I want to pitch you a new television concept.
Three celebrity judges audition talented kids around the nation, reaching a final decision on the best of the best. We broadcast the selection process and fly the finalists to a fabulous stage in Hollywood, where they compete in elimination rounds until a winner emerges.
You’re thinking: Haven’t I seen a show like that? No, you haven’t. My show will be called American Idol: Save the Planet.
Here is the difference with the version that is attracting 30 million viewers a week: In the new show, the young people will not be singing as it is conventionally understood. Instead, they will compete for our attention with ideas and inspiration to safeguard our democracy and freedom.
Give it up for the kids, now!
I know what you’re thinking: My child has the attention span of MTV. You can’t get them to be serious about anything.
In Miami, Caroline Lewis already blazed the trail, organizing middle- and high-school kids from more than 60 public and private schools to participate in the Fairchild Environmental Challenge, in competitions that include debate across a range of environmental issues.
In the first season of this American Idol, contestants would focus on global warming because weather patterns are changing so rapidly, who knows what the next season will be?
Let’s say, for example, our judges are named Randy, Paula and Simon.
You get the drift: Kids rock. Given a chance, their moral compass is like a laser-guided bomb. Imagine:
A telegenic junior from Lake Buena Vista, whose lake became a sinkhole years ago: “Our nation cannot wait a year longer to stop unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels. Voluntary measures don’t cut it.”
Randy: “Yo, dawg, you really brought it with rooftop wind farms.”
See, I want the kids to attack this issue of mandates to protect the climate because adults can’t. We are lame enablers of oil addiction, like every generation before us that preferred turning on the light switch with electricity instead of lighting a lamp with whale oil.
“Save us from what we want.” That little truism belongs on the front page, not on a bumper sticker.
Congress won’t pass tough mileage standards, even though GM and Ford are staggering and fuel-efficient foreign cars dominate the market.
But don’t take it from me. I have high-school-age kids. I know my limits.
Let’s hear the girl who looks like a young version of Diana Ross shout out what her parents’ generation refuses to:
“Warmer ocean temperatures are fueling more intense hurricanes, destroying the coral reef, and scrambling the food chain far too quickly for any adaptation for survival we can count on.”
Paula: “You have the whole package. Looks, talent and a perfect pitch!”
I’d like to hear the kids talk about the rise in the sea level:
“Who spends hundreds of millions to dump and pump sand on Florida’s coastal beaches as fast as the ocean is taking it away? You do!
“And why are we still giving developers permits to build in low-lying coastal wetlands? What’s up with that?”
I’d like to hear the kids say how wrong Vice President Dick Cheney was when he claimed that “conservation is a personal virtue.”
“Dude, the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than a Popsicle.”
The young Mel Gibson lookalike might say that opportunity and prosperity will vanish in a world damaged by climate change and a rise in the sea level: “And it is no longer just about poor people, who always bear the highest costs of environmental harm.”
Here is the deal, America: If you think your wealth gives you a cushion, you’re as wrong as Dick Cheney.
If we never catch up to our federal deficit, we won’t be able to absorb the shock when the full impact of global warming hits home: when sections of the Florida coast look like the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, when saltwater intrusion ruins municipal drinking-water wells, and building sea walls and dikes becomes the most important civic project since rebuilding Iraq.
Electricity, water use, automobiles: There is much that government can do, through the imposition of regulations and fiscal policies — yes, a big, fat gasoline tax — to make these shifts happen now.
So let’s hear it from the kids on this new version of American Idol, because, for sure, my generation of political leadership is stone-cold deaf on global warming.
I can hear Simon now: “I think that with your defense of property rights as a higher value than protecting the public commons, you were excruciating.”
And, dawg, you can take that to the bank.