My father was part of the greatest generation and I wasd bone on the cusp of that generation and the baby boomers. They won WWII and set us on the road to recovery. We need another Greatest Generation, says Bob Marshall, To win the war against climate change and set up up on the road to recovery.
With his book “The Greatest Generation,” TV journalist Tom Brokaw bestowed a lasting coronation upon Americans born between the early 1900s and the mid-1920s. Who could argue? They weathered the hardships of the Great Depression, paid with their blood and lives winning the brutal war against fascism, then powered an era of record prosperity. But America is now in need of even greater heroics and sacrifice. What we need now is “The Next Greatest Generation.”nola.com
Climate change will do more damage than WWII but the record of my generation and the one that followed is not good. We have ignored the known problem.
Just as in 1920s and ’30s, today’s older generations have left their children a future filled with time bombs set to explode over the next few decades by the greatest enemy the world has ever faced — climate change. And older Americans have done little but watch the threat build and pass it on, or actively make it worse. But the challenges it presents are arguably the steepest and most complicated any generation has ever faced because they cannot be won by physical courage alone. Instead, victory in this war will require the new generation to reawaken some of the other qualities that previous greatest generation needed to win its war.
Their task is a big one as they need to make us all realize that winning this war will cost us. We don’t need Victory Gardens but there are other things we can do.
In a very short period, they must convince the nation it needs to be on a war footing, and accept the personal sacrifices that entails, because we face an existential threat to our way of life. They must then focus the nation’s technological and engineering skills to face unprecedented challenges. You know, just like that other generation did during World War II. If you think that’s hyperbole, consider just a few of the threats they must address, and soon. How will they protect the 87 million people (29% of the population) living in coastal communities as the seas rise at least 2-4 feet over the next few decades. This includes commercial and industrial centers like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Houston, Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Seattle. How and where will they move tens of millions of those people who will live in flood plains now impossible to protect due to more severe rainstorms, and wetter and larger hurricanes? Where will they find the money for that? How will they protect vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly from increasing killer heat waves?
Is this all? Not by a long shot.
How will they rebuild our power grid to connect to solar and wind fields, and to handle increased demands for cooling, and who will pay for that? Where will they find the money to move the tens of thousands of miles of highways and rail lines that will be submerged or weakened by rising seas? Where will they find the water to sustain western cities and agriculture areas dependent on water supplied by mountain snowpacks that no longer exist? Where — and how — will they feed the nation as traditional farm and ranching states become too hot and dry for adequate production? And that’s just scratching the surface.
The toughest part will be to convince my generation and others that this is a real threat and get us to buy into sacrifice.
Of course, they can’t even begin any of that unless they can achieve those first goals — convincing enough older Americans to accept the reality that climate change is an existential threat to our way of life, and that changes are imperative in this new hotter, wetter world. And they must be better than all previous generations in turning out to vote when they are young. Because meeting any of those challenges will take government policy and regulations, and that will only happen if they control the levers of political power. Can they be the Next Greatest Generation?
They have to change anger into action.
Right now, I know they are angry at what we are leaving them. I see it in their faces when speaking to college and high school groups. Some of them will follow their parents’ leads and decide to leave the jobs to someone else. But I also have met enough of them to know they are eager to accept the challenges. And it’s not totally for altruistic reasons. Because they know their future is not very bright unless they become the Next Greatest Generation.
We need to support and join them.