Young people are scared for the future.
And, I (a man of 50) can totally relate.
The climate crisis is top of mind for members of GenZ, offering a sometimes dreary and even terrifying image of the future. In a world of rising seas, increased temperatures, eco-migrations, and the destruction of millions of more species, who wouldn’t feel scared?
When I was a kid, my biggest fear was World War III. Don’t laugh. There’s a comparison here, even if it’s loosely. I was a child of the late seventies and eighties, the latter part of the Cold War when the big bad Soviet Union was a thing, and we thought one day someone on either side would launch the nuclear arsenal at the other, thus ending the world.
Fears of a nuclear holocaust were real. It was in our movies and pop culture, from War Games, When the Wind Blows, and of course, this movie.
Collectively we were frightened by the thought that one of those bombs would incinerate our city and turn us into instant ash. Seriously, it scared the hell out of us. And strange that lately, with Russia attacking Ukraine, we’re once again talking nuclear war.
Today, young people are envisioning a terrifying future. I’m amazed there aren’t more movies that translate that fear. And no, I’m not counting The Day After Tomorrow. As our friends across the pond like to say, that was shite!
For the record, I don’t believe that fear of a future shaped by climate change will be anywhere near as bad as a nuclear holocaust. For one, we’re not going to eliminate all of life. Yes, we will eliminate many species and destroy many natural habitats that will never be replaced. But, as for us humans, we’ll still be around. The world will seem very different, and in some cases, not for the better.
The climate crisis will bring on very different destruction.
You don’t have to picture it. Look at what’s happening around the world. Rising temperatures, growing heat waves across the U.S., China, and Europe, expanding droughts, more flooding, and more intense wildfire seasons.
All of these things may continue and likely intensify. And we haven’t even discussed rising oceans that will force millions worldwide to migrate to dry land. That will cause political, economic, and social strife and possibly wars.
That’s the basis of a new project I’m working on, a podcast and novel about the future and how the climate crisis will impact the lives of future generations. It’s called Planet Earth 2072.
The novel is a collection of twelve stories. Six occur in Miami, and the other six happen in Las Vegas. Though they’re separate stories, all of them are connected and occur during the first week of August 2072.
The podcast is not fiction, or in this case, science fiction. It’s a collection of conversations with GenZers and their feelings about their future. We also talked to scientists, engineers, and politicians trying to do something about that future.
The validity of climate change is – sadly – still debated, though I believe it is changing slowly. Deniers are running out of excuses, and the evidence of a heating planet is hard to call a hoax. Also, the climate crisis is not a problem for the future; it’s something we’ve been living with for quite some time.
For some of you, if you’ve lived for at least forty years or more, there will be dramatic changes in temperatures. Here’s a fascinating and frightening scale. If you want to see how much things have changed, check out my hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, fifty years ago, and see just how much the planet is warming. Punch in your hometown and the year of your birth.
I feel for the younger generation, and I understand their fears. The future appears grim.
As a planet, we found a way to stave off, for the most part, nuclear annihilation. People from all sides, Democrats, Republicans, independents, and even anarchists, understood the dangers, and they all came together to end the Cold War.
So here we find ourselves wondering, is the climate crisis something that will rally us together in this fight? Because this time, it will take more than two superpowers to sit down and hash it out. We must convince the largest countries and the wealthiest corporations to change their ways and put the planet ahead of profit.
Can it be done? Sure. Will we, though?
Catch the first episode of Planet Earth 2072, along with the first story from the novel, out August 15th.