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
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
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
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
''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.''
Posted by DANIELBLOOM at 11:16 PM