Future Voices

Future Voices

“Stop the coal train!” an activist yells as dozens of arms come up in a mock blockade of a coal train.

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It’s June 22nd 2013 at the Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle. It’s hot, there are thousands of people in the parade in various states of dress and undress and I and another filmmaker are embedded with group of activists putting on the “Procession for Our Future” and the “Sing for Our Future” singalong. The activists hope to engage more people in the problems of exporting coal and climate change. We’ll be interviewing a handful of young people involved with them as they will have to live with the choices that adults make today.

One young lady almost out of her teens said: “My mom grew up in Kentucky and talked about how the coal trains there made it hard to breath. And I don’t want that happening to the Pacific Northwest.”

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Coal as transported via train is generally done in open containers, allowing coal dust to escape along the route. It’s not as bad as smoking, but in an area that has significant appeal for it’s clean air it seems short-sighted to allow something that might impact that.

Another teenager reports that “If we burn this coal now we don’t get to go back, and they don’t get to have a future. Not one anything like what the regulators have had.”

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Conversations about climate change are frequently discouraging. Either about whether or not there is a scientific debate about it’s existence or potential for catastrophe (there isn’t), or with people that agree that it’s a problem, but aren’t willing to do much about it besides sorting recycling and compost, or perhaps buying a Prius instead of a Subaru.

These young people will likely live to the 2070s and if we do nothing they will see in their lifetimes temperature increases of 5°C from the start of the industrial revolution. This is a massive debt to put onto them, their children and their grandchildren. So they’re doing what they can now, despite in many cases being too young to even vote.

Later we cover the singalong. They’re performing Do it now:

“We’re on a planet; that has a problem; We’ve got to solve it, get involved, and do it now, now, now!”

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Afterwards we wrap up and have a conversation with one of the organizers from the Backbone Campaign about how to make videos that get people to actually take action.  It’s hard. Everybody has a life and responsibilities and things that have to happen. Some problems just look too big for one person to deal with and it’s easy to imagine there is some group somewhere that’s going to fix everything. Asking people to share a video is one thing; What about actually calling their legislators or changing their lifestyles in some way? How do you actually get people to make a difference?

The unfortunately reality is that we’re all we’ve got. The media has no interest in communicating the facts of the problem and there are armies of people paid to spread falsehoods to good people that might otherwise demand action. It’s up to citizens to make this happen for our children, and their children and their children.