Las Vegas Sun

July 22, 2019

Currently: 92° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Don’t just pass the baton to the next generation; run the race with them

We’re told that up to a million species of animals will die within the next few years due to deforestation, overfishing, development and other human activities, yet we don’t drastically alter our diets or our consumer behavior.

We’re told that we must significantly curb global warming within 10 years or face the onset of irreversible damage and human suffering — unprecedented famine, drought, flooding, wildfires, etc. — yet we continue to rely mostly on gasoline-burning vehicles for transportation and generate much of our electrical power from fossil fuels.

We’re told that plastic is filling the oceans and infecting the food chain top to bottom, yet we continue to produce and throw away hundreds of millions of tons of it per year.

With all of this, we’re not just hurting the planet.

We’re asking our children and grandchildren to die for our convenience.

This isn’t conjecture. It’s not hyperbole. It’s stone-cold fact.

Climate change, pollution and other ecological crises are already creating catastrophic problems — massive storms, coastal flooding that threatens to displace millions of people, the kind of marathon droughts we’ve experienced here in the Southwest, and many more. And it’s spiraling downward ever more quickly.

Recent examples include an acute water shortage that has gripped Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city at 9 million residents. The situation is so dire that many residents are already moving to other parts of the city to tap into the dwindling water supply, and the next step would be moving away. Meanwhile, experts say that urbanization and increased population in Chennai and other regional cities will only make things worse.

“This year it is Chennai,” said Samrat Basak, a water expert at the World Resources Institute in India, to The Washington Post. But “Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi are all facing similar water scarcity,” he said.

Those four cities are home to about 60 million people among them, so the mind reels over the potential consequences of water shortages there. It’s roughly the equivalent of the populations of the five largest U.S. cities — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston — being without adequate water.

This is the fate to which we’re consigning future generations.

In the name of our convenience, we’re signing their death warrants by leaving them an uninhabitable planet.

This is a shocking development in America. One of the hallmarks of our society — indeed Western civilization — is that we have always strived to make life better for the coming generations.

Think of the baby boomers, whose parents fought world wars to secure a bright future for them. But that post-war generation currently appears unwilling to make meaningful sacrifices to ensure its children and grandchildren live in a better, healthier world that can feed itself and doesn’t face the destabilizing effects of climate change.

Not surprisingly, the younger generations have recognized the urgency of the problem and are acting accordingly.

The generational divide shows in our politics, where younger leaders are advocating for sweeping policy changes to reduce carbon emissions, ramp up development of renewable energy and otherwise rein in human activities that are destroying the environment.

Bravo to them. They have many more decades to live in a ruined world, so it’s to their credit that they’re striving to do the cleanup work that other generations have abdicated.

What these young politicians are proposing won’t be easy or cheap to accomplish. But it’s what must be done to preserve the health, safety and well-being of future generations. And if done right, going green could bring a wave of growth and prosperity — a new industrial revolution that will replace outdated infrastructure and systems with modern, clean technology.

Republican leaders should follow the lead of their young Democratic Party counterparts, since they and their offspring will suffer the exact same consequences of water scarcity, bad air and so forth.

Yes, this is a sacrifice for older generations. But from the Revolutionary War era to the Greatest Generation, Americans have made much more difficult sacrifices to create a better life for those who came after them.

Now, it’s time for today’s older generations to follow their lead.