By Susan Horton

Posted Aug 29, 2019 at 3:00 AMUpdated Aug 29, 2019 at 7:32 AM

Like many others, I’ve heard Trump-supporting friends invariably ask, “Have you checked your 401(k) lately?” As if that’s all that needs to be said. It’s not. Approaching 78, I have more than 25 nephews and nieces, and twice that many great-grandchildren. Anyone seeing the exuberant smile on the newest – a boy who will be 1 in October – would adore him, as I do. It’s completely natural to think about what I can pass on to him.

But just stockpiling money for him won’t save him, or any of the others. If unregulated pesticides, polluted waters, and climate change kill off all the honey bees, when he grows up there will be no bees – so no pollinators, no wheat, no other grains, no bread to eat, no vegetables. If we continue fouling our oceans with plastics, killing whales, turtles and the fish we love to eat – each of two of the recent dead whales found off the coast of Europe had 47 pounds of plastic in their stomachs, but no food – what will those we love and leave behind have to eat?

If we continue the pace of deregulation we’re on, many businesses will be happy, since they’ve been freed to spew more pollutants into our waters and air. The money in our 401(k) or certificates of deposit will go up. But as the effects of those policies become more glaring, what will our grandchildren and great-grandchildren drink? What air will they breathe?

It’s young people, like 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who, speaking at the International Panel on Climate Change, urgently asked those questions of us. Not how much money we’ll leave them, but what kind of world we will leave them. They are the ones who will have to cope with the wildfires and windstorms, the floods and hurricanes, the polluted water, the denuded world we will have left behind for them to inhabit. They will not thank us, no matter how many dollars we leave them. What, after all, will they be able to spend them on, with no food, clean water or air to breathe?

We need to spend less time eyeing that 401(k) and more time investing time researching organizations, coalitions, and legal entities fighting to ensure that after we’re gone, there will still be a world where the precious ones we leave behind can ski, swim, sit in the sun, walk the beach, eat lobster and quahogs – do all of the things that, after all is said and done, is what we’ve always hoped to leave behind for them after we’re gone.

Susan R. Horton lives in West Harwich.

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