Greta and Ella. The future is here.


I was doing a lot of thinking on the ride home from Seattle after a Thanksgiving dinner with my younger son and his partner. About the future of this planet and our civilization, as we reach the tipping point, something beginning to happen now. We are entering what Jackson Browne called, back in the 1970s, “The Deluge”. I think it fits. But  I was also thinking about two remarkable young women, one from our community and one from Europe, one is  Greta Thunberg and the other is Ella Ashford. They both show us a way to a new future.

Greta sees the world as her community. She has launched a one girl crusade that has outpaced anything that Joan of Arc could have accomplished. Or perhaps it’s what Joan could have achieved with Twitter and Facebook, along with no interference from a corrupt Catholic Church and French King.

Ella has seen her community as her world. She has accomplished much through her high school years on a local level, here in Jefferson County, leading a children’s crusade to teach her siblings and friends the wonders of being able to program technology for useful robotic tasks. This technology knowledge is key to our future. As we continue to refine our  3D augmentation of robotic devices, we will find  we don’t need to (and probably can’t) send humans to live on various worlds for extended periods. These worlds may hold the possibility of offering us resources we need to survive, (whether those worlds are under our oceans here on earth or somewhere else in the universe). We will need robotics to go into places like melted down nuclear power plants, polluted lakes and rivers, and much  more.  They will be remotely driving robots into fighting fires like at Paradise, or into oceans to destroy out of balance ecosystems. Those ecoystems might be those of the California coast, where the death of starfish has led to a disastrous overpopulation in sea urchins, devastating the kelp beds, which are the forests of the sea. These next generation leaders will also need to invent new ways of creating energy, making food, creating the jobs  and moving us towards the Green Economy that is already being created right now under our feet to allow us to possibly survive “The Deluge”. Our species is nothing if not creative. It may be our defining uniqueness.

Ella has shown outstanding ability to understand how to build and program these devices. And she has taught others how to do this. With the incredible support of her parents and community, her team of teens and pre-teens have placed in the upper echelons of global competition for robotic prototypes in competition against the best of college and high school. Let that sink in. They have been among the best in the world at doing this.

Ella and Greta have both left the nest, and are (at this moment) both in Europe. Greta is rallying her troops, young and old, to overturn the complacency of the population as it relates to climate change. There is little time left to do this. It may already be too late. We are already in the opening phases and its’ only going to get worse. We need brain power, and specifically young brain power, to solve this. Think about the next Bill Gates at 25 inventing a new way of computing that changed everything. Except this time, it’s just as likely to be a woman.

Ella is touring Europe, embarking on her year off between high school and college. Gaining the perspective of seeing the world of Europe, where the best and the brightest are now flocking, given the U.S. shutting it’s doors to them. This is an immense problem that the Trump Administration and many of our peers who support him apparently cannot see. Ella is meeting her peers that will help create the future. She plans on sailing to the South Pacific after that to see first hand what the people there are experiencing. She will likely see global warming beginning the destruction of those places and the fisheries they depend on. She will hopefully be able to use her skills to come up with new ways of approaching these problems. Or teaching people there something that may help them in their hour of need. Or perhaps, she’ll be the one learning from them.

At the very moment when we need young skilled students and workers from around the world, we are shutting them out. This is economic suicide. These young people will go to Europe and Canada, where they are welcome and do their research projects there. They will advance their skills, create the next Silicon Valleys for their new countries. They will perhaps find partners and put down roots.  The U.S. will be the loser for this, and, in fact, already is.

I have no idea what the future holds for Greta and Ella. But I hope that both of them take their skills where they are most needed and continue the work to lead their peers into the rest of the century. They are the future, and we wish them all the luck in the world.

One Response

  1. THank you, Al, for the eloquent and apt account of these two —Ella Ashford carries herself modestly but has the characteristics of a hero. Perhaps a local hero now, but growing into an international force. She has sent photos of herself teaching in Europe — inspiring in the best meaning of that word. I appreciate the Environmental News and am grateful that you stretch its boundaries so often. Best, Mary Robson

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