A letter to Greta Thunberg

Greetings. I commend you on your recent address to world leaders, who are too often sheltered from the truth. Despite our political differences, the desire to yell at naked emperors is a shared interest; even much of the language would be the same, since "you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words" is an apt description of our political realities.

Yet I am writing you to offer advice and caution, using a delicate tone because of your not so advanced age, though it ought to be noted you are not even a full 20 years my junior.

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Before you were born, people who could well be your older siblings or cousins grew up in a triumphant world. The Cold War had ended, the global economy was buoyant, and optimism about the future was widespread in the generation entering adolescence as well as adulthood.

Then, at the beginning of this century, 19 men killed 3,000 people with four planes on Sept. 11, 2001. This created a surveillance state in every developed country and motivated many people to imitate those heinous acts. My country is a belligerent in one of the theatres for the War on Terror - after 18 years, strategic victory has still not been achieved.

From the harassment at airports to the secret courts of the state, our liberties have been crippled with no recovery in sight. There are better ways of meeting the threat of extremism but few bother to take up the issue of civil liberties. I offer this as a first example of a man-made problem with several man-made solutions available, yet the situation only worsens over time.

The second bookend of the generation just before yours is the financial crisis of 2008, which also caused the Eurozone crisis. Here again, a few bad actors made the whole world suffer by gambling with the foundations of our market system: mortgages and sovereign debt.

America has just begun to recover after a decade, but your home, Europe, still has 50 per cent unemployment in places and your political union is constantly threatened by populists who can trace their lineage to the moment Brussels and Berlin began attempts to save the EU and Euro, whatever the cost might be. All this is my second example of entirely man-made problems that have dozens of proven man-made solutions, yet policy makers refuse to act accordingly.

Let us now turn to your cause du jour, climate change. I mean no offence when stating the following: there is perhaps nothing more complicated on Earth than what is happening to the environment and the climate, yet you are calling on governments to try and solve this problem?

I fully empathize with your passion and frustration. My adolescence and adulthood were darkened by forces far beyond my control, particularly the malicious intentions of wicked men.

But as I have just finished briefly describing, entirely closed systems within peoplekind's control - political-economy, liberal democracy, justice, the conduct of war - are issues we as a species are not dealing with very well. Thus, I strongly doubt the ability of our institutions and leaders to solve a problem as non-linear and open-ended as the climate on God's green Earth.

Without getting bogged down in the various talking-points surrounding this issue, and to keep this missive brief, I humbly suggest that instead of yelling at world leaders who are all but deaf to our complaints, perhaps the best thing we can do is try to save the world right where we are. From heating our homes with recycled plastic waste to community cleanups that help keep animals safe from pollutants, there are many options for eco-friendly solutions at the local level.

In the end, only our personal ethics and efforts can make any real difference, no matter the challenge we face. Like charity, the duty of care to our God-given dominion starts at home.

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