Kids are lenses of hope for future of the world

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 15, 2004

The recent terrorist slaughter of children in Beslan, Russia, resulted in some serious responses from our coffee companions. One set of responses, in particular, really caught my attention.

Keith and Kim Rowe live west of Cochrane. As a couple, they have given considerable thought to the rise of terrorism and what they can do about it within their own family and community.

Last week they attended a Calgary lecture by Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. He dealt with the biggest challenges of the coming decades, Keith said: energy shortages, environmental changes, and terrorism. Reflecting on that lecture in the context of the Beslan slaughter, Keith writes:

IT IS MY opinion that the rise of these factors to prominence is the result of our short time horizon – the distance into the future that we are planning. With few exceptions, we think just to the end of our individual and collective noses, instead of decades or generations.

Let's say I'm looking to buy a brand new, larger vehicle, and move to a larger house in the country. How will these purchases affect the levels of carbon dioxide and other noxious gases during my grandchildren's lives? How will my increased energy use affect my grandchildren's access to gasoline, natural gas, steel, wood, electricity, and most importantly, water?

Am I enabling foreign policies which will create more hatred against the Western world, and therefore increase the frequency of terrorism in the future? Will my seemingly benign lifestyle choices ultimately benefit my grandchildren, or place them at greater risk?

I suggest that the last set of questions is never asked. They seem too far-fetched, too "out there." But until they are asked, and a change occurs in our time horizon, we will continue to cause, and then react to, the latest crisis.

By the way, I'm just a guy who would like to see a world in which my grandchildren can breathe, drink, and not fear their neighbour.

—Keith Rowe

SUBSEQUENTLY, Kim added to her thinking on the subject by attending a symposium on what Alberta can be like in 2025. She writes:

WE HAD A great day of discussions during which I struggled, as I often do, with how to translate these many "ideas of excellence" into my daily life and into concrete action.

For me, as a human, it matters that kids on the other side of the world died in senseless violence. But what do I personally do about it? How do I effect change to make this a better world? For me, it helps to do this with my own children in mind.

My kids are my greatest challengers and challenges. They make me a better human, because I need to think about them and their future. And about how my actions and behaviours will affect them and their future.

They are the lenses through which I can focus my hope for the future of our world. I need to show them, by example, how our love for each other and the world in which we live will overcome fear and hate, whether it is on the playground or around the world. Our actions and our personal responsibility will demonstrate our commitment – or lack of commitment – to these ideals.

For example: "You hit your brother, therefore I, being bigger and more powerful, will hit you back" doesn't work. And in the same way internationally, "You harboured/are terrorists, therefore I, being more powerful, (will go against the world body of the United Nations and) will invade your country with force" doesn't work. We must decide instead to respond with love and compassion even, or maybe more importantly, to those that challenge our ideas of what is right.

—Kim Rowe

THANKS, Kim and Keith, for letting us inside your hearts on this important topic. What you are saying has everything to do with attitude. Over the next few weeks I'm hoping to share in this column what others are doing to approach the future with a good attitude.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page