Dear Tomorrow: A Digital Time Capsule of Climate Change

Through our involvement in the Montana Moms Clean Air Force we were made aware of a truly remarkable project. Dear Tomorrow is an archive of letters participants write to their loved ones about climate change, which will then be released in 2030 and 2050 to both the recipients and the general public. We found the process of drafting a letter to the Younger Fives to be an extremely challenging yet inspiring process. Climate change is definitely on our minds as parents but putting our thoughts and intentions into words was no small task. Doing so, however, helped crystallize our commitment to act, knowing that our kids will have the opportunity to read our letters as adults. As parents we do a countless number of things each day to keep our kids safe and healthy; adding a few more to reduce our impact on the planet and push for collective climate action is a small but meaningful way to provide for their future.

While creating a DearTomorrow letter, photo, or video is a transformative experience, we’ve also been inspired by reading others’ contributions. We’ve included our letter below as well as others that provide a powerful snapshot of what climate change means to families; click an image to read more. 

Finally, DearTomorrow is in the running for the Judge’s Choice award at the MIT Climate CoLab Conference in September. You can vote for them at the Conference web site (it just requires a super quick sign-up process).

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Act in Paris

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Like countless people in 175 countries around the world, we’ve been busy the last few days preparing for our local Global Climate March on Sunday, November 28th. The United Nations climate summit starts this week in Paris, and we are absolutely convinced that this summit represents our last good chance to provide our children and our children’s children with a world not plagued by chronic drought, famine, and war. The horrific attacks in Paris only reinforce the urgency of climate action. The connection to Syria has been at the forefront of the discussion about the violence that claimed at least 130 lives, and given the unmistakable influence of climate-change related events on intensifying volatile situations like those in Syria, the ripple effects will only be increasing over time.

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Five String’s Poster for the March

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Five Spice’s Poster for the March

World leaders have the opportunity (and duty) to go beyond pledges and commit to action. NASA’s carbon counter calculates the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is presently 401.58 parts per million, above the 350 parts per millions the scientific community advises is the ceiling for a planet hospitable to humans. The vast bulk of fossil fuels must stay in the ground, never to be burned, and this is something oil companies can only be coerced into doing through government action and popular pressure. A just transition to 100% renewable energy is the other piece of the puzzle, with the richest countries most responsible for the carbon in the atmosphere paying their fair share to helping all countries adapt.

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High Five’s Poster for the March (“Stop Climate Change! Team Work!”)

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Five Ball’s Poster for the March

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Five of Heart’s Poster for the March

From Parksville, Canada (where we’ll be attending a march) to Phitsanulok, Thailand, there are over 2,000 planned marches across the world on Sunday (though the one in Paris has been canceled by the government due to security concerns). The companies that stand to benefit from the short term burning of fossil fuels (the oil, coal, and natural gas industry) and from the long term havoc of a world fighting over scarce resources (weapon manufacturers, etc.) already have an army of lobbyist to ensure politicians hear their side. It will take a sustained surge of popular expression to drown out the pleas for profit in favor of the outcome our children and our planet need. Tomorrow’s just the beginning, but it’s going to take all of us to achieve the improbable.

Profound Panorama: A Day at Crater Lake National Park

 

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Climbing up the sandy bank from the parking lot, we were unprepared for the view ahead. Circled by a ring of hills, the deep blue waters of Crater Lake glimmered below and held us mesmerized. Throughout the course of our visit to Crater Lake National Park, we experienced the lake from at least a dozen different viewpoints, and each vista was as impressive as the previous one.

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The view is matched only by the equally magical landforms rising above the surface of the lake. Some, such as Wizard Island (first picture above), are visible from almost anywhere around the Rim Drive. Others like The Old Man (a mountain hemlock floating upright in the lake for over 100 years) take a little more patience (and a pair of binoculars). The kids were amazed to learn that the Phantom Ship (second and third pictures above) was actually 170 feet (17 stories) tall despite its tiny appearance from our elevated viewpoint.

