Ahmed Gaya
Climate Activist
Seattle, Washington, United States

A Window Closing

“There is so much you will not see or experience because of what we did not do. You won’t know the stability and comfort that I do today.”

To my Grandchildren,

I’m sorry.

Your world is so much harder because of what we did not do. It took us too long to realize there was a problem. It took longer still to realize the scope.

Once we understood, we squandered much of the time we had left.

We spent nearly two decades putting our hopes in politicians and leaders, believing there would be an easy solution. After those hopes were dashed at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 we spent more than half the following decade confused, depressed, and stumbling.

There is so much you will not see or experience because of what we did not do. You won’t know the stability and comfort that I do today.

I hope you can look upon the middle of the second decade of this millennium as the point when things began to change. Not because of what our leaders did in Paris in 2015. They will continue to fail us as predictably as always. I hope you remember this time, because it was when people stopped looking to politicians to save us and started saving ourselves.

When you study this decade, I hope you learn not about yet another failed summit, but about the massive people’s movements that followed it. I hope you learn about the thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people who stopped cooperating with an economic and political system designed to destroy their future. In my imagination, your heroes will be the people who faced the truncheon in the global north and the gun in the south closing mines, plants, and offices with the collective power of their bodies. As I write this, we are only starting to realize that these small sacrifices are nothing compared to losing you.

If your planet is harsher and harder than mine, I hope that your society is more just and kind.

Are you confused by the petty differences that divided us in this decade? I don’t know how to explain why we misspent our energy focusing only on the carbon in the air, when the root of the problem was the injustice on the ground. It must be obvious to you now that the same logic that colonized the land and starved the many for the profit of the few nearly destroyed our home.

I dream that your parents will tell you stories of how they forced the mines to close and the borders to open. That they’ll tell you how the great migrations were hard and painful, but not the dystopia we imagined in our fiction. How as the weather became more violent, the only way to survive was for people to become kinder to one another. That though some chose to stand alone on their porches, cooperation was the key to survival—though it was far from easy. I do not imagine that you live in a society free from the mark of oppression by race or gender or background; but rather that you have been taught from a young age that in the world you live in, understanding and overcoming this is a key to continued survival and some kind of prosperity.

I’m sorry that we did not do what we could. That so much was lost forever. But I hope that as our window began to close, we did enough. At least we did enough that you can read this and smile.

A founder of the climate-justice collective Rising Tide Seattle and sHell No! Action Council, Gaya has spent the past decade organizing for climate justice in the U.S., Europe, and Canada.