Thirty Years from Now

In the year 2050, my children will be in their early to mid-40s— the age I am now. I supposed that they’ll have families and children of their own by then, and if I’m still vertical, I’ll probably be a grandpa. Given the rise of technology in the last thirty years, since 1989, I can’t even begin to imagine what life will be like in 2050, what kind of a world my children will raise their children in. But I have to be honest that I’m worried.

Last September, the United Nations issued a report telling us that we’ve basically got to change our ways now, or by 2050, the effects of climate change will be severe, obvious, and irreparable. UN scientists estimate that the global population will be 9.8 billion by then, and it’s likely the world’s natural resources won’t be able to support that, especially not with our current eating habits. While others may have political reasons for their contempt or dismay about climate change, I believe the scientists. Science is a discipline that bases conclusions and predictions on verifiable facts, measurements, and observations, and what data is available now tells us that our “throwaway culture,” as Pope Francis calls it, is unsustainable. I know that there are also political connotations to that word now, but politics can’t change its true meaning: “not able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”

And one major part of that is plastic. Another report from 2016 predicted that by 2050 our oceans will hold more plastic than fish. I don’t remember much from my science classes in school, but I do remember that plant and animal life in the oceans form the basis of the planet’s food chains and ecosystems. If there are going to be nearly ten billion of us walking around, breathing, and eating, I think we might need our planet’s food chains and ecosystems to function.

The year 2020 will start in two weeks. We have time to change our ways before these predictions about life thirty years from now, in 2050, come true. I know that throwing all trash away in one can is easier than separating and recycling. I know that grabbing a plastic water bottle is easier than toting a refillable bottle. I know that grabbing take-out food then discarding the packaging is easier than shopping, cooking, and washing dishes. But when I think about my children and grandchildren living in an overcrowded, overheated world without enough food to eat or air to breathe, it urges me toward a willingness to change my life now. In the South, being “pro-life” is a prevalent sentiment, as is the notion that we care about the rights of the unborn. If we’re going to shout it, we ought to live it too, and leave the planet in some kind of shape for future generations to lead decent lives.

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