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The day wasn’t all seated vistas though, and the Younger Fives were hard at work (as always) completing their Junior Ranger booklets. They learned about the geology behind the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama that created North American’s deepest lake, about the importance of rain and snowfall in keeping the lake replenished (it has no inlets or outlets), and about the Klamath tribe that historically lived in the area and whose present-day reservation is just south of the park. One of the kids’ biggest surprises came on the Scavenger Hunt Bingo; the park ranger pictured on the board was the one that administered the Junior Range oath to them. See if you can spot him above 🙂

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One of the inescapable themes we all took away from the exhibits and conversations with people around the park was the impact of climate change at Crater Lake. The park has averaged about 44 feet of snowfall since the Park Service started keeping track in the 1930s, making it one of the snowiest places in the country. That number, however, has been dwindling for the past several years; the 2015 season only brought 18 feet of snow. About the same amount of precipitation is still falling here overall, but more and more is coming down in the form of rain and not snow. This is part of a larger problem of decreased snow pack that we’ve been seeing in our travels throughout the West this past year, from Colorado and Wyoming to California and Oregon.

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The National Drought Mitigation Center puts out a weekly map of drought-impacted areas across the country, and the places impacted only seem to be growing (especially in the West).  Less snow means less fresh water flowing into rivers and streams, thereby creating a situation where below-average snowfall in Colorado helps fuel the chronic water shortages that we’ve seen firsthand in states such as California. Diminished snowfall also has a marked impact on wildfires by prolonging the dry season; at this moment there are 163 fires on public lands according to the US Forest Service, one of which is just miles from our present rental.

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The Younger Fives feeling like giants in a stone model of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake has definitely inspired us with its beauty, and its cautionary tale about the link between climate change, snowfall, and drought is one we find hard to ignore. The Younger Fives take their Junior Ranger pledge pretty seriously, so in addition to staying on the marked trails and helping keep the animals in the park wild, taking action on climate change is another duty to help preserve national parks like this one. There are countless activities planned around the country tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14th) as part of the People’s Climate National Day of Action. While there might not be a rally nearby (which is our situation), there are many ways to raise awareness about addressing climate change, from posting or sharing on social media to being more mindful of our own energy and water use. Tomorrow we’ll be parking the car and taking the 4 Liters Challenge as part of homeschool, which is the amount of water (about 1 gallon) that hundreds of millions of people around the world must live on each day for all their water needs. What will you be doing? Leave your comments below!

Arctic Bummer

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A year and a half ago, we had one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of all our travels while visiting the nursery lagoons of gray whales in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Coming eye to eye and skin to skin with these magnificent creatures changed us forever, and we often think of the newborn whales we met as they travel from Mexico to Alaska and back every year. Their journey is not an easy one, filled with many natural (orcas) and human-made (ships, pollution) obstacles, and the ever-increasing challenges and dangers they face are tied to the same ones the Younger Fives will have to navigate in their own futures.

A week and a half ago, we were reminded of this interconnectedness as we watched the efforts of activists in Portland, Oregon to delay a ship carrying a key piece of equipment Shell Oil needs to start drilling in the Arctic.  The area Shell is looking to explore for oil is the Chukchi Sea, the other end of the gray whales’ epic migration from Mexico. These waters, like any waters off the coast of the United States, are managed in the public trust by the government, so only the government can weigh whether the risks of drilling are balanced by the benefits to the public. Unfortunately, the fact that the Obama administration granted Shell conditional final permits to drill is just another example of politicians neglecting their moral duty to protect the interests of all Americans and to empower people to reach their full potential.

