This just in: Empathy for our hypothetical grandchildren is no longer an effective tactic for political protest.
It was bound to happen. Our yet-to-be-born children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have become so overburdened by the proposed legislation of our myopic, politically expedient, "future will take care of itself" Congress that they have unanimously decided to remain unborn.
Ironically, it wasn’t a concern about spiraling interest payments on the national debt that gave them pause. It wasn’t a worry about being raised by a single parent or even a pair of same-sex parents. It wasn’t a fear that they might live in a Socialist nation under Sharia Law or not be allowed to pray in school. The laundry list of fears trumpeted by a narrow group of their theoretical grandparents always seemed a little too paranoid and overexaggerated to be taken that seriously.
Their decision was based solely on a consensus that we would not be able to preserve an atmosphere of clean air for them to breathe.
It’s too bad, too. Before the deficit doomsayers and religious radicals overplayed the overburdened proverbial grandchildren fear card, forward-thinking citizens actually did care about the environment future generations would be born into. Leaders from the recent past had enacted legislation that would ensure their survival. Clean air. Clean water. Transportation alternatives. Renewable energy sources. Recycling. These were all considered part of a responsible legacy, once upon a time.
The minute our current Congress signaled that it was returning to a transportation funding policy of the 1950's, the unborn knew their fate was sealed. Eliminating funding for active transportation alternatives in favor of doubling-down on auto and truck infrastructure was the final nail in their coffins.
The hypothetical were disappointed, but not really surprised that Congress chose to shore up shortages created by declining fuel tax revenues by expanding leases for more fossil fuel exploration on Federal lands. How many times had they already witnessed the "mortgage the future to pay for the present" strategy play out, anyway? They would have liked to see the National Parks, but smog looks the same in LA as it does in the Rocky Mountains...
The unborn were a little confused as to why there wasn’t an effort to raise highway revenues through the successful road pricing system employed in Germany. It seemed pretty logical to collect greater revenues from the users who actually caused the most damage to the roadways (and the air). But then it dawned on them that the Germans were Democratic Socialists and automatically disqualified from offering pragmatic solutions to problems of a true freedom loving nation...
The proverbial were also slightly confused as to the rationale behind raiding funds originally designated to encourage healthy alternatives like walking and bicycling. To these future Americans, upgrading infrastructure that reduced traffic congestion, lowered emissions, and conserved declining reserves of oil seemed like a no-brainer.
The unborn spent a great deal of time contemplating another irony, as well. This one centered around a rational concern for containing runaway health care costs coupled with an irrational dismissal of any behavior that might encourage routine exercise and lessen the rising costs of treating metabolic syndrome.
It is all such a damn shame now that this very esteemed group of inevitable, proverbial, hypothetical, future Americans has been co-opted as poster children into a movement that is insistent on the right to draw a breath but absolutely unconcerned whether that breath will be able to sustain life.
If only this group hadn’t been marginalized before it was born, maybe then someone could truly champion for it and a planet actually worth living on.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to really think about future generations and leaving behind a legacy of sustainability. We can rescue these future grandchildren from the deathgrip of their not-yet-predestined grandparents and ensure that their right to breathe includes their right to breathe clean air.
All it takes is a visit to the League of American Bicyclists and a quick message to your representatives. letting them know that you believe in the benefits of investing in active transportation infrastructure.
We stopped SOPA and saved the Internet. Let's check the greed of the US Chamber of Commerce and the transportation lobby and save the air that we breathe!
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