A Letter From Your Unwise Elders

Mae King, Staff Writer

Dear future generations,

We arrived on this planet with abundant and unbelievable sights to experience. We grew up knowing the oceans’ waters were clean and clear. We watched as brilliant rainbow birds sat, untouchable, in their tall canopy homes. We anticipated walks outside on grassy trails, hikes up into the middle of clouds, and trips to gaze at the enormous size and variety of life. However, in search of convenience and comfort, we stalled our consideration for the planet’s health. Now, Earth has fewer sights left to show you.

It was not due to our ignorance that Earth’s beauties became scarce. We knew we had breath-freezing mountains so tall that, if one stood on the shoulders of them, one could touch the clouds. We knew we had seas that mingled with sandy shores where families and loners could gaze at the same sunset. We knew that grass was soft and green and perfect for the elderly to stroll on and the youth to play on. We knew the sky was blue and open, an unsettled frontier that put literal stars in our eyes. We knew that over 50 million creatures called rainforests their homes and that most of them were still untouched by human eyes. We knew we had endless experiences to have through the seemingly endless habitats on Earth. 

Yet under our watch, corporations whittled the Appalachian Mountains away in the mid-2000s. They ate up over half of the world’s forests in 2100. Earth’s white poles, which had once covered six million square miles on the surface, disappeared underneath stagnant oceans by 2035. 37% of our population was uprooted by coastal floods in 2050. Even in the early 2000s, people could not swim in the water after rain, fearing that toxins drained from our homes and contaminated the ocean. We let what we had collapsed, waiting naively for some nameless miracle to save us from disaster.  

We made meager attempts to assuage the damages we had brought about, but these were primarily created as gestures rather than real solutions. We preached that recycling or planting trees could cover up our mistakes among the lies we told ourselves. While we were not incorrect in the benign nature of these actions, we hyperbolized their effects.

Recycling was an action done to clean up for a mistake already made. Even with recycling, we continued to mass-produce new, unused materials. Some were recyclable, but many were not. Recycling may have stalled the spread of trash, but it did not stop it. Likewise, we used trees as a figurehead for climate change solutions, but failed to use their capabilities and see other solutions effectively. Instead, we planted billions of trees on the surface, repeating the far too simplistic idea that trees would suck up our terrible toxins from the air. Yet rarely did we see these projects through. Yes, we planted trees, but they rarely survived to fulfill their designed heroic destinies. Trees were excellent natural cleaners, but they overshadowed other prospective solutions, like our ocean carbon sink. While both were small helpful initiatives in the right direction, recycling and tree planting alone never led to the restoration of the planet. 

We meant no malice, nor destruction, nor death. Believe that we had reasons; we wanted cheap fuel to power our economy, trees to construct our homes, and plastic to craft our products. The issue was not that we had such interests. It is natural to want to be comfortable. However, we executed our ideas without foresight for the Earth, and when the evident consequences emerged, we brushed them aside to enjoy our wishful creations. We gambled the future to win momentary benefits. 

Could things have been different? Will you, our future, know what it feels like to swim in clear oceans without fear of toxic pollution? Will you be outside under clear skies instead of hidden behind windows and walls from the hazardous air? 

We can only answer with silent regret.

With love,

Your Unwise Elders