The Last Generation?

I think that in every generation, there’s been a set of individuals who’ve had misgivings about bringing children into the world. I know that during my own broody teenage years I felt such misgivings.  But it feels like it’s becoming a mainstream idea with the kids these days. 

Driving around with my son the other day, I asked him about how climate grief affects him, if at all. He explained the biggest impact is that he’s at a place where he doubts he’ll ever have children. It felt different because it wasn’t even a “I can’t bring kids into this world” line of thought - he was feeling the opportunity wouldn’t even be there.

He’s not alone in this thinking - this sentiment has been in a number of pieces covering his generation’s response to climate change and their expectations for the future. They feel they’re the last ones at the party.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but I once read that we cherish children so much because they’re the ultimate manifestation of hope. If children are that manifestation of hope, then is this the ultimate generational expression of hopelessness? I’m sure they won’t actually be the the last generation, but they will be the last generation who will remember the world before significant climate change.

12 years

In 2018, the UN Panel on Climate Change said that we had 12 years to make meaningful progress on CO2 emissions reductions and change the course of climate change. Around that same time, my son had just turned 16, and I was starting to really envision what he was going to look like as an adult, and how he’d respond to the world. 

The mental math, that he’ll be 28 at the end of this 12 year period, combined with this crystalized understanding of what he’ll look like as an adult, brought about a sense of dread. Compounded with our current political realities blocking meaningful progress, transformed my dread into something much more resigned.

Depression and, more significantly, hopelessness took hold, and I looked for meaning in this. I tried to find a description for this experience, and found a word invented by the philosopher Glenn Albrecht: Solastalgia. It is the pain caused by nostalgia for the current state of one’s home, driven by the loss that is expected from Climate Change. The uniqueness of this pain is that it’s set in before we experience the full thrust of the change. 

This feeling, depression, can be quite isolating in middle America, where trust in the science of Climate Change is quite low. It’s easy to feel an otherness in family gatherings, public spaces, and so on, as it becomes clear that many if not most around you don’t share your dread.

In response to this emotional state, I’ll be visually journaling in my latest ongoing project, Solastalgia.


About 13 years ago, my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The fresh diagnosis, procedures, doctors, bills…reality. It flipped things around in our lives quite a bit.

Around the same time, I bumped into Denny Parsons. He was also having his life flipped around quite a bit - he had just been diagnosed with ALS. In ALS, he was facing an unimaginably difficult road ahead, and he asked that I photograph him as a favor, to make sure his story lived on.

It wasn’t long before I realized that the favor was actually for me. No matter what ALS threw at him, or rather took from him, he was there to talk, laugh, listen, or, perhaps most precious of all, provide the perspective that only a person in his position could give.

I’ve been missing Denny. These photos don’t get shared enough. So I’m rooting around to piece them together again. This is only a portion of them…

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