Letters to the future: Will we finally tackle climate change? | News Feature | Indy Week
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Letters to the future: Will we finally tackle climate change? 

World leaders from more than 190 countries will convene in Paris during the first two weeks of December for the long-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference. Will the governments of the world finally pass a binding global treaty aimed at reducing the most dangerous impacts of global warming ... or will they fail?

Letters to the Future, a national project involving more than 40 alternative weeklies across the United States, set out to find authors, artists, scientists and others willing to draft letters to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks—and the future that followed.

Some participants were optimistic about what is to come; others, not so much.

Jeffrey C. Billman

Dear future INDY readers: First off, you exist! That's wonderful—and maybe a little surprising. In my time, newspapers are being written off as anachronisms to be gutted, hollowed out and sold for scrap. (Related: Is Twitter still a thing?) It's good to know we survived, in one form or another. (Or maybe you're reading this in a library archive? Oh well.)

Come to think of it, though, maybe that's how my generation should be looking at things like coal and crude, bygone relics to be cast aside in a clean-energy future. But even a generation after we realized that releasing climate-shaking quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere might be a problem, the fossil-fuel industry's clout and avarice remain largely unchecked. The tiniest steps toward a more sustainable future are met with ferocious resistance or outright denial. We've been cowards, afraid to own up to the consequences of our modernity, content to pass along the costs to our posterity.

But there came a point when our cowardice was indefensible.

That's why, as your history books tell you, the Paris climate talks were so important. This was the moment that the world admitted we have a real problem that requires real solutions that may have real short-term pain, but the cost of inaction is, in the long run, much greater.

At least, for your sake, that's how I hope it played out.

Billman is the INDY's editor in chief.

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  • Ahead of the Paris climate talks next months, scientists, activists and authors weigh in on our warming future

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