The world has never been hotter. While statistics like Phoenix experiencing over twenty consecutive days of temperatures above 110 degrees are eye-popping, we don’t need numbers to tell us things are getting hot up here.  We only need to walk outside.

Long before this latest and perhaps most obvious manifestation of climate change, my youngest daughter has been turning up the heat in our household for years. Only eleven, she serves as the climate conscious of our home and its police. She chides us for letting the car idle, turns off unused lights in our home (even if we’ve only left the room momentarily), and unplugs certain appliances when not in use. Using plastic straws has become a mortal sin. While her constant policing of our everyday behaviors can at times be grating, it is obviously well-intentioned 

Beyond this, she is acting out of a sense of urgency that perhaps we all should share. She is anxious about the future of our planet that she will hopefully enjoy long after I have left it.  

I was recently at a meeting discussing the impact of climate change on children and the facts shared were sobering. Over sixty percent of U.S. young people suffer from some form of climate anxiety. Children in parts of the world where they suffer extreme climate events like floods, hurricanes and tsunamis are often its most likely victims and those that survive suffer from post traumatic stress. In parts of the world where the climate and heat have become unlivable, families with children are forced to choose between staying and literally wasting away or becoming climate refugees. 

In this context, the young activist Greta Thunberg’s words hit home, ‘You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes’.  Ouch.

I recently watched this video from Fall Out Boy. It’s a remake of the Billy Joel classic “We didn’t start the fire.”  The song is a screaming screed from one generation to its predecessor. 

While the references and lamentations for both versions are different, the chorus remains the same:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning, since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it

While a nice sentiment, it doesn’t actually hold true. The reality is that we did start this fire of climate change. We did light it and continue to fan it with our individual and collection actions.  Or perhaps more accurately our inaction. While some have tried to fight it,  I know I for one have not done enough and should not need my 11 year old to light a fire under me to do more. 

People are understandably complaining about how hot it has gotten lately. But it’s hard to have sympathy for those who complain about the heat while  having a history of doing so little to make things cooler. And no turning up the AC doesn’t count.

Maybe we all should turn up the heat instead.

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