Will We/Won't We?

In looking at the side-by-side model projections of where the planet could go on low vs. high emissions scenarios in the recent IPCC report, I'm reminded of an expression from a young artist conveying a similar dichotomous view of the world.

Image courtesy of Susie Strife

Image courtesy of Susie Strife

The above image was collected as part of a PhD thesis by Susie Strife at the University of Colorado a few years back—The Concrete Jungle: Environmental Awareness and Experiences of Nature Among Urban Children. (I wrote about this in a previous blog when I was at CU Boulder.)

Interested in how 10-12 year olds in inner-city and suburban Denver related to and accessed nature, Strife found sadness and fear of the future were common themes among both groups.

Inner-city children in general thought of nature as everything outside and they had access to it directly in their local parks and neighborhoods, although sometimes they or their parents were afraid to venture out into the neighborhood, sometimes for good reasons.

For the suburban kids, nature tended to be something more distant—the mountains (which many inner-city kids had never been to even though they could see them) where the family had a second home, or the Galapagos where the family vacationed.

The fear factor came in part from what they learned about the environment in school, but more from movies and video games, which thrive on post-apocalyptic scenarios of a planet destroyed by human-induced catastrophe.

The recent IPCC report is yet another opportunity to question not the nuances of the science, but rather the implications of it, particularly in terms of the intergenerational practical and ethical issues.

As the artwork implies, there's an inherent question of whether or not we will do what it takes to prepare and protect ourselves, and especially young people, from the changes underway.

Short Bio

Mark McCaffrey is a former Programs and Policy Director at NCSE.

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