Young People and Nature - Edinburgh Medal Address
‘Someone else can arrange this.’ Supposedly the last words of mid-twentieth century domestic goddess Constance Spry, they also sum up the attitude of most governments to the growing issue of climate change.
This year's Edinburgh Medal winner James Hansen suggested this was the case in the address he gave on receiving his award for his contribution to our understanding of how climatic change occurs and recent human contribution to the warming of the planet.
Entitled ‘Young People and Nature’ Hansen took his audience briefly, but pertinently through his career, from working for NASA on climatology on other solar system planets, his subsequent work on Earth and its changing climate in the historic and prehistoric past, to his presentation to the government of the USA of the available evidence for man-made acceleration of carbon emissions, all of which have led him to become a vocal activist and campaigner for effective government intervention on climate change, and has resulted in his arrest on three occasions.
Now the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, Hansen has the experience and profile to speak with authority of what he has discovered and now believes.
A parent and grandparent, Hansen is now driven not only by his concern for the future of our home planet, but also by a dread of what sort of planet future generations will inherit as an outcome of poor decision making in the present.
His argument for taxation on carbon consumption, paid ultimately by the producers with the revenue redistributed to the consuming public, has immediate attraction, but one was left to ponder its chances of becoming a viable model, given the lobbying power of oil and gas producers and the current general aversion to redistributive taxation at the present time.
Nonetheless, as we strip-mine and ‘frac’ our way toward the last remnants of fossil fuel deposits, individuals such as James Hansen deserve our recognition for continuing to remind us all how little time we have to resolve our dependence on carbon consumption and how much we owe it to future generations to do so.
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