For the past two weeks, I’ve stood with other parents, watching my son run through soccer drills on a stiff, browned field of grass adjacent to Target in South Charleston.
It’s been hot. In fact, the temperature has been in the 90s for the past two practices, exactly one week apart.
The kids are sluggish. They frequently drop to the grass in a measure of partly mocking, partly sincere exhaustion. They also have a hard time focusing.
“I can’t seem to get much out of them today,” the coach says casually to us parents.
Now, it’s important to note than my son is 6. When I was that age, I had the attention span of a neurotic squirrel. It’s not as if we parents are expecting them to focus on give-and-go drills and one-touch passing like they’re in the youth system at Manchester United. Still, the coach had a point.
“I think it’s just too hot,” he says.
Sure, a day of kindergarten is draining on a kid, but these particular children have no body fat and I’ve seen at least one of them resist bedtime with the combined strength, speed and focus of five meth heads. This near-delirious lack of concentration and energy isn’t something most of us have witnessed from them before.
When it comes down to it, it’s just not normal for it to be above 90 degrees for several days in mid-to-late September. And it’s supposed to be just as hot next week.
I know climate and weather are two different things. I accidentally mixed the terms in a story I wrote several years ago when I was a reporter, and the meteorological community responded the way you might expect if you waded into a crowd of NASCAR fans and said “These drivers aren’t really athletes. I mean, the car is doing all the work.”
So, yeah, I understand sometimes there are really hot days and sometimes there are really cold days, and sometimes those days are out of season. But you’d have to be daft to not know, even from simple observation, the climate has gotten significantly warmer over a relatively short span of time. Storms are more frequent and furious. Flooding is significantly worse than it used to be, etc.
When I was in elementary school, we were taught the Earth was gradually shifting toward another ice age. Guess what? That information is now more than 30 years old, and things have changed. Significantly.
But we know what the problem is. And we know there are things we can do about it. So, why don’t we? I’ll admit, when it comes to certain environmental issues, I’ve been as reticent as anyone about things like paper straws and separating one type of garbage from another type of garbage. Then I look at my kid and realize that’s a pittance and the least of what we can do.
I don’t want my son, or his children, not to be able to go outside during certain parts of the day because it’s unbearable. I don’t want him or his children to bear the brunt of the billions of dollars it will take to even try to do something after it’s already too late. I don’t know everything about parenting, but I know in a few years he’s going to be blaming me for all of his problems anyway. I don’t need “killed the planet” added to that list.
So let’s take climate change seriously. Let’s do it now, to make sure our kids learn to be responsible for the planet and to make sure we don’t hand them a broken one.