Written by guest blogger Uli Nagel
Looking into the Heart of the Next Generation
Last Saturday I went to a gathering in Northampton entitled “Climate Change Action in a Time of Crisis.”
As we wait to learn whether the new administration in Washington will do anything to help steer us towards a clean energy and stable climate future, more and more people are becoming engaged. The climate, unlike some other issues, does not allow us to wait out four years. It is really that urgent.
The church, in which the meeting was held, was filled. About 600 people were there. In fact, the organizers of any event I have attended since the election have said that the numbers of volunteers and participants have doubled or tripled from their previous size. Many are waking up to urgency, it seems, and in some ways we have our new president to thank for that.
As I sat and listened to a physicist explain the meaning of exponential curves and ‘tipping points’ and run-away climate change, I found myself wiggling and twitching in my seat. My stomach was in a knot. The facts are overwhelming and they are very very scary.
Then, the next day, I was on the phone with a young rap artist cum climate activist called Xiuhtezcatl (“Shu-tes-cat”) He has fought fracking,, fought for clean water and a sustainable climate since he was six years old. Not long ago, he and a group of children began the process of taking the federal government to court for not protecting their rights to freedom, happiness and a live-able future. We should hear more about this landmark suit in the news this coming year.
Speaking to this young man, a kind of activist protégé, who is so serious and who takes so much responsibility for his generation, I was struck by his sadness. It was the first time that I felt for real that his generation might not be able to live a life we have come to take for granted. For him it is not certain that he will have time to develop his gifts as an artist, that he will have children who can look into a safe future, that he will know the kind of stability and predictability our food system, our economy, our whole society is based on.
We often speak about caring for future generations. I don’t have children and even though some of my friends do, the thought of looking into the future in this way was just that – a thought, an intellectual understanding, but nothing more. I had often wondered about that. Only in talking to Xiuhtezcatl did I make the emotional connection. At 16 or 17 years of age he is educated – has educated himself – and he is aware of the urgency of the climate crisis to a degree relatively few adults are. He is fearlessly looking at reality and he is using his music and all his other talents to motivate young people to become active. Always speaking of hope and strength, he is refusing to capitulate or avoid the truth. Over the past few years, he has spoken at the UN, received a presidential award and appeared on many television shows.
Someone like him gives me hope for the future and makes me want to work harder to make sure he and his fellow children do have one.
Here is a link to him performing: