There’s No Age Difference in Death

Jaime Coyne

As an incoming freshman last year, I had to read The Weathermakers, which I summarized to anyone who asked as “We’re all gonna die in 2050.” I’ve seen An Inconvenient Truth, too. I’ve got all that basic knowledge about climate change and global warming that every Colgate student probably has and that makes none of us an authority on the subject.

Today, my CORE 152 professor said that the challenge of modernity is our challenge; our generation has to fix what everyone in the past screwed up. I’ve heard this a million times before, and I’m sure you have too. But, in the most flowery, eloquent language I can muster, I’d just like to say that I think that’s crap.

Obviously we have to try to save ourselves, because the alternative is extinction. But how is the older generations’ “passing the buck” their contribution to the solution? You’re still here. You still feel invested in your own and your children’s futures. Why is your only involvement to shrug and tell us we better get a move on?

It just seems like one more example of what makes me feel so doomed in the first place: my cynical view, my hopeless sinking feeling, that no one can bring themselves to care enough about anyone else to ever actually get involved, come together and DO something.

If our parents and grandparents and their friends can say, ‘Eh, I think I can squeeze through without being affected by this personally,’ what motivation does that give us? My bet is that it will take some serious catastrophes in powerful countries to make anyone act, and then out of pure desperation. And isn’t that probably the point of no return anyway? It would be so easy to do nothing. In fact, it would be this amazing excuse to live a lazy, meaningless life. Why go to college and work so hard for good grades? The world’s going to end anyway. Why fight for that dream job? It’s not like you’ll be able to use your career after the apocalypse. Why work at all? Scrounge around and steal until 2050. Because why follow the rules when they will soon be irrelevant?

But isn’t there a reason we tend as humans to generally try to do more than just keep on subsisting? I think it’s important to all of us that we have some sort of purpose, and it is when people see no feasible purpose for their lives that they choose to leave life behind altogether.

Well, if we want to continue on in this world we’ve created, where we can aspire to purposes beyond basic survival, maybe we should begin to consider saving the Earth as a part of each person’s individual purpose, a part just as important as the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence, or the perfect career, or feeding the hungry, because it is the aspect of our purpose that allows those more personal parts to exist at all. And anyone of any generation who is still living is still working toward some purpose.

So how can anyone sit back and say the effectual end of the world is not his or her problem? It’s true that people from older generations can’t see their efforts through to the very end, but anyone who thinks our generation can probably has an overly optimistic view of the problem. Why don’t we all make it our own personal responsibility, for as long as we are here and able? If we do, we might get a little of that personal reward we’re all secretly looking for out of it, by improving our own lives a little.