A Letter from the Future on Climate Change


This blog post is a response to the Dear 2015 Group Blogging Event prompt from Meeting of the Minds, the global knowledge sharing platform:

The year is 2050. Write a letter to the people of 2015 describing what your city is like, and give them advice on the next 35 years.

For more responses, see the Dear 2015 event page http://cityminded.org/cal/dear-2015.


Dear Citizens of 2015,

By now, you have a good idea of how urban the world will become and how dangerous the global threat of climate change is to your future.

You've begun to take some real action, but let's face it, you often put off the hard work until later, preferring instead to keep relying on fossil fuels and accepting societal divisions that slowed progress.

More often than not, your approaches were piecemeal and haphazard, with efforts to change in fits and starts, and seemingly ambitious goals extended far into the future.

That future is here, and I want to tell you about it - from my vantage point in 2050.

It's been a challenge, but we have come to understand the complex intersections that help to create the simplest of things - living healthy and productive lives in cities and their surrounds. Yes, it's the intersections where some of the solutions were found.

You may recall my earlier writings calling for us to look into our racial and economic history to pinpoint what prevented many of us from successfully partaking in the basics of life - clean air and water, affordable housing, safe streets, good schools, healthy food, convenient and affordable access to jobs and opportunities for our children.

It was hard for some to understand how fighting the negative effects of climate change related to such success, especially one that would include those who were historically left behind.

But estimates that action on climate change was one of the defining challenges of our time turned out to be modest. It became the impetus for a new golden era in human innovation as we worked together globally, using technology, digital communications, and government and private collaboration to turbocharge energy efficiency, invest in resilient infrastructure, create jobs, explore renewable energy sources, prioritize energy-saving affordable housing, retrofit city buildings, create streets that accommodate walking and biking, and build public transit that eliminated cars from city centers.

Energy efficiency alone saved the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars, and every dollar invested in climate resiliency saved at least four times that one dollar.

Sometimes we still have trouble remembering to bring our issues to the ground level, but most people began to understand the need to change with the continuing weather events that plagued us through the decades. Also, you'll be interested to know that we openly talk about climate change these days, thanks to your help early on in the environmental movement.

We're on target to reduce transportation emissions by 80 percent this year and you'd be amazed at the scale of autonomous cars, powered by fuel cells. Americans are statistically healthier than ever due to increased physical activity and organic, hormone-free food options.

Back in 2015, more than 80 percent of Americans lived in cities and nearby suburbs. Millennials continued to change the way we live, at first flocking to cities to transform them in fundamental ways. But then, a large number "modified the grid" in their personal lives and chose to live more simply, taking some urban ways with them to rural areas and making urban/suburban/rural distinctions even less obvious.

Social equity, as it was in 2015, remains a stubborn problem but with less need for expensive cars, energy efficient affordable housing closer to jobs, less food insecurity and more vibrant cities with better opportunity, the unrest of your era has abated.

The solution, as it turned out, was keeping people top of mind and working to address their everyday needs: lowering energy bills, reducing the incidence of flooding and fires, improving access to healthier food, mitigating climate-related health problems and making it cheaper and easier for everyone to get around.

Climate action did become the topic of kitchen table conversation, as I once predicted, and people recognized the direct, systemic relationship between a community's economic health, its social health and its environmental health. And, as a result, we did something about it.

Thanks for the head start.