Since the Senate approved the deal to raise the debt limit just hours before the deadline, many have wondered how a government could flounder for so long. Washington even had a concrete deadline by which to simply rewrite the rules without actually having to fix the problem, and look what happened: a month of bickering ... and for what? Postponing the problem until after the next election. For as long as I've been old enough to follow politics, problems seem to always be pushed off until after the next election ... which is scary when I talk to others my age, who, at 21, begin to look at their future and wonder when problems this big will be seriously addressed.

Are there other ceilings our generation should watch out for? Many warn we are running a much more serious debt with our environment. We are spending far more of our natural capital than we can regenerate and we don't even know where the ceiling is. The demand for food, for example, will double by 2050, while resources to produce it diminish. Maybe we can just ask Mother Nature to raise our environmental debt ceilings for us?

It's especially worrying when friends of my parents and grandparents tell me, "Yeah, well I'm glad I won't be around to deal with those problems. That'll be up to you young people to figure out." So now it's our generation's responsibility to look after ourselves, and I think we are up to the challenge because at least we will be given the know-how to deal with these issues ... right?

After seeing the documentary on the public school system, "Waiting for Superman," I'm not so sure how well prepared we will be. While the issues facing our school systems are complicated, not prioritizing education is dangerous, which is exactly what states across the country have been quick to do when budgets get tight. My university in Virginia has had to cut classes and programs and raise tuition because of the disappearing state funding.

Let's put it all together: the U.S. is not only adding to the largest fiscal debt ever, but ignoring the largest environmental bubble yet, while investing less in the education of our future leaders who are inheriting these problems. Shouldn't we try to leave our children with more fiscal, natural and human capital — not less? Have we lost our sense of community and feeling of shared responsibility?

An old saying reminds us, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." This mentality was abundant at the founding of this country. I hope it comes back in style ... and soon.

Sheffield Medlin Hale, an MNN Local Correspondent for Virginia, is a senior at University of Virginia studying Environmental Science and Economics.

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