Kids Spin the Wheel of the Planet's Future, Sure to be Interesting Times

Awhile back I posted about "villains recast as heroes" and the sun's shift from life-force to life-threatening force. It turns out that the current crop of kids has indeed grown up with the specter of climate change hanging over them, and they do easily accept the concept that too much sun can be a bad thing. Matt Shapiro, a student at NYU, entered this video in the Artist as Citizen "Burning Embers" contest in conjunction with the New York Times' Dot Earth Blog.

Climate Change from ArtistAsCitizen on Vimeo.

A class of sixth graders spins two different "climate change wheels" based upon MIT's depictions of two possible global warming scenarios, one more deadly than the other. It's a bit eerie to see kids spinning the wheel and laughing at the gorier results, drawing their own pictures of sweating, hunger-crazed people that may be them someday. Right now, this generation might as well be spinning a wheel or playing Russian roulette with their futures, because as kids they are so much at the mercy of the ruling generation's policies and errors. The filmmaker concludes that the kids can laugh about planetary destruction because "they trust us," that is, they can't conceive that adults would just stand by and let the worst case scenario happen. Or perhaps they can, and they're just used to the world where the sun is the enemy.

I remember reading a study once saying that my age cohort had been shaped by coming of age at the same time as the height of the AIDS epidemic. We were told that there was this deadly thing going around, and that there were things we could do to "probably" avoid it. The power was (maybe) in our (unsure, teenage) hands. Kids who were of a certain impressionable age when the Twin Towers fell are another cohort, one that was shaped by seeing the invisible line of American exceptionalism erased within just a few minutes. Teenagers of my era had to confront something wholly new, an epidemic that our parents were not able to prepare us for. Kids today must know that we've been wrestling with environmental degradation in earnest since the 70's; it's not that the threat is new, but previous attempts to deal with it have largely been stumped.How today's sixth graders will be shaped by being on a first-name basis with the threat of climate failure can only be seen as time goes on. Hopefully they have some sense of agency about pushing towards the better climate change scenarios.

Watching the video did give me a glimpse of what these kids are going to have to face. As an older post about the current recession vs. the Great Depression defined generational cohorts: "Events make us who we are and bring us together. People may not all the same, but history shows us that learning does take place on a grand scale that reflects the changes occurring in each individual life over time. Yet often history engraves upon us in the present without our knowing its message until far into the future. The expression, 'May you live in interesting times,' is usually said as a challenge, perhaps acknowledging that it is a challenge to live through events without understanding their meaning with the benefit of hindsight."

Tags: Climate change, Cohort, Generation, Kids

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