Thomas Clement Douglas? Beto O’Rourke? Jay Inslee? Mike McGinn? W. R. Barnhart? Lee Loevinger? Billy Graham? Jay D. Hair? Brian Fisher?
Dear Quote Investigator: Humanity faces a severe danger according to similar statements from two presidential candidates:
(1) We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last generation who can do something about it.
(2) We are the first generation to feel the climate crisis, and the last generation with the ability to avert its worst impacts.
In the past, I have heard comparably eloquent formulations that call upon humankind to overcome enormous perils. The archetypal warning asserts that the first generation to encounter a problem might be the last to exist unless significant changes occur. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The people of the world became aware of an unprecedented existential risk after the first nuclear bomb was detonated in 1945. In 1948 a commencement speaker at a high school in Maryland issued a warning to students. W. R. Barnhart, head of the Department of Religion at Hood College, stated the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“The all important question in this atomic age is the question of Hamlet, ‘To be or not to be?’ That has become the most important question for the whole of mankind.
We are the first generation that can completely destroy ourselves. At the close of the First World War the younger generation was called the lost generation. If our present younger generation should be another lost generation it may be the last generation.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1948 June 11, The News, Diplomas for 63 at Thurmont, Quote Page 1, Column 3, Frederick, Maryland. (Newspapers_com) ↩