[The following text is a ”virtual” graduation speech intended for the eyes and ears of college graduates in the year 2099, but it wouldn’t hurt in 2011 either. I wrote it a few years ago and put it up on YouTube for posterity, since my days here on Earth are numbered. Heart attack last year and stent now and Lipitor, alas. Still, I soldier on, hoping for at least another 20 years here. Who knows? We abide, God decides. The theme comes from a 1988 paper by Dr Jesse Ausubel at Rockefeller University in New York, who way back then spoke of the need to tighten the noose around coal. This “speech” to the future has appeared on CNN i Reports, the New York Times ”Dot Earth” website and on YouTube has gone viral. It’s a wake up call, a cri de coeur, an alarm bell. We cannot go on using coal and oil and expect future generations to survive much past the year 2500 CE. I am speaking here at Tufts, but it could be Harvard, Boston College, Emerson, Brandeis, Boston University, UMASS, Northeastern, Stanford, Princeton, LSE, you name it. Therefore, with my tongue not in cheek at all, and in fact, very seriously and with deep compassion for the future, I say unto ye, with my Jewish heart…..]
Good afternoon, Tufts Class of 2099,
I can’t be here in person to address you, since I passed into oblivion
long ago. But as a member of the Tufts graduating class of 1971 here at my own
beloved alma mater in Boston, I wanted to leave you with a brief
message — from the past to the future — about global warming and
As the class of 2099, you are about to enter the 22nd Century in a few
more months, and you will bring with you not only your university
experience but also your career expectations and personal anxieties as
citizens living on a planet in the midst of a climate crisis. I’m sure
you’ve heard this term a lot in the past four years — “climate
crisis” — but you should know that in my days as a student, we never
used the phrase. Back then, we had not even heard of the term yet!
Back then, of course, we were focused on terms such as Cold War,
nuclear winter, war on poverty, racism, the oil shock, the Middle East
situation, and later on, towards of our “three score and ten” on
Earth, newer terms such as 9-11, terrorism and global warming.
I’m not around now, but I hope you can read my message online and
perhaps view it on a digital recording in a public library. Before I
continue, I just want to take a few moments here to wish you all the
best of luck in your future life and the best of health to enjoy the
luck that I am wishing for you. May all your dreams come true, and
Members of the Class of 2099, you are living in a very crucial time in
the history of humankind. Your world stands at the threshold of a
period of human history when very important decisions will have to be
made about the use of fossil fuels and the “consume! slash! burn!”
lifestyle that you have come to expect.
I wonder: do the names James Lovelock or James Hansen or Al Gore still
ring a bell in your generation now, or have new faces and names
replaced these far-seeing men? Is that book by Mark Lynas, titled “Six
Degrees”, still in print, or has a new besteller on climate change
become the must-read of your generation? Is that documentary from
2006, “An Inconvenient Truth”, still in circulation? And what about
Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The 11th Hour”? Have you ever heard of the movie,
or has it been all but forgotten in your day and age?
By the way, have you men and women of the Class of 2099 heard by now
about such global warming adaptation strategies as “sustainable
population retreats” in northern regions, once referred to as “polar
cities”? The terms were coined back in 2006 and some people blogged
about it for a couple of years before mainstream scientists and engineers
went even deeper into the concepts involved.
Class of 2099, I want to leave you with seven words: “We must tighten
the noose around coal”.
Dr. Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University in the U.S. wrote those
words more than 100 years ago, and they were prophetic. Has your world
tightened the noose around coal? Has your world started to tackle the
vexing problems of overpopulation, climate change and the creation of
a sustainable economy? Is global warming something that will shape
your future, or are the denialists out there still complaining that it
is a hoax?
Whatever your own personal views are about global warming, pro or con,
or just sitting on the fence in the middle of the debate, you should
know this: there is not much time left. I hope your generation finds a
way to stop the burning of fossil fuels and also finds ways to
mitigate the impact of climate change on your future world. I just
said that “there is not much time left”. Maybe I should have said
“time is running out”. Or maybe I should have said: “Time has run
Whatever. ”Class of 2099”, go out and help create your world. Good luck
and God bless!
SEE AND HEAR THE ENTIRE SPEECH HERE: