[Vision2020] The Planet They Will Inherit From Us

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Mon Sep 5 13:04:22 PDT 2011

Courtesy of today's (September 5, 2011) Moscow-Pullman Daily News with special thanks to Vince Murray.

HIS VIEW: The planet they will inherit from us

By Vince Murray
September 5, 2011

My grandmother, my father's mother, lived into her mid-90s, living for most of the 20th century and for a little more than a decade of the 19th century. She was a wonderful person who endured much during her long life, but as she neared the end she always referred to two events that she felt best summed up her time here on earth.

She loved to say to me, "Vincey, when I was young I rode into Yosemite Valley on a wagon pulled by horses over a rough dirt road. Years later, I watched a television as a man walked on the moon." That change in the technology of travel astonished her, and it said something profound to her about the changes one person can experience in a lifetime. The slow pace of a life dependent upon dirt roads and horses suddenly converted to a life where rockets and computers and televisions were things taken for granted.

And that leads me to think about what changes we would see if we extended her life backward in time, if we pivoted her life on the hinge of her birth and flipped it over until we had traveled back in time another 95 years. If we did that, we would end up in the late 18th century, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. If when she was young a 95-year-old man could have taken my grandmother's infant hand and grasped it with his wrinkled and age-spotted hand, he could have told her about a time before carbon-powered machines dominated our landscape. It only took the span of two lifetimes for humans to go from the infancy of industrialism to landing a man on the moon.

"Think, Vincey," I believe my grandmother would say to me if she were still alive today, "about the profound changes this planet has experienced in that span of time." And when I do, I am stunned.

Recently, I think about my grandmother's statement more and more often, and about the span of my life. And when I reflect on this, although I'm still more than 30 years shy of my grandmother's final age, I find myself astonished just like my grandmother was. In my time on Earth, Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Range here in Idaho is no longer red. The Salmon River no longer has great runs of salmon. Our oceans are becoming depleted of the great bounty of life with which they once teemed.

In my life, old-growth forests have fallen, asphalt has been laid over dirt roads, and many wide-open spaces have disappeared. My lifetime has given rise to the great pollution associated with oil spills and pesticides, smog and global warming.

And so I begin to wonder, as the pace of change continues to accelerate, and we contemplate mega-projects like the tar sands oil extraction in Alberta, Canada, what my grandchildren's world will be like after my generation and their parents' generation have moved on. What will the world be like for my grandchildren's children when the chain of human lives that began with an old man who could have held my grandmother's hand extends to a third or fourth link?

When I contemplate this question, I can't help but worry for Mycah and Luke and Cate and Isabella. I worry about the condition of the planet they will inherit from us, and I know that they won't be able to survive on poisoned water and poisoned air alone. I know if they are to survive, they'll need salmon, they'll need forests and all the life forests contain, they'll need oceans that are still alive. And I wonder if we, their forebears, are willing to make decisions today that will ensure an inhabitable planet for them tomorrow. If we actually can make those decisions, an obvious place to begin is with the tar sands of Alberta. If we can't stop such an egregious project now, we never will.

Vince Murray is a Moscow resident and one of six megaload protesters arrested Aug. 26 on Washington Street.


Moscow Megaload Madness - August 25, 2011

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
"When all is said and done, have you done or said enough?  Have you just gone along for the ride, or have you steered destiny's hotrod?  When you leave this world, did you make it any better than it was when you arrived?  All you need is all you've got: your wits and the clothes on your back.  Your epitaph is yours to earn.  Your legacy is yours to make."

- Author Unknown

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