‘Last generation not to feel dread of climate chaos’

Source: Greennews.ie

March 16th, 2019

When
you grow up in a city like New York, there’s a sense of novelty around nature.

The
sidewalks that sprawl from the epicenter of your home feel infinite, bar the
weeds that push through their cracks and sporadic parks.

Weekend
trips beyond urban borders are the early childhood equivalent to a David
Attenborough documentary.

And
if you grow up without a household pet, rats and pigeons are the closest
wildlife encounters you’ll ever have.

This,
for me, was never enough.

I
relished weekend excursions out of Manhattan as a child. I felt the crunch of
autumn leaves on forest paths. I caught lightning bugs in jars as adults mused
over after-dinner drinks.

I
found the relative outdoor silence a bit unsettling but tried to welcome it.
 

I
became a semi-regular devotee at the Museum of Natural History and was lucky
enough to attend the opening of its Marine Hall where I found a troop of kids
who darted from display-to-display, marveling at trinkets and beasts of the
sea. The adults were huddled around high tables topped with nibbles and dips.

We
seem to have a fascination with nature as a child that dulls as we age.
Starfish in a shallow pool becomes something to raise your eyebrows at in
slight disbelief, rather than rush to hold in your own small palms. Other
things take precedence. We find the wildness in each other, instead of what’s
around us.

“It is no longer climate change. It’s climate changed. It’s disproportionate. And it mostly affects those with very little involvement in its doing.”

Reporting
from the climate strike before Leinster House yesterday, surrounded by over
10,000 students, I thought back to the child and student I used to be not too
long ago.

How
fascinated she was with forests and the ocean. I knew she would be among the
masses protesting, but I did wonder what the placard in her hands would say.

And
as I closed my laptop after filing my news piece, something else occurred to
me. I was among the last generation of children that didn’t feel the dread that
these students now feel.

Climate
change was something mentioned in passing in geography class, and we all tried
to recycle. But climate chaos was a future that felt hundreds of years down the
line – one that I would never know, one that only lived in apocalyptic films.

Little
did I know that such dystopia already existed for many while I was letting
those lightning bugs back into the indigo summer evening.

Droughts,
heat waves, rising sea level – it is no longer climate change. It’s climate
changed. It’s disproportionate. And it mostly affects those with very little
involvement in its doing.

These children are now afraid of what nature, or rather what nature’s response to our behaviour, will look like.

I
spoke to a mother recently who told me how about the lengths she goes to ensure
her small children fall in love with nature, by spinning myths and legends
about the nearby forest.

She
dreads the day they realize its fallibility and how its undoing ultimately
comes down to our action – and to our inaction.

Yesterday,
I imagined the moment these chanting students realized this. Were they told
about what might come to be over the kitchen table?

Was
it through a slow-drip of information, pieced together through snippets? Have
any of them seen the consequences with their own eyes and resigned themselves
to tell about it?

I
don’t know. But I do know that a furl of innocence was stolen from them at an
age where I still reveled in it.

As
I tried to get wide-angle shots of the congregating strike, a mother and two
children stood in front of me, taking in what was happening. I gingerly passed
by them to follow the crowd, but stopped when I saw the youngster’s sign.

“I don’t want to live on Mars.” 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.

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