Seventh Generation, the recycled-paper-towel and household-products company, commissioned a survey, released in April. It showed that seventy-one per cent of millennials and sixty-seven per cent of Generation Z feel that climate change has negatively affected their mental health. How upset were they? Four in five people in the eighteen-to-twenty-three age cohort “aren’t planning—or didn’t want—to have children of their own as a result of climate change.” Even if the survey were off by fifty per cent, that would still be an astonishing number.
Let us think about the children. Please.
In The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, children have been enfeebled by an unnamed disaster, Japan has been sealed off from the rest of the world, and language has begun to vanish. The elderly remain curiously strong as everyone contemplates a reality in which children will not make it to adulthood.
There’s a kind of frail beauty in the book, and I was especially fascinated by the course of the shifting of language–Tawada herself writes in both Japanese and German–and in the horror of the young Mumei’s growing inevitably sicker.
There was a time when a novel like this would have been thought-provoking but safely in the realm of fiction. These days, not so much. We’re living in a dystopia, and storytelling’s not going to be enough to get us out of it. As McKibben puts it, One Crisis Doesn’t Stop Because Another Starts:
For perspective, April was the four hundred and twenty-fourth consecutive month with temperatures above the twentieth-century average, meaning that, if you’re under thirty-five, you’ve never lived through a cooler-than-usual month.
Is there any good news on this front? Paradoxically, McKibben writes:
…a burst of installation of new solar and wind power last year meant that, for roughly forty straight days this spring, the United States produced more electricity from wind, water, and sun than it did from coal.
All right, hold that thought, and let your elected representatives know it matters, for the sake of young people.