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COLUMN | The kids are all right

Columnist Steve Smyth talks about future generations making the world better

By Steve Smyth

My friend Al Lehmann has said much over his past few columns about climate change and impending disaster so I’m not going to belabour the point with this column. Anyone who thinks the world’s climate is not changing is either living under a rock or willfully denying it.

Whether it’s watching the horrific fires in Australia caused by long term drought and daytime temperatures over 40c or seeing glaciers in Europe and North America melting at an ever-increasing rate, the facts and the science clearly show that things are changing at a rapidly accelerating rate.

The only matter for debate is how much we can do to prevent further change and whether or not taxing working men and women will change anything.

My concern, and the point of this column is more about the way my generation is treating the next and the next after them. Grown adults, some in very high positions of authority, seem to feel it’s acceptable to humiliate, demean and attack young people for having the temerity to care about their future.

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In 1971, the US military planned its largest-ever nuclear test on Amchitka Island in Alaska and people, particularly along the west coast, were concerned about possible tsunamis and earthquakes. Like many of my generation, young people took place in marches, student strikes and calls to action. I grew up in a working-class home and I was not a radical, nor was I a “hippie” and I certainly was not bought and paid for by foreign interests.

Our teachers were somewhat supportive (It was after the “sixties” after all) and even our principal allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate and speak our minds respectfully. While we didn’t stop the test, it became the nucleus of Greenpeace and heightened our awareness of the effects we have on the world.

Now, once again youngsters are leading the charge for environmental action and instead of acknowledging them and recognizing their concerns, the old, mostly white males of my formerly motivated (dare I say “woke”?) generation seem to think that it’s acceptable, in fact even popular, to verbally assault young people like Greta Thunberg.

While Greta may or may not be the climate Messiah she is portrayed as by some, she is still a 17-year-old girl. In what civil society is it acceptable for highly connected politicians or the American President to call a young girl “thunder thighs” or mentally ill for daring to speak her mind?

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I don’t advocate for a shutdown of our carbon industry. I think that it can be done in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive manner. By supplying China and the world’s biggest polluters with safely produced and safely transported Canadian products we can mitigate the effects on our future. We will have to transition to a post-carbon economy, but the transition will take time, or our economies and lifestyles will be crippled.

I’m good with our kids and grandkids caring passionately about our planet. If they didn’t care I think we would be in a very sad situation indeed.

In the immortal words of Pete Townshend and The Who, the kids are alright and that’s a good thing.