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Letter: Time capsule is a reminder of our climate responsibility

On March 2, The Buffalo News ran a story about the “time capsule” assembled by East Aurora and Town of Aurora residents. Packed with letters to future Aurorans, the capsule will be stored in the town’s municipal center, to be opened by the curious in 2068.

I didn’t have a chance to contribute to the capsule. Nonetheless, the story set me and, certainly, other readers thinking about what we would write about, if we could, for those who will come after us. What will they want to know about us? How do we want to be remembered?

All these questions seem to hinge on the state of the world 50 years hence. Environmental crises – many caused by climate change – will probably, then, be top of mind.

According to Cornell University, if we don’t soon drastically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), then by 2060, 1.4 billion people will likely be climate refugees, homeless and on the move due to rising sea levels, desertification, and water and food shortages. Even as the world’s population approaches 10 billion, its habitable land will continue shrinking. Thus, millions will move to Western New York, with its temperate climate and plentiful water.

Aware of these imminent social upheavals, we can be sure future Western New Yorkers will wonder how we sought to preserve their region for them. Did we promote a transition to renewable energy, thereby shielding waterways from dangerous natural gas pipelines, and reducing GHG emissions and coal ash landfills? Did we hold polluters accountable for cleaning up their waste dumps?

And how do we want to be remembered in 2068 and beyond? I’m confident that we’d like to be known as the generation that saw the depletion and pollution of natural resources, and responded through recycling, reducing and reusing, to ensure a sustainable future.

Andrew Hartley, Ph.D.


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