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Earth Day and climate change: We should heed scientists’, children’s urgent appeals

Suppose a huge asteroid, some kilometers in diameter, were headed toward planet Earth. Landing in an ocean, it would spawn enormous tsunami shock-waves that could destroy coastal-area developments around much of the world.
Should it smash into a land area, continents could be devastated by ash and particles heaved into the atmosphere, drastically changing the weather and disrupting plants’ ability to produce food for the living things higher up in the life chain.
Should NASA discover such an object on collision course with the earth a global mobilization to fight off the danger, with all available means, would immediately occur. Once before, after all, a meteor’s impacts killed off the dominant land species, the dinosaurs then as humans are now, and most other life forms on the planet.
Unhappily, climate change isn’t in the form of such an object nor effective mobilization against it so readily accomplished. The world’s people quarrel about collective and individual culpability and responsibility, hoping that our lives of comfort, and “business as usual” can continue without the change actions which the climate science seems to demand.
Yet Americans can look back to an effective mobilization of this kind. By the millions, citizens gathered in the United States on the first Earth Day, forty years ago, to protest then rampant environmental pollution. They sparked the changes in awareness and industrial practices that would become enacted in landmark national environmental laws. Then as now, with most at stake in a healthful future environment, the young had least legal “standing” to assure it. Yet as Senator Gaylord Nelson, initiator of Earth Day noted, they made their voices heard, eloquently, poignantly, insistently. Grade school children and high school students from across the nation were sending a stream of letters to him, pleading that “our tomorrow” not be destroyed through the way people live today.
One child, appealing to generational fairness directly wrote that, “This is serious stuff, you won’t have to live in the air pollution, we will.” A boy worried that the wolves he loved would no longer be around “when I grow up, unless we do something.” Another explained his letter to Nelson in terms of “my own senator won’t write back [and] I hope you will try to do something.” A girl affirmed her personal commitment to action: “If there is anything I could do I would be happy to do it. I hope me and you can work out some way to stop pollution.” Awareness of urgency, greatly more relevant in the climate crisis today, pervades the handwritten letters. As “your friend Bryan” phrased it: “You know about the danger the earth is in. I hope you can explain to people to stop pollution. You know and I know that there is not much time left.”
For future children, the meteoric rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could spawn the catastrophic consequences we can foresee but have failed to act against. Earth Day is a good time to heed scientists’ and the children’s urgent appeal.