The Sunday Edition

Michael Enright's reply to a letter from a Grade 9 student

“Dear Rowan: You say in your letter, ‘I am very worried about the future of our planet.’ I'm sure you and your schoolmates can make a good case that my generation has gone a long way to hurting your planet; we've pretty much made a mess of things.”
"I am very worried about the future of our planet," Grade 9 student, Rowan Sharp (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
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A few weeks ago, Michael received a letter in the mail from Rowan Sharp, who is a Grade 9 student from Kingston, Ontario. He decided to use his weekly radio essay to reply to her. Here it is:

"Dear Rowan Sharp:

Many thanks for your wonderful letter.

I read it two or three times and thought it might be fun to answer you, naturally, over the radio.

A very long time ago, 1897 to be exact, a New York newspaperman, Francis Church, wrote an editorial to a little girl named Virginia telling her that yes there really is Santa Claus.

It was around this time of year.

I'm not as deft a writer as Mr. Church, but this is my Christmas letter to you.

Your letter to me starts like this: 

'I am a ​Grade 9 student from Kingston, Ontario. My parents are avid listeners of your show. I am often eating breakfast and hearing your voice on the radio.'

That is really great news. Some people say that only old people like myself listen to radio or care about it. I don't believe that.

Sometimes I wonder if the Internet was not such a great idea after all.- Michael Enright

And clearly neither do you.

It's interesting that last year in Grade 8, your research project was about the effects of global warming.

You must be serious about the subject as you spent six months on the research.

When I was in Grade 8, we had never heard of global warming.

And no teacher of mine would ever give us six months to research anything.

You looked at many aspects of the problem; the impact of climate change on the world's oceans, the atmosphere and species extinction.

You write: 'I was so surprised by my findings that animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, water pollution, deforestation and world hunger.'

'I was so surprised by my findings that animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, water pollution, deforestation and world hunger,' Rowan Sharp, Grade 9. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

You ask if this was something we could explore on The Sunday Edition. 

Let me assure you that talking about climate change is one of the most important areas of our journalism.

Like you, we take it seriously.

But some listeners tell us we give them too much information.

They can't handle it all.

That is a problem.

People these days are overwhelmed with information coming at them from hundreds of sources.

Sometimes I wonder if the Internet was not such a great idea after all.

People have hardly any time to digest what we in the media are telling them. 

They sometimes need an information break, like recess, to gather their thoughts.

They need time to talk to their children, young people like you who care about important stuff.

You say in your letter;  'I am very worried about the future of our planet.'

It is kind of scary, isn't it?

Continue to climb trees and do cartwheels and use a fountain pen.- Michael Enright

I'm sure you and your schoolmates can make a good case that my generation has gone a long way to hurting your planet. We've pretty much made a mess of things.

It seems to me that somewhere along the line, we lost sight of what is important, really important, in our lives.

On the other hand, it sounds as if you understand and  perhaps see things that the older generations miss because we're not paying enough attention.

In grade school you had teachers who encouraged you to think for yourself, to be creative, to learn about music and even to use a fountain pen to write in cursive.

Rowan, these are all terribly important. things.

They give life its flavour and its zest.

So continue to climb trees and do cartwheels and use a fountain pen; I treasure mine by the way.

If some well-meaning grownups tell you to stop daydreaming and be realistic, ignore them.

Staring out a window is as crucial and meaningful  as a healthy breakfast.

It  may take a thousand Rowan Sharps -- or maybe a million.

But they are out there, in every far off corner of the planet, eager to fight and argue and work hard  to seek a newer world. 

You will find them and they will find you.

And together, you will repair some of the damage we have done.

You're off to a good start.

Reading your letter made me feel much more optimistic about a lot of things. 

Thank you and have a happy Christmas.

Your radio friend, Michael Enright."
 

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