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Something happened some ten years ago at the University of California Berkeley, that has disturbed me ever since. An older major executive of a major oil corporation, British Petroleum (BP) I think, was lecturing in exuberant terms about the glorious future of oil. He was discounting the worries that the world was running out of oil  and that atmospheric pollution was a serious problem. It wasn’t a large audience, maybe fifty people, and the after-lecture questions were serious, polite, when it happened.

A girl, about age ten, went to the microphone and politely asked if all the wonderful things that he was talking about would still be available when she was as old as he. The speaker had been talking in a ten-year time frame, and projecting out to twenty years as possibly sustainable at the current rate of consumption and pollution. The problem for the girl was that he was seventy years old, and she ten, and that meant there was a sixty-year gap, and that meant that his maximum projection of twenty years of sustainable oil production only got her to age thirty, and left her with fifty years of no fuel to run cars for transportation or tractors for cultivating farms. It meant that for more than half of her life expectancy it would be impossible to create enough food for the people of the world even at the present population, and population is currently doubling every forty years. By her simple observation it was obvious that the august speaker was oblivious to the long-term facts, and that the world would obviously come to catastrophe long before she was as old as he if things continued the way he was promoting. What he was promoting was going to bring her to a life of misery watching the world collapse around her.

His answer was wonderful and smarmy, “Excellent question young lady! But as you can see we of my generation must solve our problems, and we leave it to the bright young people such as yourself to solve the problems of the future.” She didn’t argue the point, and returned to her seat, but his answer was the ultimate of cruelty, because by destroying the very resources that are needed to create the energy of tomorrow it makes it impossible for her to succeed in the long run or even to live. This smiling millionaire was condemning this intelligent young woman to probable famine and early death. That sounds hysterically harsh, but there are obviously limits to the usable resources that the Earth can supply, and a twenty-year supply leaves most people alive soon living lives of acute desperation.

Children of the world demand that your elders not destroy the resources you need to live as long as they have.

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