The 100 Year Letter Project: Ross Gelbspan

We asked friends of DeSmogBlog to write a letter to their great, great grandchildren about their vision and hopes for their world in 100 years, in the context of global warming. Here’s what author Ross Gelbspan said:

Dear Barb or Barney:

As I write this, humanity is standing at a crosspoint between a more just and peaceful world and an increasingly chaotic, turbulent and authoritarian future.

By the time you read this, you could be living in a world in which cooperation has replaced competition and equality has eclipsed domination as the overarching ethic. Far more likely, you will be struggling to survive a desolate and long-lasting era of climate hell marked not only by a more combative, degraded and fractured society but also by a new era of totalitarianism that engulfs governments and stretches forward as far as the mind can imagine.

If that’s the case, I can’t think of a more severe and unforgiving test of the human spirit. If you’re looking for places to put the blame, there are many.

Personally, I would be less quick to blame the big oil and coal companies because they’ve been doing what they’re supposed to do – give us cheap and abundant sources of energy. (They did not intend to make sea levels rise and reverse the carbon cycle by 600,000 years.)

I would be more inclined, if one is in a blaming frame of mind, to blame the news media – especially in the United States – for not alerting us far earlier to the urgency and magnitude of the climate threat. Having been a journalist for 30 years, I find myself truly ashamed of my former profession.

The real truth, I think, is that no one should be blamed. Global warming came on us far more quickly than anyone – including the scientists – had thought possible. The issue didn’t even appear on the public radar screen until 1988 when a NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, warned Congress that global warming was at hand. Today, in 2007, a mere 19 years later, we are being told that we’re either at – or beyond – a point of no return in terms of staving off climate chaos. Historically speaking, that is the blink of an eye. We’ve all been absolutely blindsided by the escalating speed of climate change.

But I don’t think blaming is the best place to put your energy. I think you should put it into constructing new kinds of social arrangement in which we cooperate far more than we compete. You are now living with decentralized energy sources. By now you’re also probably living off locally grown food. And, with any luck, you and the people you live with are aware of how artificial the traditional notions of nationalism have become.

In my day, most of us took our identity from our countries of origin. Today, the economy – or what remains of it – has become truly globalized. The globalization of communications is a real miracle: anyone on the planet can communicate directly with anyone else around the world. And, as experience has shown, the global climate makes us all one.

So my hope is that you have been born into a world (or are helping create one) in which our similarities vastly outweigh our differences, one in which we recognize that what we share as a species is far more importance than the differences in our religions, languages and geographical traditions.

I have long thought that when nature and history collide, nature always wins – and history always has to pick itself off the ground and resume its journey all over again.

But that could be all wrong.

My fondest hope is that you are living in a very different world (even with fewer people, fewer species and more difficult conditions). I hope you are living in an age in which memories extend beyond individual lifetimes, in which history seems a promise rather than a nightmare and in which the greatest of all satisfactions comes from caring for other people.

With love,
Your Grandfather