The government is especially charged with safeguarding the future of America’s youth, providing essential services like public education, local libraries, health care for those who go without, etc. The government does not have a moral mission to subsidize oil companies and ensure the price of gasoline is artificially cheap. We as a family certainly do our fair share of traveling and like just about everyone else hate to pay more for gas, but we rarely stop to consider that we are already paying extra through our taxes, hundreds of billions of dollars worth which go to subsidizing oil exploration to ensure private profit, paying for Navy and Coast Guard protection for oil tankers, protecting operations of American oil companies abroad in places like in Iraq, etc. Not to mention the other costs we never see at the pump, like the costs of adapting to a warming planet and of cleaning up the inevitable spills.

Given the widespread damage caused by oil spills in relatively calm waters near major ports that can provide logistical support, like the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it is hard to imagine drilling in a rough and remote place like the Chukchi Sea (which also has the added danger of sea ice) will have different effects. And the bottom line, according to the overwhelming weight of scientific study, is that the oil reserves in the ground right now need to stay there to avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change. Therefore, every day our government and we as a people delay the critical conversations about how to move beyond fossils fuels is a day stolen from our children. Every taxpayer dollar the government puts in the hands of  private interests, focused only on profit, at the expense of its moral responsibility to provide for the public good is a dollar squandered at the expense of our children. And it’s not just the youth of America being robbed day after day, it is the young of every species on the planet.

Since the oceans, rivers, lakes, public lands, and skies are held in the public trust and belong to the people, the Younger Fives have just as much right to decide what happens to them as Shell does. So they decided to write letters to President Obama urging him not to completely finalize the permits for Shell to drill in the Arctic. Will the Obama administration listen to the concerns of three children? Probably not. What is certain, though, is that our youth should not be the only ones advocating to avoid the live-threatening consequences of decisions made by their parents and the parents that came before them.


Five Ball’s Letter:

Dear President Barack Obama,

My name is ********. I am six years old.

I am writing because I am really really upset Shell is drilling in the Arctic for two reasons. If theirs a oil spill it would kill thousands and thousands of animals, and Shell has already killed many animals in the North Sea spill in 2011.  Also, that  it’s increasing   Global  Warming.

I made a picture of polar bears, otters, and birds throwing snow balls at Shell.

Sincerely,

“Five Ball”

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Five of Heart’s Letter

Dear President Barack Obama,

I am *********, and I am eight years old.

Polar bears happen to be my favorite animal.  I even have a stuffed polar bear.  When I heard about how you gave Shell the permits to drill in the Artic I was really upset because that is where polar bears live!

My mom and dad even went to Democracy Now and read to me about how GreenPeace tried to block Shell’s ship and how Shell is trying to drill in the Arctic. There was even a video showing what GreenPeace did. They also showed me pictures of the places around where Shell is trying to drill. They looked so pretty! Then after that I made a water color picture of what I imagine the area where Shell is trying to drill looks like (which I have included with this letter).

Anyways though I am afraid that if you let Shell drill in the Artic that there will be a big oil spill and if I ever come to visit everything will have oil on it.  I know that you can be the good guy here, so I urge you President Obama to not give the final permit to drill in the Artic. If you don’t give Shell those final permits you will be my hero!

Thank you for your time.

 

Yours truly,

“Five of Hearts”

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High Five’s Letter:

Dear  President Barack Obama,

Hi. My name  is ******. I am 4.

Please stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic. I am scared about an oil spill.

Thank you ,

“High Five”

Sand Bucket Challenge

With California’s drought and the historically warm winter making headlines, we received an e-mail yesterday from Change the Course, which works to restore water to the Colorado River through encouraging people and businesses to reduce their water footprints. The e-mail was about a recent Daily Show clip joking that in California those wanting to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will now need to use sand instead of ice. Change the Course thought this was a great opportunity to raise awareness about water use and its impact on the Colorado River, so they started up the Sand Bucket Challenge.

Here in Western Wyoming, it’s been the 2nd warmest winter on record, and snow that would usually be feeding the Green River, the Colorado’s largest tributary, has been gone since the first week of March. We decided to take the Sand Bucket Challenge ourselves and share our story. Wherever you are, and no matter how climate change is impacting your community, we encourage you to do the same 🙂