Standing on the peak of one of the northern Appalachian mountains, the sun sets in an explosion of color behind the hills to the west. Hundreds of feet below me, I can see the Delaware River winding like a sparkling golden ribbon through the valley, reflecting the last sun rays. I turn from the sight, back to the tranquility of the twilight forest.
The trees' shadows seem heavy, tired from a day of soaking up the energy provided by the sun, giver of all life. Small animals silently pad about in the underbrush, hiding from the eyes of the awakening owl sitting on his perch. I walk down the rocky, winding path through the trees. Small nighttime noises blend to create the wonderful, low hum of a summer night.
Coming to the end of the trail, my family's car is parked by the overlook. It is the last car. As we leave the peace and drive to a nearby town, my thoughts are rudely interrupted. Rock music roars from the windows of cars packed with screaming college students, the roar of motorcycles, the bustle of hundreds of people shopping, driving, walking, eating. This scene could not be more different from the tranquility and silent beauty of the woods.
On our trip home, we pass a logging site. Trees that took decades to grow are being scrapped to make room for houses. Then I realize that this earth can only hold so many people. In the year 1800, there were fewer than one billion people on this earth. Now, just 200 years later, the population has exploded to 6.5 billion. Within another 50 years, there will be a projected nine billion on this earth. How many people can this planet hold? About 250 people were born as you read this. Two hundred and fifty more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, educate and shelter. Two hundred and fifty more homes to be hewn out of the last remaining pockets of virgin forest.
Will there be anything left that is worth seeing for our children? Our grandchildren? Our great-grandchildren? We have only one earth. There is nowhere to hide. This is it. I hope you will join me in appreciating what we have on this good earth - the only earth - and protecting it with all we have.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.