Our Children and Their Future

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The first thing to do with the future is prepare our children for it.

We have formed a general picture of global warming changes ahead.  A toddler today, living to the year 2100 could fully experience the horrific scenarios predicted.


The science says the range of possibilities are somewhere between harsh incovenience and outright human extinction.    Any other descriptions of future prospects - are poorly described, based on religion, or politics, or pure fantasy.  We have to stick with the scientifically plausible.

We must stop ignoring, denying or apologizing to our children and start preparing them for their unique future.

Parents think wonderful thoughts for their child’s future — but by protecting their family, parents may unintentionally impart a bias against seeing a grim future.   The family structure itself acts to separate the family child from all other children world wide.

Some people will go without, in an effort to change the world voluntarily.   But almost no people will let their children go without, so the world changes only involuntarily.

This is perhaps the trap in intelligence: it requires long parenting, which requires strong bonding.   So it all ends up being run for, as is by, children.     R. Bready Oct 2009

The picture and place of our world in 2100 is totally without human precedent - climate models and  scenarios all project astounding changes ahead while our education is stuck in another era.  This is now the Anthropcene - a period where humans are making a significant global impact on climate, ecosystem and geology

Projections usually describe a future in terms of degrees of temperature warming (global average).   So far 2 degrees is the unavoidable minimum projection - and six degrees is catastrophic and cannot be ruled out.   We move inexorably into that zone between discomfort and demise - and we are not ready, and we are not making our children ready.

Move beyond anxiety.

Apologizing is a nice start  “Sorry that your world will not be as nice as we want for you.  We don’t seem to know the solution.  You will need to learn the answers.  But you can and will make your own life solutions.”  We need to speak clearly.  We need to give them all the tools they need. 

College is not working - future studies as a new curriculum.

The liberal arts education may no longer be the best idea.  My friend Gail, tells me that her daughter is dropping out of college.  She says, “it will save us $100K, but I am not sure if it is the best for her future.”   It may be time to re-evaluate the purpose of education. Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Edward Sarachik, says we should completely redefine college curricula as “future studies.”   A great idea; all courses would be derived from future studies: history, math, bio-sciences, law, medicine, architecture, to engineering and psychology - everything we need to prepare students for their changing world.

My neighbor, John Roberts says he knows what kind of education is needed for young kids.   “I would head to the woods; fishing, farming, camping, nature, water, sky, everything is an education - introducing them to the world around them”.  He wants to impart an understanding of change, adaptation, living off the land.  

Of course, every child needs a basic education to interact in a technical world.   But noticeably missing is the training and practice in how humans are most weak:  thinking and deciding skills needed in future planning, evidence evaluation, risk analysis and smart social interactions.  Our tragic flaw is that we are an emotionally gullible species that is too easily swayed by advertising and opinion-makers.


The year 2100 is not the end

Most science predictions seem to have a boundary of 2100, but we know warming will continue way past that date.  We are ill-suited to face our  future and need serious lessons in adaptation, mitigation, civility, sustainability.  Pity is that parents, schools, universities are so slow to come out of climate denialism…children today need serious preparation.  Otherwise, what kind of world are we preparing them for?  

Everyone should view the famous comic routine by the late George Carlin, in which he castigates those anxious “Save the Planet” campaigns.  In his deeply philosophical rant Carlin reminds us that the earth is fine, it is humans that are in trouble.   Despite all the charts and graphs that seem to end at the year 2100 — the earth will continue well beyond the year 2100.   But our children may not.

We are creatures of cycles.  Our species has deeply ingrained the 24 hour day/night cycle, and less so the monthly, seasonal and yearly cycles - but we directly feel few cycles beyond that.  Even births and deaths must be marked by unique celebrations rather than moments in accepted cycles of a longer time scale.   The further we gaze into the future, the more difficult it is for us to comprehend.   But we should expect there will be a world, and that humans have a chance to dwell on it.  It is time to prepare our children for the future we are giving them.

========  some links  ========================

The Anthopocene   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropocene
George Carlin   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw 
Thinking and Deciding by Jonathan Baron  http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Deciding-Jonathan-Baron/dp/0521680433/ref=sr11

Climate models… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKP-SV3suhM
EPA offers school curricula on climate change http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/school.html

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