February 02, 2007

Letter to My Great-Grandson, 2057

When I was a young man, I loved to hike. I did a lot of hiking in the Sierra Nevada. Do you know there were still glaciers among the peaks then? They weren't very big, but they were there, above 10,000 feet. It could snow up there any month of the year. It even snowed on me once in August, when I was camping beside a lake on a backpacking trip! As you know, Sierra Nevada means "snowy range," and it once was. Many years, it took all summer for the heavy winter snowpack to melt.

This Sierra snow allowed California's great Central Valley to be the most productive agricultural region in the world. I'm sure you've heard about that, or have at least read about it in your history books. As the snow melted, it fed the streams and rivers and canals that irrigated the land, allowing crops to grow during our long, dry summers. I wish you could have seen how beautiful the land was back then, before the snows stopped coming. Now all we get are torrents of muddy water in winter that dry up completely in summer.

Some of that land that was farmed isn't even there now. There used to be thousands of acres of land between Sacramento, Stockton, and San Francisco, where now there is only the Great Bay. The rivers that passed through that region provided over half of California's water supply. It's all ocean water now, not fit for drinking.

Perhaps your father remembers going to waterparks and community swimming pools. Perhaps your mother or grandmother remembers when every house had a green lawn, watered by sprinklers. I'm sorry that such things are for you nothing but stories told by old-timers like me. Can you even imagine a time when there was enough water in California for such luxuries?

I know that my generation is to blame. We bought big cars to satisfy our egos, not caring how they affected the environment. We burned incandescent light bulbs, and left them on even when we weren't using them. In summer, we left the air onditioner on even when it wasn't that hot, and in winter we turned the thermostat up rather than wear a sweater.

I know you can't even imagine a world like the one I describe. Unfortunately, back at the beginning of the 21st century, many couldn't even imagine a world like the one we now live in. Some—including our nation's leaders—refused to believe that such a world would ever exist, or that we could be responsible for causing it.

Now, of course, we know better. Because it's getting harder and harder to defend Sacramento against rising sea levels, there's talk in government of officially declaring Sacramento an "inhospitable place," just like they did to New Orleans back in 2032. Like New Orleans now, Sacramento may one day be but a memory.

I pray that your generation takes better care of God's creation than mine did. I hope it's not too late.

NPR report on climate change

An Inconvenient Truth

1 comment:

jo(e) said...

A sad story ....