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Barth Keck

I weep for the future. Not in the way the snooty maître d’ of the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” intended when showing his disdain for teenage irreverence. Rather, I’m sincerely worried that kids today are headed for a gloomier, more inhospitable world, thanks to the current actions – or inactions – of selfish adults.

Climate change is the most glaring threat adults today are allowing to fester or, even worse, denying altogether. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that carbon dioxide created by human beings is causing the planet to warm at a rate250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last ice age,” politicians continue to treat climate change like your cantankerous uncle who everyone knows is there but simply placates because “we wouldn’t want to upset him.”

The Connecticut legislature, for instance, finished its session this year with “basically no new legislation to address the problem,” reported the Hartford Courant

“Look out your window,” said the “exasperated” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes on June 8. “You can see it. Wildfires from Canada. This is climate change. Right out the window.”

It doesn’t matter that a new study conducted by nearly 30 research scientists around the world and reported last week by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that “nine processes that are critical for maintaining the stability and resilience of Earth system as a whole” are currently “heavily perturbed by human activities.” Six of those nine processes – including biosphere integrity, land system change, and freshwater change – are already “beyond planetary boundaries.”

Nor does it matter that insurance companies are increasing premiums on homeowners’ policies or simply refusing to write new ones in certain locations based on climate-related conditions. “If the continuing risk of fires, hurricanes, and other weather-related disasters isn’t enough to make Americans think carefully about how and where to build a home,” reported The Atlantic last month, “perhaps the rising cost of insurance might concentrate their mind.”

Right here in Connecticut, insurance executives are encouraging Gov. Ned Lamont to “take action on climate change, such as implementing mitigation measures to reduce the risk of extreme weather,” reported CT New Junkie last month.

But no worries. Climate change is nothing to fear. In written testimony opposing Connecticut’s potential ban on gas-powered cars by 2035, Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, set the record straight: “The case for global climate change being the direct result of manmade CO2 emission is not the least bit conclusive with scientists on all sides of the argument. Some even suggest that CO2 levels were at dangerously low levels until recently, potentially preventing photosynthesis, killing plant life and eventually everything, and that man-made CO2 might have actually helped.”

So there you have it: Human-produced carbon dioxide is not dangerous at all. In fact, it actually stimulates photosynthesis in nature! Who knew?

The irresponsible reaction to climate change isn’t the only reason I weep for the future. I also worry about kids’ mental health.

“In 2019, more than 1 in 3 reported feeling so sad or hopeless at some point over the past year that they had skipped regular activities, a 44% rise since 2009, and 1 in 6 had contemplated suicide,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Connecticut exhibits similar statistics.

“According to the Connecticut School Health Survey, conducted in 2021 and released [in May] by the Department of Public Health, more than a third of Connecticut high school students reported having felt sad or hopeless, while more than a quarter report that their mental health was not good most or all of the time and about one in seven said they had seriously considered suicide,” reported Hearst Connecticut Media. “Yet only 22.3% of students said they can often or always get the help they need, the lowest figure on record.”

As an example, Sharon Jankowski, a student at Killingly High School, said students’ mental-health needs “are being ignored and that the school is refusing to give them the resources they need.” To protest, students organized a public rally and a school sit-in back in May.

The situation in Killingly mirrors a nationwide effort by conservative activists who criticize school-based mental-health services and education as a means for schools to discuss with students issues like abortion and gender without parental consent – even as such services have been shown to reduce depression and suicide risk, especially in disadvantaged communities.

The adults, once again, are acting like obstacles – not advocates – for kids.

As a teaching colleague and father of two young boys says, only somewhat ironically, “We’re heading toward a Mad Max future.” It’s a reference to the post-apocalyptic film in which opposing tribes live in a barren landscape and literally fight over gasoline, a rare commodity. It seems far-fetched. Then again, given the current indifference among adults for addressing climate change and childhood mental health, how far-fetched is it, really? 

We should all be weeping literal tears for the future.

Barth Keck is in his 32nd year as an English teacher and 18th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition. Follow Barth on Twitter @keckb33 or email him here.

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