Were you alive to hear the funny Wendy’s commercials that touted the slogans “Where’s the beef?” and “Parts is parts?” Not if you are under 27 years of age. Those clever and effective campaigns aired in the mid-1980s, and have now become verbal institutions in the American lexicon that question the importance of any issue.
Were you alive when we had a month where the temperature was below normal? Also not if you are 27 years old or younger, because every month since the mid-1980’s has been either normal or warmer than normal. It’s called global warming.
The carbon that is heating the earth’s atmosphere has a cumulative effect, and the climate is changing because of what we do. Although we hope that we are an intelligent species that faces facts, it seems that a different kind of struggle is happening. It is the struggle to define the foundational truths and values that underscore our policies.
Now, when I was a young adult, we seemed to struggle over how to proceed from established scientific truths. Public policy was where the conflict emerged. But now, the fundamentals of planning new strategies for the future have changed. Why?
Andrew Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan, tells us that the “public debate around climate change is no longer about science – it’s about values, culture, and ideology. Rather, we tend to learn what “our group” believes and stick to that interpretation regardless of the facts. And for many of us, if the facts tell us that – God forbid - we have to change our behaviors, we simply find a “group” that has a set of facts that fits with our established worldview. In other words, we change the facts to fit us.
Yes, change is difficult, and it seems like the older we get, the more we protect our worldview – regardless of the facts. So I – a person of 63 years – have a suggestion: re-imagine yourself as a 27-year old who is facing the terrifying uncertainty of a warming planet and trying to plan for the future. Try to think about whether or not you should have children who will be facing an even hotter planet if we continue our present carbon-burning trajectory. Try to think about where you might live – maybe in Rockaway or on the New Jersey coast? Think about what you might invest in for your retirement in 40 years. And try to live with confidence and hope.
But if you don’t want to think like a 27-year old and want to simply deny the facts of climate change, then I have another suggestion: get out of the way. We boomers have done enough. Let the 27-year olds lead the way and set new public policies. It’s going to be their planet, and it’s time we listened to their voices.
The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.