When I was in Grade 1, our teacher informed us that the sun was actually a star and would burn itself out within a billion years. Which sent me into paroxysms of terror. WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.
For months afterwards, on overcast days, even when a cloud passed over the sun for a few seconds, I was convinced the end was nigh. Oceans would boil, Earth would become uninhabitable. A neurotic kid, me.
Miss Waddell was off the mark. Scientists say our sun will continue to shine blessedly for another 4 billion years or so before it begins to dim, the hydrogen at its core running out so that it can’t burn helium, and it morphs into a red giant.
Environmental anxiety, however, has become a plague for even the youngest of children, who are taught way early about the fragility of the planet and the human species. We’re making them afraid of their own shadows, as paranoid of existential threats beyond their control as kids in the 1950s and 60s who were taught to duck beneath their desks in atomic bomb drills. As if that would save them.
With good reason, youth are feeling betrayed and even abandoned by a generation whose legacy will be a crippled, endangered orb spinning off its axis. Fast-stepped from street-smartened — stranger danger — to global hyperawareness, bombarded with climate change alarms and apocalyptic scenarios.