I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985
In the midst of writing a piece bemoaning the perils of capitalism, an alarming, almost spiritual experience interrupted my thoughts. In the peaceful hours of the night, without warning, hail plinked loudly against glass windows in my home.
The aggressive rhythmic sound of pellets of ice pounding past lush green leaves onto softened soil, newly-soaked roofs and slippery concrete was hard to disregard. After weeks of sunny California days with blossoms abloom and tourists in floral springtime outfits, this qualified as a veritable unseasonable occurrence. This sonic disturbance that was aurally musical and striking to the senses, gave me goose bumps.
I so wanted to explore the fascinating ways we spend money, but let’s save that for later, shall we?
It seems as though I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but for a moment during the hailstorm, I wondered if this was the earth’s atmosphere’s version of an emotional meltdown. After all, therein lies every particle of greenhouse gas that I, among others, have been adding to for many years.
It felt very much like a friend calling at midnight, bawling through unintelligible words while communicating deep hurt beyond question. Reaching out from miles away. Begging for attention. Wanting to be heard. Needing to be soothed.
I felt compelled to rack my brain to do something, anything, to quiet the torrent of intrusive noise, predictably to no avail.
MINUTES OF INCREDULITY, FEAR AND GUILT
Mere minutes went by when, eerily, total silence followed instantly without a decrescendo. These few minutes, gone quickly, were fertile with conflicted thoughts and emotions.
It’s spring. We’ve had weather in the 70s in the Bay Area for days. I’ve been wearing sandals everyday. I’ve stored away my warm sweaters. My logical mind thinks it’s crazy to for ice to fall in San Francisco in the middle of April. And yet I remember one day not long ago it hailed twice in one day. That same day, the sun came out. It was crazy then.
While I was oddly awed by the sheer force of solid rain ricocheting off my son’s bedroom windows, I feared that they would break and that he would wake up cold and engulfed in a flood.
My offensive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions poked at my conscience and stayed at the forefront of my mind. All those times — when I drove a car when I could’ve taken the bus, when I purchased water in a plastic bottle when I could’ve drunk from the tap, and ate meat from factory farms bereft of compassion — mocked me.
DRAMA, DENIAL AND CLARITY
Does this sound much too dramatic for your taste? If so, I have to agree it does to me, too.
But, I have to wonder: to what degree will I remain comfortable being my planet’s fair-weather friend?
This onslaught of solid rain, though lasting only a few minutes, caused me to ponder my seemingly benign actions, my life, and all the lives of those around me.
When I gleefully embrace spring and all its splendor and then curse the heavens for intruding into my thoughtful 2 am flow with blustering icy showers, who am I kidding? How much denial is going on? Who’s fighting whom and who will win?
I know I’m not the only one here on this mighty fine planet. And yet I generate trash that will long outlive me in the dumps that will probably outlive my son.
I know I share with you and everyone you know, and everyone we don’t know, every square inch of life-giving land and every ounce of freshwater lake and saltwater sea. And yet, I continue to consume food from inhumane factory farms that further pollute the water, land and sky.
At the rate we’re going, without reaching a turning point in civilization, we are slowly killing ourselves. The conundrum that we can’t escape is, as sure as death is, so unsure is the future of life. Why do we have to endure new strains of diseases when we have within our power to meet this planetary crisis toe to toe?
This climate change problem that we share threatens you and me. Unsparingly. Unequivocally. There are those who, to this day, dispute it despite mounting evidence we can no longer ignore. There are those who take solace in accepting their own personal death before things worsen beyond repair. But no amount of denial will cover the truth that everyday, the health of our good but sick planet, is in our hands. In the words of Rachel Carson, only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — (hu)man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of his/(her) world.
Reversing climate change, clearly, is a feat that needs cooperation on a global level. What will it take to reach a turning point?
I understand that these words may be challenging for some. But this issue is arguably a matter of life and death. Why must more species become extinct or endangered when we can prevent it from happening? Can we live guilt-free lives as it concerns the planet earth without upping the ante on how we make dalily decisions regarding the environment?
The earth, our good but sick planet, is our collective home. Would we do to our own personal homes what we do to our planet?
Image by woodleywonderworks