Vail Daily column: Sorry for our mistakes
February 16, 2017
To the children of the Vail Valley:
I want to apologize, children, for the terrible way that we — your parents and grandparents — are leaving this world for you. There really isn't a good excuse for our mistakes — we've known all along the terrible errors and misjudgments we've made. There are certainly plenty of reasons we've screwed up — but mostly it's been ignorance, selfishness and a lack of compassion.
Perhaps our worst crime is the manner in which some of us have ignored the disastrous way we've shepherded our planet's health. It's as if we feel we've inherited the Earth for our exploitative use, rather than passing it along in good condition to our children. We've driven countless animals to extinction, and even now as you read this fully one-quarter of the remainder of our mammals and more than one-third of our amphibians are on the endangered species lists. These lists will certainly continue to expand, and many creatures already on them will entirely disappear before you reach my age. It's our fault that you will never, ever be able to see them again. We've also destroyed 50 percent of the Earth's forests, wetlands and grasslands. You are so welcome! No need to thank us at all.
At this point most of us have finally joined the overwhelming consensus of the planet's scientists in understanding that we humans have been driving up the earth's temperature. Every year brings a new record average temperature, which in turn acidifies the oceans, destroying the coral reefs and sea life. We've overfished most of the seas to the point that more than half of the seafood we eat has to be farmed-raised. The rising temperatures are also melting the ice caps and tundra, so that by the time you're my age the polar ice cap will be gone and large parts of the world's coastal cities that we're presently familiar with will be underwater. Polar bears, and hundreds of other animals, will be relegated to zoos and cartoon depictions. Some of the Earth's important bread-baskets will become dust bowls.
Some of your parents are inaccurately saying that Muslims and immigrants make the country unsafe, but the facts show that your real enemy is your firearm-armed neighbor. These Americans will kill more than 11,000 of us each year. Indeed, just you children will kill more of us each year than terrorists will, and it's not even close. I apologize to you that we've elected Republicans such as Rep. Scott Tipton, Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump, who all agree the right thing to do in these dangerous times is to repeal the law that kept the mentally handicapped from legally obtaining firearms.
It's very hard to figure out who's the most crazy these days.
Some of your parents — the very ignorant and dangerous ones — will tell you that we're safer by having more guns. They won't tell you that we have many more guns per capita than any other country on earth, but also have a 20-25 times greater chance of being killed by a gun than in any other western country. People who love guns would rather have you die in another classroom or campus massacre at the point of gun — in the hands of mentally impaired person no less — than restrict the gun trade. I can't imagine they are really evil, these gun fanatics. I suspect they are merely ignorant.
Sadly, more than 19,000 of you — American children — will contract cancer this year, and about 2,000 of you will die from it. Yet, the leaders we as parents elected want to spend untold billions of dollars to build a wall to keep out immigrants — the overwhelming majority of whom are merely seeking a better life — rather than spend it on the research and treatment of cancer. As a physician I particularly apologize for that.
But there is hope, children. You can change things. First, get up to speed on these events. You are able to navigate the internet much better than we, your parents. Don't take my word for anything here — or even your parent's word. But rather use this powerful internet to educate yourselves. Avoid politically oriented sites and go right the original sources. If you're researching climate change, then start with NASA and the Earth Science centers, and then go from there. Understand the peer-review process. If you're researching gun violence, then check out the AMA and read as many of the scholarly papers as you can. Never stop reading and educating yourself on these topics because no one has been looking out for you. Certainly not us.
Lastly, after you're up to speed on these things — go vote! Your lives may depend upon it.
Scott Glasser lives in Edwards.