The following post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Letters to the Future, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. Letters to the Future is a project produced by the Sacramento News & Review, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Media Consortium, in which a variety of writers, scientists, artists, and others were asked "to predict the outcome of the Paris talks (the success or failure and what came subsequently) as if writing to their children's children, six generations hence." To view the entire series, visit here. Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #LettersToTheFuture, and follow @ParisLetters. For more information on the project, visit here.
Dear Future Inhabitants of the Earth: I was speaking with an environmental-scientist friend of mine not too long ago and he said he felt extremely grim about the fate of the earth in the hundred-year frame, but quite optimistic about it in the five-hundred year frame. "There won't be many people left," he said, "but the ones who are here will have learned a lot." I have been taking comfort, since then, in his words.
If you are reading this letter, you are one of the learners, and I am grateful to you in advance. And I'm sorry. For my generation. For our ignorance, our short sightedness, our capacity for denial, our unwillingness or inability to stand up to the oil and gas companies who have bought our wilderness, our airwaves, our governments. It must seem to you that we were dense beyond comprehension, but some of us knew, for decades, that our carbon-driven period would be looked back on as the most barbaric, the most irresponsible age in history.
Part of me wishes there was a way for me to know what the earth is like in your time, and part of me is afraid to know how far down we took this magnificent sphere, this miracle of rock and ice and air and water.
Should I tell you about the polar bears, great white creatures that hunted seals among the icebergs; should I tell you about the orcas? To be in a kayak, with a pod of orcas coming toward you, to see the big male's fin rise in its impossible geometry, 6 feet high and black as night, to hear the blast of whale breath, to smell its fishy tang -- I tell you, it was enough to make a person believe she had lead a satisfying life.
I know it is too much to wish for you: polar bears and orcas. But maybe you still have elk bugling at dawn on a September morning, and red-tail hawks crying to their mates from the tops of ponderosa pines.
Whatever wonders you have, you will owe to those about to gather in Paris to talk about ways we might reimagine ourselves as one strand in the fabric that is this biosphere, rather than its mindless devourer.
E.O. Wilson says as long as there are microbes, the Earth can recover -- another small measure of comfort. Even now, evidence of the Earth's ability to heal herself is all around us -- a daily astonishment. What a joy it would be to live in a time when the healing was allowed to outrun the destruction. More than anything else, that is what I wish for you.
Author of short stories, novels and essays, Houston wrote the acclaimed Cowboys Are My Weakness, winner of the 1993 Western States Book Award.