The nonprofit DearTomorrow is organizing an online campaign encouraging people to write letters, hypothetically to be read in the year 2050, about their feelings about climate change and what they hope 2050 might look like for the person they intend to read the post. I love this concept, and invite CleanTechnica readers to write their own and send them to us. We will publish some of the best (with the author’s permission, of course). To get us started, I figured I’d do mine.
Dear loved ones in 2050: I hope this letter finds you
Just … finds you. That it might find you well sometimes seems too much to ask. But if it finds you, then you at least still exist. You still have the capability to research historical items, and the leisure time to read them. It maybe means that 2050 society has stability. Here in 2020, society seems to have a tenuous grasp on stability, and I admit, I’m scared.
2020 was a year: we sheltered in place for weeks, then months. COVID-19 stressed public health systems beyond the breaking point. Hundreds of thousands died alone, separated from loved ones by plexiglass barriers. At times, bodies were carted out to refrigerated trucks because morgues were just … full. COVID also had massive economic implications. People who don’t feel safe don’t tend to go out to eat, drink, and shop. Businesses affected had to tighten belts. This had its own social and health effects. Domestic violence, depression, physical health … so many indicators of a healthy society were in the red this year. It became a blur.
But that’s not what this letter is about. This letter is about climate disruption.
Because what it boils down to is that there’s always something that’s a higher priority. But it’s becoming clear we as a society need to make climate our number one priority … probably for the rest of my life, this will be our global reality.
COVID was a preview of a stress test for humanity. We didn’t exactly excel. Even in the face of a clear, present, and virtually universal danger (noting that COVID hit communities of color and the poor the hardest), special interests and differing cultures created an inertia that hampered an effective global response.
I fear that the mirror to climate disruption is obvious. It’s a clear, present, and virtually universal threat. And yet, special interests and differing cultural outlooks have been creating an inertia that hampers an effective global response for decades now.
I fear that it will simply become normal for hurricanes to make it through the English alphabet of hurricane names and start in on the Greek alphabet. I remember reading about Hurricane Iota (yes, Iota) when it wreaked havoc on Central America, right after Hurricane Eta (yep, Eta) had just devastated parts of the region. Growing up in south Florida, living through many hurricanes, I understand their fury. Or at least I used to. They’re stronger and bigger now, in addition to being more frequent. Similarly, floods, droughts, wildfires, record breaking high tides, disappearing ice, melting permafrost and more indicators that earth’s climate has dramatically changed and continues to get worse were all in clear sight this year.
Scientists have told us that much of the changing climate we’re experiencing is due to emissions from decades ago, and the long term buildup of atmospheric gases that contribute to it. So … it’s possible we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
2020 did see the defeat of a climate denialist US President, but the rhetoric of denial and the anti-science movement remain strong, and a truce from those who are funding the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) around climate science have yet to materialize. (See Merchants of Doubt, and Drilled, the podcast, for more info about how fossil money has been … and still is being … used to confuse people enough to delay action on climate change). Octogenarian Charles Koch, a founder of the climate denialist movement and one of its primary funders (and, not surprisingly, beneficiaries) has come out since the election to say … that he regrets all the politicking he did. The man is worth upwards of $50 billion. If he hadn’t spent 30 years funding climate denial and politicians who support fossil fuel subsidies, he might only be worth, what, $45 billion? So, in addition to fighting technological, cultural, and economic challenges, we’ve also had to fight Charles Koch, his late brother David, and the Koch donor network of right-wing billionaires, most of them from fossil/extractive industries, who’ve spent billions to convince people that our fight to save humanity was without merit.
I do feel a lot of hope, despite it all. The clean tech world had another good year. The cost and technical issues that slowed the clean tech revolution are a thing of the past, and it shows. The majority of new power brought online this year (as well as the last several) is from renewable sources. Solar, wind and storage are now simply cheaper and better than fossils. Coal plants continue to be shut down, often ahead of schedule. Oil consumption and prices plummeted this year, causing the whole oil and gas industry to scramble and realign. Goals that seemed lofty for states to reach milestones on their journey to 100% clean energy just a few years ago now seem more than attainable. Vanilla, even. EV’s have gone mainstream, and I expect an exponential rise in their popularity as people begin to understand they simply are better and cost much less than gas cars over their lives. Sidebar — I hope by 2050, you have to google (neuralink search?) what a “gas car” is. Homeowners invested in solar and gardens as if the apocalypse was coming. Resiliency became a rallying cry, alongside Black Lives Matter and “just wear the damn mask.” And as a foil to the Charles Kochs of the world, more billionaires and companies have come forward to join (and more importantly, fund) our fight to preserve our one and only planetary home.
I feel a mix of anxiety, hope, and curiosity as I write this in December of 2020. I am proud of the work we’ve done for a decade at CleanTechnica, a tool built specifically for the purpose of spreading optimism and pushing things forward in a positive direction. In addition, I am personally a very optimistic person by nature. But even I am forced to take a long hard look at whether any of the clean tech advances can save us, realistically, from a foreboding future of climate-driven chaos.
