Young People and the Injustices of Climate Change: Bold, Rapid Action is Needed

Over a year ago, Alex Steffen published an insightful piece regarding the intergenerational injustice of climate change. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, but I’m relaying a few excerpts here.

One of the statements most relevant to our enterprise at Nature Towns is this one: “I think there’s absolutely no way that the US can meet real carbon goals without fundamentally reforming urban planning and rebuilding urban/metro infrastructure.”

This is exactly why Patrick and I created Nature Towns. If we do not immediately stop wasting our resources on building new, car-dependent sprawl infrastructure while also paving the soil (tragically often, good farmland), this country will fail to make serious cuts in our emissions. Nor can we hope to maintain even a whit of food sovereignty.

Steffen makes the point that the current industrial system that has created the climate disaster has also greatly benefited [some among] the older third of the population. Older generations have profited enormously from fossil fuel extraction and all that went along with it. Today’s young people are reaping the whirlwind of the foolish, selfish and greedy behavior of previous decades. Older people, if not already feeling and suffering from the effects of climate change, are not really as worried – after all, they’ll be gone before it really kicks in.

Steffen wrote: “If we care about intergenerational justice, moving at the most disruptive speed we can on cutting emissions is a clear ethical imperative. That’s because while those risks and costs [of climate and inevitable societal change] will fall almost entirely on the younger two-thirds of the population (and future generations) the money from climate destruction is being mostly accumulated by the older third. Delay is, in this sense, predatory.”

He points out that younger people are shut out from building the lives they want, as represented by problems “from the housing shortage… to the death grip of car commuting on transportation planning…”

And the zingers: “Almost everywhere in America, it’s hard to build the low-carbon new, even though younger people have shown that the low-carbon new is exactly what they want, from car-free neighborhoods to clean energy, bike infrastructure to green multifamily buildings…” [emphasis added].

“To get the speed of the emissions cuts we need, we’re going to need to build the new on an unprecedented scale, in ways that intentionally alter the fundamental workings of older systems, foreclose high emissions choices and tilt the economics of pollution everywhere.

“That build of the new is not a trend that will influence the economy of the future, it IS the economy of the future.

“A giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like.”

Thank you, Alex Steffen! This is exactly what we aim to accomplish through Nature Towns: build new, low-carbon neighborhoods with pedestrian and bike infrastructure baked into them from the start, with a range of housing types, sizes and costs, paired with regenerative agriculture farms. The village and farm will provide hundreds of job opportunities (restaurants, shops, clinics, salons, art studios, bakeries, etc.) in a thriving local economy, while the population density will enable efficient mass transit into the larger city.

Why are we still building dead-end places that isolate us and destroy the planet? Time to start the Regenerative Movement now!

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