CLIMATE CHANGE IS HERE, NOW. WHERE IS OUR CITY ADAPTATION PLAN?

Lawrence was shaped and built by progressive activists who modeled courage and sacrifice for the future of the greater good. They deliberately chose this place to take a stand against immoral but nationally and culturally acceptable practices and infrastructures.They knew it would take vision and work to fight on the right side of history. They didn’t know if they would be successful, but they knew they had no choice but to try, and in doing so, changed this part of the world with their brave efforts. Their legacy is still felt today; you can feel it in our town spirit, you can see it with the thousands of citizen volunteers who regularly and happily give their time to worthy causes. Lawrence is famous for being a liberal oasis and the city and local businesses have long profited from this reputation. However, if you examine the environmental efforts and practices of our town, we are shockingly unprogressive.

We have uniquely well-positioned resources in our students, teachers, farmers, civic groups and citizen oversight boards. We have an unusually dynamic, thriving library. We have nationally important scholars who at KU. We have generous, service-oriented churches. We have well-educated, activist citizens. We are rich in our potential. We have the ability here to make a difference, a serious, significant, historically important impact, the kind of legacy that is honored and cherished for generations.

With all of that in mind, we want to know why Lawrence hasn’t declared a Climate Crisis and developed an adaptation plan. We want to know why the city is still not acting in good faith for its people. Why we are acting like we have years to adopt green energy sources at our leisure? Why do we consider simple, logical policies like banning single use plastics so dramatic? Why isn’t there a climate oversight board outlining and enforcing comprehensive, aggressive implementation of scientifically accepted policies that affect every aspect of city management? Every climate expert in the world is warning us that we are headed for catastrophe, sooner rather than later, and Lawrence is still arguing about banning straws and having water conservation contests, still overly friendly to non-LEED builders, developers, and other climate criminals, still acting like business as usual. If scientists warned us that a life-ending asteroid was going to hit in ten years, would Lawrence city management muster the same pitiful response, damning us all with half-measures and good intentions?

Climate Change is here, now. Where is our Deep Adaptation survival plan? It is past time to declare a city climate crisis. It is past time to organize our city resources and plan for our future. We are vulnerable to ruinous flooding, to aberrant weather events like unusually strong hail, snow, and tornadoes, to new norms of freezing and scorching temperatures. Conservative climate modeling shows that the American Midwest will be devastated by drought conditions in the next twenty years. Conservative, peer-reviewed studies show that there is literally no way to avoid higher global temperatures, even with disciplined, environmentally sustainable practices, even if we invent ingenious methods of carbon capture. Current events show populations moving inland, away from coastal instability, toward the haven of the Midwest. People will look for progressive, prepared cities.

Climate change is most serious, existential crisis the world has ever seen. If we want Lawrence to survive, we have no choice other than to take unprecedented, serious action. This kind of visionary work seems impossible; the amount of planning and work and investment and sacrifice will be a challenge. Our founding mothers and fathers were familiar with this kind of fearful challenge, this kind of impossibility, but they knew they had no choice, because it was the right thing to do. We need to declare an official climate crisis, we need a plan for deep adaptation, now. We are only repeating what well-respected, established scientists have been saying for years, with increasing urgency of late. Lawrence citizens are willing to work, willing to do whatever it takes; we are rich in our potential problem solving, rich in our human resources.

We’re angry that we have legitimate scientific predictions of apocalyptic scenarios, that there’s mass consensus from experts telling us to prepare, that people will suffer, lives will be ruined, that cities and even states will become wastelands, if we don’t take our literal existential crisis seriously enough. We are angry that some of you will half-listen and then dismiss us as extremists, like someone shouting about the end of the world on a street corner. We’ve written a letter on the city’s behalf, to the children of Lawrence, apologizing for not taking action years ago, for not taking adequate action now, for jeopardizing their futures and possibly their very lives, for knowingly subjecting them to instability, harm, hardship, and outright terror, because we thought it might be too much work, too expensive, just too difficult. We can live up to the examples our founders set for us.      Or we can practice apologizing to future Lawrence generations now. There’s no other choice.

APOLOGY TO THE CHILDREN OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS (from the adults in 2019)

 
We knew irreversible climate change started long before 2019,  and we didn’t do everything within our power to help your generation survive.

We knew we had only a few years to adapt to this frightening new world, we knew we had no choice, but somehow, unbelievably, we chose not to fully prepare.

It was too expensive, too much trouble, too much change, too hard to do. We thought other people would save us. We hoped other people would save you, save your future.

We knew that we had to adapt everything, because climate change affects everyone, but we thought we had more time. We were thoughtful people; we recycled, we shopped locally, we banned plastic grocery bags. We cared about the environment. We didn’t mean to damn you, our children, our futures, with half measures, with our famous Midwestern calm and civility.

Scientists told us it wasn’t enough; that true climate activism took work and sacrifice and courage and uncomfortable ways of thinking about the world and ourselves. They told us that we shouldn’t think about Deep Adaptation in terms of money or hardship, we had to think in terms of unprecedented, extraordinary human suffering, of actual extinction events.

We didn’t like that message. We hoped a scientist would invent something that would save our world at the last minute. We didn’t want to admit that climate devastation was already here, that it would get much worse, that there would be no magical, last minute solutions, no superheroes, that it would be only us, saving each other, saving you. We had been so creative, smart, and hardworking with all our other problems, but we didn’t comprehend how serious things were. We thought our leaders understood; we thought they would put your future above politics, above everything. We thought they would declare a crisis and put official time and effort into the biggest problem our world has ever had, ever. But they didn’t.

We didn’t.

We wish we could go back in time and do things differently. We wish we had been stronger, smarter, braver. We wish we had fought with everything we had. We should have transformed our sunny, windy days into energy, we should have prepared for the deadly heat, for the droughts and food shortages and broken infrastructure and civic unrest that led to all the new ghost-towns in our formerly wonderful state. When your friends started moving away, when their parents left Lawrence in search of more prepared, better adapted cities, we worried, but we still didn’t take this crisis seriously enough.

We should have been fearless, then, so you could be less afraid, now.

We won’t ask for your forgiveness, because our inaction was unforgivable.

We’re sorry, we love you, best of luck to you.