December for the long-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference. Will the governments of the world finally pass a binding global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming … or will they fail?
Letters to the Future, a national project involving more than 40 alternative weeklies across the United States, set out to find authors, artists, scientists and others willing to draft letters to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks—and the future that followed.
Some participants were optimistic about what is to come; others, not so much.
Dear friends in the future: I wish I could tell you that, as the world’s top scientists rang the alarm increasingly over the past 15 years about our overheating planet, U.S. leaders, corporations and activists rose above differences, profits and power to develop an inspiring, cooperative effort to avert runaway climate catastrophe.
Sadly, we aren’t there yet, though the activists are gaining ground. Surreal as it seems, it’s not clear that the American public will face reality by getting organized enough to demand that corporate polluters help slow this planetary emergency. I wish I could tell you that as bizarre weather came to dominate world news in recent years, devastating wildlife and millions of people, and as citizens of most nations demanded real changes, lots of Americans finally got in the game. I appreciate those who are deeply committed, but all of the climate-justice groups need more help.
Maybe it’s finally starting to happen. It needs to happen faster.
In the summer of 2015, leading experts warned that oceans could rise 10 feet within 50 years unless we began reducing global carbon emissions immediately. Climate protection groups are now redoubling efforts to demand that corporate laggards embrace—or yield to—the renewable-energy technologies that are currently cheaper than coal, nuclear and fracking-gas fuels.
I’m part of a growing alliance calling for the state’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, to assert his constitutional authority over Duke Energy and require that its executives help slow global warming instead of making it worse by expanding the burning of fossil fuels while blocking clean-energy competition. Duke is the largest utility polluter in the U.S. Requiring it to decarbonize can create a positive moment toward slowing climate disruption, despite the lateness of the hour.
It’s heartening to be allied with courageous African-American faith and social justice leaders in this effort. We’re trying to convince other civic leaders that the climate struggle is about more than saving energy at home or church. We must assert public sovereignty over corporate polluters and government officials. This Emergency Climate Response campaign is challenging Duke’s recent commitment toward a fracking-gas future—filled with methane leakage from wells, pipelines and unneeded power plants.
I hope I can soon say that as the tipping point toward the collapse of humanity looms ever closer, our society is finally wise enough to balance the immense time and energy we pour into toys and entertainment with the need for active civic engagement.
As the climate-change asteroid charges toward Earth, we’re imploring our neighbors to realize that feeling concerned is not enough, and that taking action is empowering.
I deeply hope we won’t have left a chaotic planet for you.
Warren is the executive director of NC Warn, a nonprofit focused on shifting North Carolina to a clean-energy economy.