What Would Thoreau Do? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.”
– Henry David Thoreau

I saw the outskirts of America sinking. I listened to screaming herds of people migrating to Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa. I touched California and let water seep into my fingers and I pushed the state into a rush of waves. I smelled the smoke while it strangled me. I tasted the blood that never should have been shed.
Yesterday was another banal, 80 degree day. I was glued to the seat of my car, waiting for the light to change. As I watched the cars rumble by, I noticed a Hummer and a Prius roll side by side. I found that ironic: seeing these opposites together. I could write about what a monstrosity the Humvee is to the world. Yet, that would just make people upset and be stating the obvious, and it’s not what I really want to address anyway.

The point is that the choices we make daily impact everyone. We are no longer saving just the polar bears, but ourselves by the choices we make. Cars are one small yet not insignificant choice. Certain types of cars define certain types of people. There are Corvettes for the rich and showy, Chrysler minivans for moms and dads on the go, and Jeeps for the adventurous, sporty types. There is no denying these are stereotypes, but everything is a stereotype, even our planet. We tell ourselves the planet is just fine. This lie makes the truth – the truth of our failing planet – feel less painful.

Solving these issues involves everyone. What if you told your neighbor and I told my best friend, and my best friend told her neighbor to buy Seventh Generation instead of Scott tissues? Do you think the word would get around and brands like Scott would go out of business? Now, that would be a spectacle to see.

Evidently, our civilization has come far. We’ve built machines that have soared above our heads – a feat unimaginable 200 years ago. If Henry David Thoreau could have known about planes and automobiles, I think he would have been bewildered. The only question he might have asked is, “Why?” I would guess we would answer something like, “We were curious to see what was in the sky, if anything, and we are innovative and had the strength to learn.” Thoreau would then interrupt with, “Pandora opened that box because curiosity was eating away at her. I wonder if we ever do learn.”

Recently, I saw an Apple iPhone commercial. I found it comical how the narrator made it seem that the phone holds everything near and dear to you, when only twenty years ago it was a phenomenon just to own a cell phone. Now, in 2008, your music, phone, photos, and map are all in one device. How does this play into global warming and the environment? It bluntly tells us to slow down and stop what we’re doing. If we have time to come up with these devices (that we undeniably don’t need), why haven’t we figured out how to stop frying the planet?

Phones most likely won’t return to being just communication devices. Water will remain bottled. And my TV will always be bigger and thinner than yours. But there are certain things in our lives that we, only we, have the power to change. Picking up a plastic bag on the sidewalk once in a while won’t kill you, but it could kill a dolphin. You may not be famous and have a Lamborghini or a private jet, but isn’t it better that way? Too much has already been taken. Let us put something back into our shriveled up, airless Earth so that its shape will somewhat resemble our planet again.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

cHeLsEy said...
Apr. 9, 2009 at 3:35 am
I really like it, and agree with a lot of it. But, you should definitely add the opposing argument. Technology may be what is destroying our planet, but we can't stop technology from becoming what it is. Technology ; how we change our world to meet our needs. We can't stop trying to make our lives better.

Honestly, it is an AMAZING piece of work. But to make a persuasive essay good, you have to make sure your argument can counter those opposed. But you also have to make certa... (more »)
s.francesca409 said...
Aug. 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm
Your piece is wonderful. It pretty much sums everything up.
Site Feedback