Thistlethwaite: In 2023, let’s fix the climate for our children’s and grandchildren’s future |

Thistlethwaite: In 2023, let’s fix the climate for our children’s and grandchildren’s future

We were blessed to have our whole family here over the holidays. While they were here, two of our granddaughters (aged 6) created a petition and got all the family members to sign.

The heading was “Help save endangered creatures,” and you were asked to print your name, sign and agree to help. Their furry toy animals looked on from a position around the paper.

It broke my heart.

Children worry about the future of the environment.

At the same time, I was reading a book by my friend and former colleague Dr. Larry Rasmussen. Larry has spent his life committed to social and ecological justice, both as a professor of ethics and as an activist. He has always refused the false dichotomy between social justice and planet justice.

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Larry’s book is “The Planet You Inherit: Letters to My Grandchildren When Uncertainty is a Sure Thing.”  The book made me think seriously that it is our job as parents and grandparents to do as much as we can in the time that we have to mitigate the increasing climate disruptions and destruction that are already underway.

As Larry writes to his two grandchildren, “climate instability, mass uncertainty and breathtaking extinction are already underway.” The zone of relative climate stability that has allowed human civilization to flourish is going away.

Just days ago, the United States was hit with a massive storm, a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis” “caused by a collision of cold, dry air from the north and warm, moist air from the south.” More than 200 million people were under some form of winter advisory or warning in “one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” the National Weather Service said.

For any skeptics still with me, climate change is abrupt and violent long-term changes in climate patterns due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels. Check out what the UN has to say on its Climate Action website.

We here in the Vail Valley actually escaped some of the worst of the recent, massive storm. I believe our beloved Rocky Mountains protected us as the frigid air poured down into the United States. One day, though, it was far too cold to take the kids to ski, so we took them to the Avon Recreation Center and a warm and fun time was had by all. As I sat there watching them play and then looked up at the snow blowing laterally outside the big windows, I thought what a metaphor this was for our climate denial. You think you can create artificial environments that will protect you. It won’t work long term.

One grandson was startled as we ran from the center to the car that his wet hair froze in those few seconds. (Of course, he didn’t put on his hat.)

There was far worse for many, many people. The winter storm death toll climbed to 65, and there will surely be more as areas dig out. People often froze in their cars just trying to get to the grocery store. It’s tragic.

And we must try to step it up to prevent worse storms to come.

Here are some things you can do now, and many are actions you can do with your kids or grandkids. Taking action reduces anxiety for both children and adults.

  1. Vote for candidates that take climate change seriously and have concrete plans to follow through. Tell your kids and grandkids whom you are voting for and why.
  2. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Get everyone involved.
  3. Educate the kids and grandkids and your community. Larry’s book has a lot of good information on what’s happening to the planet.
  4. Save animals through reputable organizations. Normally we give the kids gifts of support for animals at the holiday (this year we did give to Ukraine relief). Heifer International is a good choice.

5. Plant trees. One Tree Planted is a good choice. There is a good and free grade school program.

There are so many more ways you can help.

One thing Larry Rasmussen’s book has inspired me to do is write letters to my own grandchildren about what I am doing for the planet and why.

We’re running out of time. You know it. I know it.

Let’s act for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president emerita and professor emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.

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