From TODD WALTON
Under The table Books
Once upon a time there were four grandmothers who were best friends—Tamara, Myra, Amy, and Vivienne. They first met when they were young mothers with children in the same elementary school in a medium-sized town in California; and they stayed friends and kept living in that medium-sized town after their children graduated from high school.
Tamara was sixty and had five grandchildren. Her daughters lived nearby and she was daily involved in the lives of her grandchildren. She was married to Fred, her husband of forty years. Her grandchildren called her Tama.
Myra was sixty-four and had three grandchildren. She spent time with one of her grandchildren several times a week, but the other two lived across the country in Virginia. She only saw those distant two for a week at Christmas and a week during the summer. Myra was married to Arno, her third husband. Her grandchildren called her Gammy.
Amy was sixty-seven and had two grandchildren. Amy’s grandchildren lived in Seattle with their mother who was divorced from Amy’s son. Amy only saw her grandchildren for two weeks in December, but she talked to them twice a week on the phone. Amy was not married. She divorced her one and only husband when she was thirty-five. Her grandchildren called her Grandma.
Vivienne was sixty-eight and had one grandchild. This child lived with Vivienne because Vivienne’s son and daughter-in-law died in a car accident when their little girl was three. Vivienne was a widow. Her husband Jeff died the year after their son died in the car accident. Her granddaughter called her Vivi.
The four grandmothers got together as a foursome twice a week. On Wednesday evenings they went out for Chinese food, and on Sunday afternoons they gathered at Vivienne’s to drink wine and watch a movie.
On one of those Sunday afternoons, Amy brought up the news that the earth was warming so rapidly due to the burning of fossil fuels, that life, all life, would be unsustainable in the not-too-distant future. “We may have a rough old age,” she said to her friends, “but our children and grandchildren will almost certainly die terrible and premature deaths if something isn’t done to reverse the warming, and soon.”
Vivienne said, “There’s nothing we can do about it. Our government and most of the governments in the world are controlled by amoral corporations that profit from the burning of fossil fuels.”
Tamara said, “I just ignore that stuff. If I think about what’s happening to the earth and what we’re leaving our precious grandchildren, I go crazy.”
Myra said, “Don’t worry. The government and scientists will do something to solve the problems before things get too bad.”
“No they won’t,” said Amy, shaking her head. “So I’ve decided to walk to Washington D.C. and go on a hunger strike until our government takes some real substantive action to reverse global warming. If I die trying, so be it, but I’ve got to try.”
Vivienne and Myra and Tamara were stunned by what Amy proposed to do, and they didn’t believe she would actually follow through with her plan, but she did.
Amy took seven months to walk across America. By the time she got to Washington D.C. she was accompanied by eighty-seven other grandmothers, including Vivienne. They gathered in a park near the White House and began their hunger strike in early September. By mid-October there were ninety thousand grandmothers and seventy thousand grandfathers gathered in Washington D.C. participating in the protest.
Congress and the President of the United States tried to ignore the grandparents, but soon all of America and much of the world was fixated on the huge numbers of hunger-striking elders gathering in Washington and in several other large cities around the globe. These older folks demanded their governments stop spending money on war, stop giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, and start spending trillions of dollars each year converting the national energy grids and transportation systems from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
By early December there were over two million grandparents gathered in Washington D.C. with thousands more people of all ages joining them every day. A national strike was called in support of the grandparents and most Americans ceased to participate in the economy until Congress took substantive action. Then the stock market crashed and Congress met in emergency session to pass the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Act that immediately implemented a trillion-dollar-a-year program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero within five years.
Unemployment vanished entirely, free universal healthcare became the law of the land, and the fantastic economic boom ushered in a golden age of art and literature and music and equality and organic farming and creativity and useful innovation.
Speaking about their triumph some years later, with worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases reduced to zero, Amy said, “I was never a political person, but I love my grandchildren so much I couldn’t sit by and watch their world be needlessly destroyed.”
Vivienne said, “Now that there are no more wars and income disparity is disappearing, the world economy is better than ever and there are signs the biosphere is recovering much faster than our most sophisticated computer models predicted.”
Tamara said, “The global policy of economically rewarding women for having only one or no children is paying huge dividends.”
And Myra, recently elected Governor of California, said, “Thank goodness Amy got us off our butts.”