Letter To A Young Girl

Dear A__,.

The decision to have you, to bring you into this world, was not an easy one; your mother and I agonized about it a fair amount. We went for it in the end because we were excited to see how our lives would turn out with someone like you in our lives. Our decision was the correct one; we cannot imagine life without you, and you have changed us for the better in many ways. All isn’t smooth sailing, of course; I regret that this world into which you’ve been born is not in better shape. Climate change is real; fascist political movements are on the rise all over the world; patriarchy is fighting very, very hard to maintain its power. And that’s just three of the many things that makes this world a worse place than it needs to be. I’m not a very optimistic person; and so I think that things will get worse before they get better. Still, there is plenty of occasion to cheer, and to offer me hope for what lies ahead of you. Here are the two biggest factors in my optimism–such as it is.

First, the world is still beautiful; you’ve seen some of it thanks to our family trips but there is so much more; literally, a whole world. I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’d like to think I’m exposing you to enough to whet your appetite. You like climbing, and I’m hopeful that you will keep it up–literally–and go to all those airy ledges that always seem to have the best views of the world below. There is much to see, much to explore; and if the big bad guys want to take away this wilderness from you, then you have a good battle to fight  waiting for you. It’s a good cause; you could do worse than to devote your life to keeping the outdoors wild and beautiful for future wild kids like you.

Second, young people are angry and politically organized. Just yesterday, a young and dynamic woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won a primary election–she is going to be the youngest woman elected to Congress. She spoke up for the communities she represents, putting their interests front and center; she did not compromise or triangulate; she spoke clearly and fearlessly; and she inspired many to come out and support her. You don’t have to emulate her; you don’t have to run for Congress; but you should learn from her that sincerity and passion and honesty will take you a long way even as many around you will try to tell you to be insincere and dishonest.

So, there it is. You don’t get an inheritance other than a a beautiful world and some beautiful people to share it with. Oh, there’s tons of trolls and ogres as  well; they’ve got their eyes on the prize too. But what kind of adventure would life be if there weren’t any ‘wild things’ to take on and best at their own game?

Yours with many hugs,


4 thoughts on “Letter To A Young Girl

  1. Professor Corey Bradshaw’s open letter to his daughter:
    ‘Please forgive us’

    My dearest daughter,

    When I see your smiling, exuberant face each morning, it seems like my worldly worries evaporate, at least for the hour or so before I drop you off at your little country school. You prattle on about Water Sparkles and other imaginary creatures and worlds, while I drink my tea and watch you eat your mother’s sourdough toast and the eggs you collected from your hens the day before.
    Despite the rush of the weekday morning’s preparations, your exuberance and boundless anticipation of what the day will bring gives me a peace of mind I am usually unable to replicate for the rest of my day. I will forever treasure these times.
    You are 9 now, and quite old enough to comprehend that the world you so enthusiastically desire to experience and understand is changing fast, and mostly in ways that will make your future much more challenging than mine was at your age. I remember broaching the subject of climate disruption with you when you were but 5 years old; it was almost a casual comment that I do not think I prepared you for adequately.
    You, being an only child of two well-educated parents, a voracious reader, a lover of all natural things and the only 5-year-old I knew whose most highly-ranked desire was to meet David Attenborough (and still is), were intellectually and emotionally developed enough to grasp and appreciate what the past few generations have been doing to our planet’s atmosphere.
    Or so I thought.
    Intellectually, the concept was certainly not beyond your capacity. You were taught from an early age that there are no gods, no Father Christmas, no Easter Bunny, and no Tooth Fairy. We played the games and pretended, and you always enjoyed it when the gifts appeared mysteriously the next day, the carrot had been nibbled, and the biscuit and glass of milk consumed. You knew it was a game. It was fun but the fantasy was just that – a fantasy.
    So I imagined you were old enough to be shown a little reality, that you were mature enough to understand that the natural world – the plants, animals and landscapes you have loved since you could utter your first words – was threatened by the actions of a greedy, short-sighted, stupid, and negligent human population. Intellectually, you understood right away. You had seen deforestation, pollution, sprawling urbanisation and other human-associated ugliness before.
    You would become angry at the mere thought of someone cutting down the trees of the forest where your imaginary Water Sparkles tended to their vividly coloured dragons and other pets.
    But you were not prepared emotionally for the future horrors of climate change. I am to this day still touched by the tears that flowed mournfully down your beautiful, rosy cheeks when you heard me recount that nightmarish story. I am truly sorry for making you cry that day, and occasionally in the weeks that followed. An attentive father writhes in evolutionarily coded anguish when his daughter feels discomfort, regardless of whether it is emotional or physical. I revel in your joy but I actually feel your pain.
    I will, however, defend my lecture to you because the urgency of action is so great we cannot afford to coddle the next generation in ignorance, for this is the generation that will begin to cop some of the worst ravages of our environmental neglect.

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