Alexandra Petri: Children, stop yelling at me, or I will make certain the climate changes for the worse

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Ocea Wraye joins hundreds of students from around the state chant and sing as they march up State Street to the Utah State Capitol Building, demanding action on the climate crisis on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.


I walk in the halls of power. I wield votes. I enter smoke-filled rooms to which you complain that you lack access, although, at the rate things are going with the climate, soon you will have access to smoke-filled rooms, too. Every room! Even outdoors!

But you seem, somehow, not to get it. You seem to think I am someone you might want to lecture and argue with and protest and even, perhaps, alienate.

I hope I do not have to say this more than once: I have nothing to lose. So think very carefully about what you will do next. I may not live to see the enormous wave that engulfs your coastal cities, but that does not mean I will not have caused that wave.

Think to yourself about the following sentence: “The congressman fought hard to protect the earth that would be occupied by future generations, generations for whom the congressman had nothing but respect because they had never appeared to bother the congressman when he was just trying to have a nice afternoon and not be asked frustrating questions.”

That sounds like a sentence that makes sense!

Now think about the following alternative sentence: "Knowing that the very children who had stormed into his office to make a big scene would be inheriting whatever climate legacy the congressman left behind, the congressman ... "

Do you think that sentence ends well? I don't! And unlike myself, you will have to stick around to see whether I am right!

Yes, pick up your handmade signage and depart. That is wise of you, child! It shows sense. I will remember that when the day comes to vote on policy that can determine whether the temperature is going to climb by more or less than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next several decades. Absolutely. It is just your stubbornness, no, your rudeness that has resulted in my continued inaction on this point. As for the votes I made when you were even younger, well, I anticipated this kind of behavior from you, based on the sounds you made on airplanes — and as soon as you stop making your voice heard, you bet, I will behave differently.

Yes, go. Go quietly, please. You do not want me to be thinking, "I wish that child were somewhere unpleasantly hot." REMEMBER, I HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE IT SO.

I truly could be in favor of fixing climate change, you bet! If it weren’t for your tantrums, I might have a vague, nebulous idea that it was something I was doing On Behalf of the Children, whom I conceived of as a kind of gauzy mixture of my grandchildren and particularly cute toddlers who periodically appear in commercials. These imaginary children do not cause scenes.

So stop confronting me instead with the reality of young people! I like preserving the world for them in theory, but when they actually appear, I find them annoying, and they are upset at me, and they do not make me inclined to combat climate change at all. I used to think, boy, I like children! Children are the one demographic that has never tried to lecture me on my policy choices. I WAS A FOOL.

Don’t you remember that China exists? Why should we do anything that is within our power to do when we cannot control what China does? Wouldn’t that make a fool out of us, really, to be seen making an effort to control the things we can control, when some things are beyond our control? Consider also that even if we were to do something — and even if China were to do something — a single volcano of sufficient size erupting would undo the somethings! Consider that meteors exist. It is possible, too, that alien life exists, is hostile and might strike (in vengeance for that Storm Area 51 thing, maybe) all life out of existence in an instant. I could look past that if you were more polite, though. Promise.

So think carefully about the people you are bothering with your activism. It just makes no sense. (I mean, the health care thing, even — why, if your planet is so hopelessly befouled, would you ever try to lengthen the amount of time you spend on it?) I have no other conflicts on this issue than my frustration at hearing you, always demanding MORE! MORE BIRDS! MORE ACTION! MORE TIME!

If you are going to dare to ask for what I have taken for granted, at least be careful to ask in the right way. After all, I can make things very unpleasant for you. And if you doubt that, just watch what I will do next. Unless you stop making your voices heard.

Or maybe even if you don't.

Alexandra Petri

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.

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