Another World Is Possible
“Beware the Ides of March.” While the fifteenth of March is best known as the day of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 bc, it was traditionally the deadline for Romans to settle debts. Likewise, Americans settled their debts to the federal government on March 15, until the tax-filing deadline was changed in 1955. Taxpayers now beware the Ides of April.
On March 15, 2019, young students were united in more than a hundred countries, including the US, for a global day of action. They demonstrated to pressure governments to settle debts with Mother Earth by taking climate action before it’s too late. “We are unstoppable—another world is possible,” chanted youthful protestors in Dublin, who’ve kept a weekly vigil since last December outside the Irish parliament, urging politicians to “make Earth great again.” In January their American counterparts from Covington Catholic High School appeared to resist provocation from adults while attending a March for Life rally in Washington, DC. Students worldwide are calling irresponsible adults to task at a time when the quality of life for the yet-to-be-born is at risk.
The World Meteorological Organization says the unprecedented rates of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide fueling climate change makes “the planet more dangerous and inhospitable for future generations.” This young generation of environmental activists—primarily under voting age—are already smart enough to know the difference between short-term weather conditions and climate change. Essentially they’re saying, “Beware the grown-ups who don’t transcend their ignorance—for they will surely transmit it.”
“By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws,” Pope Francis wrote in 2015 (On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si’], 69). He urges us to never underestimate the intelligence of humanity at all ages and from all sources. The Pope convened an international conference in March to look at how religions can help the world reach sustainable ecological goals by 2030 to, he said, repair “the damage we have done. No branch of science or form of wisdom should be overlooked, and this includes religions and the languages particular to them.”
Shouldn’t religions stay out of this scientific issue? No! Religion has always had a fundamental responsibility to offer people faith and hope in a better world. As preventable climate change accelerates, religion’s responsibility to help science apply the brakes is greater now than ever. This effort helps believers find meaning and purpose. What Henri Nouwen wrote in The Wounded Healer (1972) of man’s paralysis in the nuclear age applies to our reality today: “[He] suffers from the inevitable knowledge that his time is a time in which it has become possible for man to destroy not only life but also the possibility of rebirth, not only man but also mankind, not only periods of existence but also history itself. For nuclear man, the future has become an option.”
Adults have the capacity to be “smarter than a fifth grader”—or at least as smart—and young activists of the world are telling us in no uncertain terms and with all the vigor that youth can exert that ensuring their future well-being is no longer an option!