In 1994 I was born into an Air Force family, a lifestyle well known for its tendency to be semi-nomadic. As you can imagine, I grew up with a sense of wonder for the world and an extreme capacity for wanderlust. I have never left the country, save for a weekend trip to Vancouver, Canada when I was ten, but I have list upon list of places I want to go. There are a multitude of reasons for my desire to visit each place: location, culture, festivals, architecture, and wildlife. With the climate changing as rapidly as it is, despite the best efforts of the naysayers to convince us otherwise, many of those places on my lists may be gone in the next few decades, some of them sooner. It is a sad reality when you must prioritize places you wish to see because you’re afraid that if you wait too long, you may never see it at all; at least, not for the reason you wanted to go in the first place.
Call me naive, but I believe that the world and the people in it are inherently good. We make poor choices for the sake of getting ahead – for having it all. Capitalism, which rules our society in America as well as some of the other major economic players, simply doesn’t work for the vast majority of those within the system – the “common” people. My generation is encouraged to trust the government, the free market and technology. I, and many others, ask why we should trust a system that promises change only to continue what they assured us they would end?
There are actions we can take every day to make a difference, no matter how small. Start a community garden complete with a compost, walk, take public transportation, carpool, or ride a bike to reduce carbon emissions from daily commuting. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Go camping in actual tents and sleeping bags, not the “luxurious” camping style (e.g. giant RVs and campers) we’ve adopted. Enjoy nature. Realize that you are part of nature, not nature’s conqueror.
One summer, when I was eight years old, my parents, brother and I went to visit my grandparents in a little town called Payette, in Southern Idaho. My grandpa was an avidadventurer, so my grandma learned to keep maps in the car and always have snacks and waters packed for the weekends because he wanted to “go find someplace new.” The summer we visited them, my grandpa wanted to take us all camping at a place called Mann’s Creek. While there, we went hiking up the mountain, careful to not come across any rattlesnakes or get dehydrated on the open mountainside, we panned for gold, and just enjoyed nature. The evenings, while camping, were my favorite part of the trip: I’d sit on my grandpa’s lap after dinner and he’d play his acoustic guitar, while my grandma and dad sang along. After that came the storytelling. I remember laying in my mom’s lap, looking up at her, the fire making her green eyes appear ghostly. Looking past her, through the wide clearing of the trees, were more stars than I’d ever seen in my entire life. The sky looked as though it was painted shades of deep blues and grays before being sprinkled with fine, silver glitter. I was looking at the Milky Way.
It’s been more than ten years since that camping trip and I can still remember like it was yesterday. I plan to have children sometime in the not so distant future. However, I already fear for what kind of lives they will have if we continue on our current trajectory. Something must change – our mindset must change or nothing will ever be accomplished. We’ve spent decades talking about climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases, and carbon emissions. But what has been done? We’ve thrown a pebble into the lake behind a dam to create a ripple but the dam must break. It’s not just one country, one state, one household, or one individual that needs to make this shift – it’s our world as a whole. We must all take responsibility for the accelerated decline of our Mother, our life-giving system, no matter how guilty or innocent we may be. This change is my greatest wish for the years to come.