I want to earn my future, not inherit it
Posted on 14 February 2011 by DavidRobertson
"The meek shall inherit the earth." (Psalms: 37:11).
Even the oldest cliches can reveal new insight if we look at them in the right light, as I discovered while swaying along in a crowded tube carriage two days ago. I realised that, while I agree with the saying, it's not because I hope to be one of the blessed meek. It's because I see it as a call to arms.
An inheritance is not earned, nor is it asked for. It is bestowed upon you. As a 23 year old, I look to my future and wonder what it will be like. What legacy will the power brokers of modern society bestow on my generation? I plan to be happy and healthy in 2050, about to embark on a couple of decades of quiet retirement, doing whatever retirees do in the not-too-distant future. However, a pressing question hovers over my ability to do that. Will poor decision-making in regional and world politics, along with the changing environment, render such a simple plan a naive fantasy?
The increasingly politicised and polarised debate surrounding climate science is, in the blogosphere at least, quietly lacking voices of those who will be most affected by climate change. The developing world isn't getting much say, and neither are the youth. There are many reasons why this is the case, and it concerns me.
At the end of 2009, at Australia's Griffith University, I was given responsibility for running a condensed course on climate change adaptation. There was a program of guest lectures on a range of topics, and the discussion and debate in the ensuing student tutorials reached levels I've not seen in any of my other teaching roles. Role playing scenarios became heated, even if most students had previously agreed that a given climate change response policy was a good or necessary one. Taking the position of someone with a vested interest suddenly brought home the complexity and difficulty of enacting real-world change.
While these served as useful lessons, both for the students and me as a facilitator, it left me with a message. It was a message repeated when I attended a Powershift conference organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. The message is that young people are concerned about science and the environment, and they are willing to engage. However, few have the background, expertise or motivation to attempt to have their viewpoint heard throughout the world of science blogs. That's problematic, as the blogosphere has had a strong impact on the mainstream media's treatment of climate change in the past few years.
My recent nomination in the 2011 Bloggie Awards in the Best Science Weblog category came as a surprise. I've been mixing my thoughts of science with the wider aspects of my life on the blog for about two years, but haven't had the need or opportunity to crystallise my reason for blogging until the past two weeks. I realise now that what I am trying to express, whether it be through musings on the scientific method or a photograph of a pristine landscape, is the enthusiasm and optimism of a young scientist in the face of an uncertain future. Unlike my Bloggie competitors - heavyweights like Wired Science and Watts Up With That? - my blog is mine alone, a space filled by my desire to express myself and to capture my evolving world view.
There are many reasons to be negative about the climate change debate and, looking ahead, at the consequences to be felt in my lifetime. I can't dwell on those; I only have one shot in life, and I want to be able to define it on my own, positive terms.
I'm not going to inherit the future from anyone. I'm going to shape it into a place where people can live fulfilling lives, enriched by the benefits of modern science and technology and not imperilled by them. If I can't achieve such a vision through my best efforts, at least I'll know I didn't sit back and wait for others to act. Right now, I've put working roles on hold for a year while I hone my skills and learn new ones. Blogging is, for now, my main outlet for sharing the positive view of science that I hold close to my heart.
It's a road I've already started to walk down, yet on the unexpected but welcome side track of the Bloggies, I need as much assistance as I can get to cross the line in first place against such strong competition. If you can help me to take home the Best Science Blog for 2011, it will be more than a badge on a website. It will be a symbol that youth, independence and positive idealism are alive, well and embraced in the world of science blogs.