by Bob Williamson
As more and more people around the world come to understand the dire
circumstances we are in regarding climate change and global warming, a
climate activist with a passion for public awareness campaigns has
penned what he calls a "Virtual Graduation Speech to the University
Class of 2099", with a subtitle of "Forget Sunscreen: Prepare for
Global Warming". The "speech" is online now here, and there is no
copyright attached to it, so that anyone may use the text for their
own purposes and actions. The author has plans to bring out the text
as a small 64-page paperback book in the near future, with a YouTube
video spreading the message as well.
The speech to the class of 2099 goes like this:
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 at this
esteemed university on a hill, 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 Tufts
experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as
citizens living on a planet in the midst of a Long Emergency. I'm sure
you've heard this term a lot these past four years -- "The Long
Emergency" that writer James Howard Kunstler wrote about almost 100
years ago -- but you should know that in my days as a student we never
used the phrase. We had not even heard of it yet!
nuclear winter, the 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 9-11, terrorism and global warming.
I'm not around now, but I hope you can "hear" my message here and
perhaps view it on a digital recording on the library. Before I
continue, I just want to take a few moments here to wish you all the
best of luck in your future life and the best of health to enjoy the
luck that I am wishing for you. May all your dreams come true, and
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 besteller 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 ELEVENTH HOUR? Have you ever heard of the
movie, or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?
By the way, have you men and women of the Class of 2099 heard by now
about such global warming adaptation strategies as sustainable
population retreats in the northern regions, once referred to as
"polar cities"? The term was coined in 2006 and a few people blogged
about the concept for a couple of years, not with much success or
public acceptance, before others took over the idea and went even
deeper into the concepts involved.
I want to leave you with seven words: "We must tighten the noose
around coal". Dr Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University 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? Is global warming something that will shape
your future, or are the denialists out there still complaining that it
is a hoax?
Whatever your own personal views are about global warming, pro or con,
or just sitting on the fence in the middle of the debate, you should
know this: there is not much time left. 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. I just
said that "there is not much time left". Maybe I should have said
"time is running out". Or maybe I should have said: "Time has run
Whatever. Class of 2099, go out and help create your world. Good luck
and God bless!
Class of 1971
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