I can barely stomach the cheesy ads that air around Halloween, let alone the sincerely scary stuff. It's not easy to hear about the crisis Mother Earth faces. Even if we can't agree on what's happening in the poles, the oceans, the air, nobody argues with the fact the 21st century will be tough for life on earth as we know it.
And that’s pretty scary. I don't plan on living beyond the 21st century, and in the next 20-30 years, dramatic changes are scheduled to transform the earth for good. Changes that will trample wildlife, clog the oceans, cloud the skies in a million chemical colors, and melt polar ice to slush. Not to mention the fate of those who will inherit this planet, being born today and tomorrow.
I’ve been freaking out. I’m freaking out for the trees, the land, the water, of course, but also for the most selfish of reasons, that I will still be alive when this is happening. And I can’t wrap my head around the fact future generations will receive a world that is physically harsher than mine, in part due to my own passivity. If I have children, it’s not what I imagined when it comes to giving “the talk.”
And when I freak out, I freak out. Early this year, I pledged to stop using paper towels; nagged friends about plastic water bottles. I meshed clothing tags into collages I slipped into binders, and reused old assignments as scratch paper; the colorful worksheets I folded into envelopes. I smuggled my plastic fork to the restroom after every lunch, to covertly wash clean and tuck back into my backpack.
I remember watching the documentary Cowspiracy, which argues animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change today. The most impact an individual can make, measured in water and resources, is to not eat animal products. This led to a hasty shuffle of lunch choices, where, after a bit of sulking, I pledged to go vegetarian when I left for college, and to start practicing now (I still have to figure out veganism). I talked with vegetarians and peskatarians alike, and furiously directed my English essay toward the head of the EPA.
Editing my essay, I found myself reading a line meant to sound patriotic and defiant, and instead sounded horribly bleak. It seemed I had doomed the future on that Google Doc, and soon I was in tears, blathering to my mom angrily about everything I could think of. I was convinced whatever I wrote, and whatever she said, held no power over the doom of our planet. Not over the people who run the world, and certainly not over the earth itself.
My mom agreed. She was also freaked out. But if nothing else, she said, we have one thing.
Pandora, the famous Greek muse in mythology, supposedly opened up the box that loosed sin on the world. Insects, snakes, beasts--but also war, famine, and hate. Nothing good came of that box, save something stuck under the lid.
Hope. It means different things to different people, but I remember the way my teacher described the word. H.O.P.E., or Hold on, pain ends.
Pain will end for our planet, in the form of a shaky fever, but the act demands action. I think we’re still in a tight spot, stuck between a rock and a hard place, but it is essential to feel hope. Otherwise, we cannot do anything, which we cannot afford.
We need only look in Pandora’s box.