Sunday, September 9, 2012

Graduation Speech to "Class of 2099" Asks We Tighten the Noose Around Coal and Oil

You read that right: I have written and delivered, virtually, online,

via a YouTube video,

a "graduation speech" to the class of 2099 and aimed, again,

virtually, over the years, at every high school and university

in the world. Not just North America, but schools in Asia, Africa and

Europe, too.

Was I invited to give this speech and who invited me? Nobody invited

me; you could say that I invited myself in

an act of social media prayerfulness, to show concern and compassion

for the future. I imagined I was addressing

the Class of 2099 anywhere and everywhere, if there is a class of 2099

anywhere or anywhere to hear my words then,

and to do the "event" and make it look real, I first sat down and

wrote a text and then rented a cap and gown at a local

costume shop as my props. As luck would have it, I found a senior at a

local university who was well-versed in using

a blue-wall screen or whatever they call it in TV studios, and

together, Aremac and I ventured into the college TV studio

during some quiet time when nobody was using it and we taped the

speech there. Aremac -- that's his nickname and it stands

for "camera" backwards -- directed the four-minute video, and I read

my text in one take.

The speech was inspired by some words I heard once from Dr Jesse

Ausubel at Rockefeller University in New York. In an academic

paper in 1988, more than 20 years ago, he said "we must tigthten the

noose around coal" in the future if we want to stop climate

change and global warming from turning the Earth into a planetary

emergency ward within the next 200 to 500 years. I added "oil" to the

mix and tell the Class of 2099 in my virtual speech that "we must

tighten the noose around coal and oil."

I put the video on Youtube three years ago, and let it find its

audience step by step, week by week. In the first year, the hits


few and far between, never even reaching 100. But as word of mouth --

and word of mouse -- spread on the internet, the hits starting

climbing to 500 and then 3000 and now it's almost at 10,000. If the

video stays up at YouTube for the next 90 years or so, I hope

it will eventually attract 100,000 eyeballs and ears, maybe as many as

a million. It's my parting gift to the Class of 2099 and beyond,

and the speech is part of my climate activism that I have been engaged

with since 2006.

As you know, every spring, famous alums, celebrities and writers are

invited to college campuses nationwide to give graduation speeches,

and most of them are very good. A few sink right away, but most of

them are keepers and bring important messages to graduating students,

not only at universities but also in high schools as well.

Although I will no longer be here in 2099, having been born in 1949

and set to depart this mortal coil within the next 20 years, if not

sooner, I

wanted to do something dramatic and poetic and artistic and leave what

I call a ''Virtual Graduation Speech to the Class of 2099'' as a kind

of thought experiment, not only for the Class of 2099 in the future,

but also for the class of 2013 and 2014 and so on, all the way up the

2100. YouTube

is covering for me, and as long as the video sharing service remains

solvent, my speech will go on forever and ever. That's my intention.

Yes, I wanted to give a speech, in full regalia, cap and gown, to

students in the future, 90 years from now, but also intended for

students in this year's graduating classes, and I am hoping for

feedback, too, in the form of comments.

My theme is that we must tighten the noose around the use of coal and

oil if the human species is to survive the very troubling problems of

global warming and climate change. So the speech is both a warning and

a cri de coeur, and it is getting close to 10,000 hits on YouTube.

Will my little speech endure? Will it be heeded? Or will it like many

climate appeals, drop out of view and hardly even make a ripple on

this planet's conciousness?

You may view the video here:

Excerpts from the text goes something like this:

''Good afternoon, Class of 2099,

''I can't be here in person to address you, since I passed into

oblivion long ago. But as a member of the graduating class of 1971

here at my own beloved alma mater, I wanted to leave you with a brief

message -- from the past to the future -- about global warming and

climate change.

''As the class of 2099, you are about to enter the 22nd Century in a few

more months, and you will bring with you not only your university

experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as

citizens living on a planet in the midst of a climate crisis. I'm sure

you've heard this term a lot in the past four years -- "climate

crisis" -- but you should know that in my days as a student, we never

used the phrase. Back then, we had not even heard of the term yet!

''Back then, of course, we were focused on terms such as Cold War,

nuclear winter, war on poverty, racism, the oil shock, the Middle East

situation, and later on, towards of our "three score and ten" on

Earth, newer terms such as 911, terrorism and global warming.

''I'm not around now, but I hope you can read my message online and

perhaps view it on a digital recording in a public library.

''Members of the Class of 2099, you are living in a very crucial time in

the history of humankind. Your world stands at the threshold of a

period of human history when very important decisions will have to be

made about the use of fossil fuels and the "consume! slash! burn!"

lifestyle that you have come to expect.

''I wonder: do the names James Lovelock or James Hansen or Al Gore still

ring a bell in your generation now, or have new faces and names

replaced these far-seeing men? Is that book by Mark Lynas, titled "Six

Degrees", still in print, or has a new bestseller on climate change

become the must-read of your generation? Is that documentary from

2006, "An Inconvenient Truth", still in circulation? And what about

Leonardo DiCaprio's "The 11th Hour"? Have you ever heard of the movie,

or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?

''Class of 2099, I want to leave you with seven words: "We must tighten

the noose around coal". And let me add "oil", too.

''Dr. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University in the U.S. wrote those

words more than 100 years ago, and they were prophetic. Has your world

tightened the noose around coal? Has your world started to tackle the

vexing problems of overpopulation, climate change and the creation of

a sustainable economy?

"I hope your generation finds a

way to stop the burning of fossil fuels and also finds ways to

mitigate the impact of climate change on your future world.''

1 comment:

Jenni said...

This is likely to consist mainly of oil and natural gas, leaving coal as a redundant opeds after the Times asks them to and they are paid for their work too graduation speech to the class of 2099 about climate change" as a way uses the theme of "we must tighten the noose around coal"
Don Blankenship