We only need to look at refugees around the world fleeing lands that no longer can sustain them in order to see a preview of a slowly unfolding crisis that, coupled with an increasingly nationalist/anti-immigrant stance, could turn into a tinder box that sparks widespread war and conflict. I’m glad that the Pentagon openly discussed this more than a decade ago, and I hope the US military acts on that intelligence and becomes one of the biggest weapons we have in this fight to save ourselves.
It’s time for action
The antidote to anxiety is action. Taking even one small step toward “better” helps me see that problems are fixable. Science is clear that if people believe we can solve a problem like climate change, they are more likely to do something to help. If they do not, then they will not. It’s a self-defense mechanism: if there’s nothing you can do, you can either fret it, or forget it. It’s easier on your health to forget/ignore.
So, I’m making some commitments, here, in writing, in 2020, that I believe will positively affect our future. I hope you’ll join me in committing to take action … and spreading hope.
I commit to spread solutions
The technology, people, politics, culture, and economics will change, but barring a miracle, the challenge of climate disruption will remain. Having a clear goal stemming from this clear and present danger gives me an opportunity to spend the next 30 years spreading the best solutions we know of.
I commit to countering fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)
FUD is what has ruled the public relations roost since big tobacco invented the playbook to convince people that smoking wasn’t bad for them, as scientists were sounding the alarm. Fossil funded FUD has slowed climate change solutions. I commit to educating people about it, so that its influence will wain, and hopefully, eventually disappear.
Part and parcel of this is to help the media tell a real narrative. CleanTechnica has provided this insight and analysis to larger news sites (Bloomberg, NPR, and the like) for a decade now. We are small and underfunded, and we have to counter the noise put forth by fossil funded deniers (Tucker Carlson, for instance, got a $3M check from a coal baron to start The Daily Caller, while we bootstrapped for 5 years, and to this day have yet to receive any money at all from the clean tech giant Tesla or climate hawk billionaires like Jeff Bezos or Tom Steyer). But the truth we speak is necessary, and we will continue to counter FUD as much as our limits allow. I humbly ask your help in spreading CleanTechnica articles as much as you can.
I commit to being less political … on one condition
As soon as the Republican Party acknowledges climate change is real, is man-made, and starts to make meaningful changes, I will become a lot less political. Of course I care about other things, but I want to spend all my energy in this life helping preserve life on this planet. Every hour I spent phone banking this year was an hour I couldn’t be doing energy efficiency audits or helping run CleanTechnica. Every dollar I donated to the Biden campaign could have been spent on local, organic food. Every argument I made countering right-wing QAnon conspiracy theories and shady YouTube rabbit holes could’ve been better spent educating people about how to save money while cutting their emissions.
Republicans — acknowledge science, end your association with and financial dependence on the fossil industries, and make some smart, climate-friendly policies (like ending fossil subsidies now), and I will no longer be your enemy. I know I’m not alone.
I commit to lead by example
25 years ago, Scott the eco-warrior mostly just criticized and chastised. Now, I prefer to lead by example, and have seen the power in it. I commit to powering my life with clean tech, to growing and eating local organic food, and living a great life in doing so, so that others will *want* to join me.
I commit to help change how we measure the economy
As long as we measure our economy on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it’s going to be a lot harder to course correct. GDP is the sum of all goods and services purchased, so a family spending a day enjoying good weather at the park is terrible for GDP, while a 62 car pileup on the freeway is great for GDP, what with all the health care expenses, fenders that need fixing, and new cars needing to be purchased. We need a new system. Other places have led the way on this, focusing more on peoples’ well being, and the health of communities and the ecosystems that support life. This is the commitment most outside my sphere of influence, but I imagine over the course of the next 30 years, I’ll have some opportunities to insert my influence somehow to change an outdated system that simply rewards consumption above all else.
I commit to being more inclusive
One thing that’s abundantly clear is that rich, white, educated people are not going to get far if they don’t think holistically about allies and opportunities to help those less fortunate to be part of the positive outcomes of climate solutions.
I commit to catalyze the clean economy
Others can work on making polluters pay for their pollution. I’m going to work on the other end of the spectrum – finding ways to reward companies that do good. They work on the stick, I’ll be working on the carrots, in other words. Anything we can do to bring the cost of sustainable products down will yield similar results as I mention above where EVs are now cheaper AND better than gas cars, or solar/wind/storage being cheaper AND better than dirty fossil energy. Whether it’s Fair Trade clothing or plastic free goods, if these companies get a little help, their prices come down, and adoption will go up. This will create a life spiral for creative innovators in sustainability, and a carrot for other companies to follow up that spiral.
Last, I commit to never give up
Here at CleanTechnica, we’ve unofficially adopted the slogan “A relentless force for good.” I’d like to make that my own personal mantra as well. With my actions and intentions, I will never give up, and I will always do my best. I want to be living a great life in 2050 birdwatching, hiking, and enjoying nature, knowing that I did the best I could, with the tools I had, to make wildlife and plants safe and get them past the threat of climate-caused extinction. I want to travel the world casually on fossil-free transportation, enjoying cultures and meeting people, people who are all safe from climate-disruption caused war. I find it helpful to keep these personal goals in mind, and to realize that they align perfectly with my goals to help others.
Interested in having your letter published on CleanTechnica? Submit your own letter to the future here.