Dear Tomorrow

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Most of us who plan to leave a legacy for our children think in tangibles like money or land, heirlooms, family portraits and photographs, precious books and art. A woman named Christian Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, thinks about leaving her children a habitable planet.

Figueres spoke at a climate change conference in Iceland a couple of years ago and told her audience about a dream she had in which the children of the future asked her if she knew about climate change and if so what she did about it.

Another woman at the conference, Trisha Shrum, a student of behavioral and environmental economics, wrote a letter to her 10-month-old daughter on the plane ride home, telling her what she knew and felt about climate change and that she was committed to the work it was taking to make sure her little girl had a decent planet to live on.

With friend Jill Kubit, Shrum soon launched the Dear Tomorrow project, which is simple and heartfelt and costs nothing unless you feel inspired to donate to the organization. People address open letters, photos and videos about climate change to loved ones who will live in the future. The letter-writers are encouraged to share these missives with friends and family to open conversations about why acting on climate change now might be a good idea as well as just send them to the project. Dear Tomorrow is amassing the archive of these messages to preserve them for future generations, the plan being to release them publicly in 2030 and 2050.

The notes and videos are short and long, touching and serious; here are a few from the collection:

“I hope that you’ll know that the outcome of all of this work for a safe climate – whatever it is – was not inevitable. It was our choice. It was because of what we did.”

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“My dear granddaughter Christy,

“I’ll be 88 when this archive is first opened in 2030, and you may be a mother.

“Earth’s most powerful country has just been taken over by leaders in 2017 who have begun tipping all three branches of our government, repealing rights, regulations, restraints . . . . What will climate-science-denier oil men and racists do — or undo — in four years to the 250-year-old experiment we call democracy, and to our earth? Often, I think I don’t want to be around to see.

“Since I was a girl, nature has been my haven, my god. Earth’s wonders belong too to the children of tomorrow. I hurt to see an animal killed, a tree felled, a faucet left running. In my small life I’ve joined with millions hanging clothes to dry, catching rainwater, trying to undo our species’ extravagance. Seeing the pleasures of simplifying catching on, hearing multitudes speaking up to protect land and water from oil rigs and pipelines, I do want to stick around to see if humanity acts in time to curb climate change. My own curiosity and knowing what a caring, aware young woman you are help me override despair.

“Reaching for hope,

“Grandma”

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“Dear future son or daughter,

“I sometimes feel scared about creating you and bringing you into such an unstable world. However, I promise that when and if I am blessed to bring you into this world, it will be a world full of beauty. Although I know there will always be ugliness and fear, I promise to do whatever is in my power to keep the Earth clean and beautiful for you and your family to enjoy. There are few things I love more than spending time enjoying nature with those I love. I want you to be able to have the same types of experiences I had growing up and in my adult life. I promise to give you the chance to climb trees and hike up mountains–to see the Redwood Forest and the many oceans. I promise to stand up against those to seek to destroy the planet for either personal gain or shortsightedness. I promise to do what I can to help the Earth grow and flourish.

“Love, Elizabeth “

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“I’m hoping the best for you, but also truly frightened. We, in our time, still have the chance to change course. We have the knowledge and emergent means, even the profitable technologies, to do so. Yet our politicians and corporate leaders ~ most of whom are highly educated, even compassionate people, who must deep down know better … refuse to act.

“I don’t know if that is out of greed for short term monetary profits, or self-aggrandizing and blinded myopia, but it is where we are. I do know that IF my generation, that can change the course, does not… your lives will likely be a living Hell.

“Before then, I will do my best to save you from the worst, and hope with all my heart that this so lovely blue/green Earth will still be for you a nurturing HOME.”

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Some folks promise to drive less, or hang their clothes on a line rather than using a drier, to leave less of a footprint on the earth in as many ways as possible; some send their letters right away to their grandchildren, children; some send it all to the project.

The website, deartomorrow.org, contains all you need to know to send your letter, photo or video, to see examples others have done, to donate, to watch a simple cartoon video that explains climate warming since the beginning of the coal-oil-gas age. It’s an effective explanation. And the website itself is a place to leave a comment from a point of view of love.

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