Obama Speech Connects Climate to Responsible Parenting

Stephen Smith | June 25, 2013 | Clean Transportation, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy

I refuse to condemn…future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.

President Obama, June 25, 2013

Obama Family Portrait

President Obama’s speech today was a welcome outline of the additional actions this administration will take to reduce the impacts of human induced climate disruption.  I also heard in today’s message from the president his desire as a father to protect his children. This frame resonated with me as a father with three children and two grandchildren. Like Obama, I fear one day hearing, “Dad, what did you do to reverse this dangerous trend?”

I understand it’s grossly irresponsible for my generation to leave the world in a much-degraded state for our children and grandchildren.  Things I have taken for granted in my life are today increasingly threatened: unstable, disruptive climate patterns impact how we grow food, unleash extreme flooding which limits where we can live and play, and destroy treasured places that are unique to our region like the Outer Banks, the Everglades, and other coastal communities and mountain ecosystems.   Even the safety of our homes is threatened by devastating tornadoes and storm surges.

I’ve had the good fortune in my life to dive in the coral reefs before they were bleached white by rising water temperatures and to hike unique mountain ecosystems in the southern Appalachians, now threatened as warmer temperatures climb to higher elevations.  I fear that my children may not be afforded the same awe inspiring opportunity as these places rapidly disappear or change irrevocably.

I now know that what I have taken for granted in my life, it is my responsibility to protect so that my children and grandchildren may experience the world in the same way or better than I have.  The president put out a strong call for all of us to shoulder this duty, saying, “Those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors and more concerned with the judgment of posterity, because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.”

As parents, we all understand that one of our greatest responsibilities is to protect and nurture our children and to work for a better future for them. Failing to take action on climate change is the height of irresponsible parenting.  Leaving them a planet wracked by dangerous changes to climate will not provide them a safe and prosperous future.  Just as President Obama said in his speech today, we need to make our decisions on this issue “not just as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future.” I ask that everyone else who is or plans to be a parent, embrace the president’s challenge and take the actions necessary to leave the world a better place than how our generation found it.


Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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