Climate Vacation (an analogy) — Climate, Hope, Action

Claire Nickell
3 min readNov 25, 2019

Imagine you are on vacation with your family. You are all riding together in a green and wood-paneled station wagon (the Earth), driving down a road (time), on the long slow journey to your ultimate destination (the future).

Your parents (generations currently in power) are in the bench seat up front (governments, society, media). Dad (big business) is in the driver’s seat; he can be absent minded, always focused on his own needs and next big project. He also has some out of date ideas about the world and how things work, which sometimes get him into dangerous situations. Mom (government) is next to him in the passenger seat. Mom is well-intentioned, and a bit more worldly, but happy to sit back and let him make most of the decisions. Most of the time she humors him, and only steps in when things get out of control, giving an exasperated but loving look at his foibles.

They are taking you and your sibling to Wally World (the future). You have to drive across the country to get there. Along the way, you see some amazing sights, have some great adventures, also run into rough situations along the way. Mostly you sit in the back seat confident that your parents will get you there unharmed. You spend your time thinking about how much fun you will have at Wally World, dozing in the backseat, maybe bickering with your sibling. Kid stuff.

Driving down a dusty road somewhere along the way, you wake up to see a sign (scientists, increasingly alarming IPCC reports, increasing carbon dioxide levels, melting ice caps and glaciers, bleaching coral, extreme weather, and so on) as your car crashes through it:

Beyond it you can see the edge of the Grand Canyon (climate collapse)! You and your family, stuck in the car, are hurtling towards it at great speed!

You notice that your dad has fallen asleep at the wheel (climate denial). Alarmed, you call out “Dad! Wake up!” but he doesn’t hear you; he continues to slumber, snoring softly. You look to your mother beside him, but she is also asleep (climate non-acceptance). You and your sibling in the backseat look to each other in alarm. You both start yelling from the backseat (activists), but neither of the adults stirs.

As your own panic begins to rise, you keep screaming. You think you see your dad waking up, but he just shifts in his sleep, and his foot presses down on the gas pedal (accelerated deforestation and burning of fossil fuels). You hold your sibling, crying and screaming, trying to comfort each other, throwing things at your parents and doing everything you can think of (protests, strikes, walkouts) to wake them before it is too late and the car goes over the cliff with everyone inside. At that point it will be too late, even if your parents wake up, because the car will already be over the cliff’s edge (tipping point). Once you go over, nothing will stop the car from accelerating to terminal velocity and certain destruction (ecological, social and potential species collapse).

If you could, you would get up front and drive the car, even though you don’t know how to drive you would try to save everyone. But you can’t even get into the front seat (vote), the adults are buckled in and it is impossible to move them out of the way (election cycles and business as usual politics).

Why won’t they wake up?!?

Originally published at on November 25, 2019.



Claire Nickell

I write fiction (for myself and the present) and blog about climate change (for my son and the future).