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Tracey Essery's Letter
To my son, Alex,
I'm so sorry.
I'm sorry you have to live in a world where extreme weather and competition for food and water are a daily reality.
I'm sorry you will never see the wonderful creatures that used to roam the plains of Africa or hear the birdsong that used to be the soundtrack to sunrise.
I'm sorry that our leaders were more concerned with perpetuating a consumerist lifestyle that encouraged us to work harder to acquire more and more wealth and possessions rather than focus on living life well and valuing the things that matter.
I'm sorry that you have to pay punitive taxes to cover the cost of protecting the excessive profits of oil and gas companies in the past.
I'm sorry that we continued to extract and use fossil fuels even when it became clear that they were damaging the ecosystem that we depend on for our existence.
I'm sorry that we created an economic system that was geared towards instant gratification without sufficient consideration for long-term ability to thrive.
I'm sorry we were too selfish to change our own lifestyles even though we could see the damage we were causing for future generations to endure.
I'm sorry that those of us who saw the signs and tried to bring about change were gaslit and marginalised.
I'm sorry we knew all this was happening but were powerless to stop it.
I was afraid this day would never come.
Eight years ago, all the signs were that we'd failed. That our leaders were too short-sighted to bring about the changes that would curb climate change. We were on a path to self-destruction, with increasingly reckless policy decisions being taken to prop up an economic system that was inequitable and ultimately self-sabotaging.
Then something unbelievable happened. Popular opinion finally reached the tipping point where politicians with that mindset became unelectable. And gradually, too gradually, we began to edge towards a restorative economy that was managed with a view to long-term wellbeing instead of short-term gain.
The government stopped subsidising the excessive profits of oil and gas companies and instead invested the money on insulating homes and building micro renewables capacity. Within a couple of years energy bills were a fraction of their former levels and we had complete energy autonomy.
We started building new homes that were designed to highest energy efficiency standards in developments where everything a resident needed was an easy walk or bike-ride away. Quality of life was so good that people clamoured to live there.
The road building programme was abandoned and instead the money was invested in making public transport free, dramatically reducing deaths caused by poor air quality.
Agriculture was transformed, recognising farmers as custodians of the soil and rewarding regenerative farming practices. Food prices fell and biodiversity thrived.
VAT was reformed to reflect carbon intensity so that low-carbon choices became more attractive and high-carbon products and services less appealing. Flying and fast fashion became unfashionable and plant-first diets went mainstream.
And so we find ourselves here, in an era where quality of life is prioritised and wellbeing is a more important national indicator than GDP. Where your children have a future without the threat of mass extinction and wars over food and water.
I was afraid this day would never come. I'm so grateful that it did.
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