especially heat waves, than those born in 1960. The American Psychiatric Association now considers climate change a threat to mental health. How are you feeling about it?

Despite the overwhelming evidence, many still won’t listen, including 139 Republicans in Congress and many elected officials at state and local levels. Among Republican adults in the U.S., over two-thirds contend that climate change is “not an emergency.” This despite all of the evidence and the recent report that over 99 percent of scientists concur that climate change is caused by humans. They will have to face their children when everyone is overwhelmed by the evidence.

For the thousands of us who trust the science and believe the facts, it’s time to confront climate change with all the energy and grit we can muster.

It’s time to get involved, raise your voice, for the future of our youth, our children. I shudder when I think about what lies ahead for my daughters and son-in-law — all in their 30’s. A year ago, one of my daughters described her future as “hopeless.” Now she has a glimmer of hope but still has doubts like many others around the world who blame government inaction for not making progress on climate change.

I hope that — with U.S. leadership — we can start to make progress. President Biden’s climate agenda has the support of Americans, including 94 percent of liberal Democrats, 80 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats and 45 percent of liberal or moderate Republicans. They want to see global warming as a high or very high priority for Congress and the president. His will be a critical voice at COP26.

What can we do? Greta Thunberg is pushing for “massive public pressure” on governments, and she’s right to do so. Reach out to your elected officials who are supporting Biden’s climate change agenda and thank them. For those not supporting his agenda, ask them about the future of their children. Everyone must get engaged at the local, state, and national level. Make sure those who believe in climate change maintain control of Congress. Vote! Give your time, your money, your passion to the future of our young.

If you start to waver, whisper the name of your child, your grandchild, or someone younger than you that you care about deeply. Do this every time you think, read, smell, or hear about climate change. This is likely the last chance we have to save the future for our children. I hope that their voices are heeded at COP26. I’ll be there to cheer them on.

As a 20 something, I was driven to the airport by my parents to start my journey to the Vietnam War, a year with nearly 12,000 casualties, many of them Marines. Years later, my mother told me it was the longest drive or her life. Our youth, our children are now also on a dangerous journey. Their future is at stake. Listen to their voices and enlist in this battle.

NOTE: This post has been revised from the original to specify the number of U.S. soldiers killed by artillery or rocket fire in Vietnam.

Mike Hoffmann is professor emeritus at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a faculty fellow with the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. He is lead author of “Our changing menu: Climate change and the foods we love and need.” He has done a TEDx, “Climate Change: It’s time to raise our voices” and teaches an eCornell climate change leadership course

Tags children Climate change COP26 Environment Glasgow Global environmental issues Greta Thunberg Joe Biden Scotland United Nations Climate Change Conference

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