A new day and another chance to sit peacefully at the Apple Box. To shine or not to shine; the rain had stopped but the sun had not yet decided.
I ordered a cup of coffee and then picked out a seat in the window facing the deck. Settled in, I began to read and enjoy the view. I had only been sitting a few minutes when a young boy toddled into view. He had rosy, red cheeks, brown hair and looked to be about two years old. He was walking on his own but still had a toddler’s way of walking that is more of a controlled fall than a steady step.
I watched him as he explored the wonders of the deck. I wasn’t watching for very long before I thought about the world we are leaving this young boy. It troubled me to think about the state of the world that today’s adults are leaving for their grandchildren and great grandchildren. The planet my generation is leaving to young children is a degraded version of the one we received from the generation before ours.
One reason our planet is in the state it is in is how little we consider how the decisions we make today will affect the generations who will come after us. From energy policy at the national level to our driving habits at the very local level, the impact our actions will have on those who come after us is not taken into consideration. Instead, our actions are primarily driven by the more immediate concerns of cost and convenience.
The best (worst?) example of our selfish short-sightedness is our use of nuclear power to produce electricity. Because nuclear energy has a low carbon footprint, it is described as clean. Although nuclear-generated electricity contributes less to global warming than burning coal or oil, nuclear energy is hardly clean. The toxic waste generated by nuclear energy will remain an environmental disaster in waiting for thousands and thousands of years. But that doesn’t stop us from using it.
What would you do if a stranger dumped toxic waste in your back yard and then told you that you will have to pay to clean up the waste? Yet isn’t that what we do to future generations with the radioactive waste generated by our nuclear power plants? It’s eat, sleep, drink and be merry for we are not the ones who will have to clean up the mess.
The situation is especially troubling when I think of the things we could all do but most of us don’t do to make the world a better place for the children who will follow us. We could drive at more fuel-efficient speeds but most of us don’t. Devices (cell phones, computers and microwave ovens for example) that are plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week consume approximately 10% of the average American household’s electrical usage. We could turn these devices off or unplug them when they are not being used but we don’t; it’s too inconvenient. Since we won’t be here when the world’s oil supply is exhausted or when the containers holding nuclear waste crumble and release their toxic contents, why bother? Leave it for the kids.
What will it take for us to consider the impact our actions will have on future generations and plan accordingly? Would it help to put a face on the future? That is certainly easy to do; all we have to do is look at children like the innocent, young boy I watched play on the deck. What will it take for us to think about them?