When I was a kid, I asked my parents one day what they did to prevent Hitler. I received an irritating form of silence in exchange for an answer. Most children in Germany asked their parents or grandparents sooner or later, and only a very few received a convincing response, almost as if it was an unexpected surprise that this question would ever appear. It never disappeared again.
To keep quiet seemed for decades to be the only possible answer for a generation that had no words and was a victim as well as an offender in all possible shades of grey. Regardless of where your parents and grandparents are located on that color spectrum, the known outcome of that time is so horrible that the search for guilt and responsibility remains to this day.
With my mother turning 90 now, she is one of the last remaining witnesses and I enjoy the long, intense, and moving conversations we have about her childhood, a memory I see in grey and she in color. To suffer together with her through continuous memories of tears and horror gives her relief and is each time a reminder for me of how blessed my generation is not to have been forced to make decisions no one should ever be asked to make.
Most people turn defensive, search for reason, and try to explain why the decisions they made in the past and make today make sense, claiming there’s no choice. I will never forget one sentence in an interview of a concentration camp survivor who said: “you always have a choice, even in the darkest place and in the darkest moment.”
Climate change is not going to be over after 12 years like the Nazi dictatorship in Germany was. It will remain and get worse for generations to come. Your children and grandchildren will suffer most from the consequences and will ask you one day what you did to prevent climate change. Are you prepared to answer that question?
Your decisions today will determine your ability to answer with conviction. You have a choice.
What is your answer to the valid question of why you drove your polluting combustion engine vehicle so many years even though science proved that electric vehicles are by far the best option in this market? Do you believe the explanation that you didn’t have the money to buy a BEV but could afford a polluting diesel instead will convince your loved ones that you are still a good mom or dad or grandparent?
What is you answer when they say that other people at the time did choose an electric vehicle and drove with renewable energy — so why did you not? Will there be in the future any credible answer to that question at all?
Do you believe they will feel for you when you try to explain that the charging infrastructure was a challenge in those days and cars had low range and appeared somehow expensive?
How will it feel when you look in the eyes of kids you love and you see credibility and love they had for you before fade away silently while they listen to your attempt to find a working answer?
Every one of us is responsible, with a different shade of grey, and we are all without exception guilty and could have done and could do more, but that does not matter and it does not excuse you. What matters is the decision you make today and how you justify such decisions to yourself every morning.
The hardest judge of all is not even your child or grandchild in the future, but you, and your honesty today. Test yourself and look at this very moment into a mirror, deep into your own eyes, and say you did everything possible to reduce your carbon footprint today. If you dare to be honest with yourself, you will, as I experienced years ago, unlock an unexpected sequence of actions with your answer that will change your life and your environment for the better.
The reward of speaking out loud and naming the right thing to do is huge, and will make your life richer. Once you speak it, you pass the point of no return. You will not regret it and you don’t even have to compromise. Consider it as a deposit into a bank account you are making today that will give you love, happiness, and satisfaction in the future. It’s an investment in your own life that you get an uncounted profit for.
The love you will receive from your children today or your future children and grandchildren — for having done the right thing — is priceless.
Featured image: the Arctic Ocean after sea ice reached a minimum extent of 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers) on Sept. 15 — the second lowest extent since modern record-keeping began. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio