When I was a Boy Scout and we went camping it was drummed into us that we should leave the campsite cleaner than we found it.
I’m a Boomer and some day I’ll write an ode to what we accomplished during our watch. But not today.
However, it seems clear that we will leave the world a cleaner place than we found it–the rivers don’t burn nowadays at least, and many other indicators of planetary ecology are on the upswing.
So should we turn our thoughts to the world our grandchildren will inherit? Specifically should we do everything in our power to mitigate the climate change to which we are contributing?
I think not. Only 2 of 7 people on this planet today are living a modern lifestyle, and a modern lifestyle, imperfect as it is, is what the other 5 are looking for. There are still too many who starve, who die of disease, who die of pollution in poorer countries that we in the richer ones have gotten rid of.
I believe we should orient the bulk of our efforts towards current problems. I’m not saying ignore climate change–I think we need to spend time and money on both mitigation and adaptation–but we need to have a clearer perspective on what we can and should do.
The developing world needs our help cleaning their part of the campsite. They also need our help ridding themselves of the poverty and disease that afflict so many. They need our help developing energy sources that fit their needs–clean and green when we can get it to them, but any sort if we can’t.
My mantra of the month is that future generations cannot help today’s poor. I thought I’d explain it here. Climate change is not a political issue and only tangentially an economic one. What it truly is is a moral dilemma. Do we save who we can today or focus on the future?
Yes, the climate is changing and it will pose a problem. But my hope for the future is that we turn over a world where the other 5/7th have achieved a middle class income and the comforts that go with it. I am convinced that having done so they will adopt the same middle class fear of pollution and the same love for a cleaner environment that is evident in the developed part of the world.
Our children will have more resources–more wealth, more power, more and better technology. They will also have a better understanding of the climate and what we are doing to it.
Our task is clear–we can’t do everything but we must do something. We should focus on the 5 billion who need our help today.