I remember my first foray into the role of an environmental advocate. 9th grade English class. Poetry project. I knew Earth Day was coming up, and it was a new thing to me. It was early 1990. The Cold War was over, and the Gulf War hadn’t yet begun. Us suburban Houston kids had no worries in the world.
For my poem, I leaned on a metaphor device to get my point across. The earth assumed the role of a woman in an alleyway being raped while her calls for help were being ignored. I had no idea the weight of what I wrote, and I have no recollection of where the words came from. I can only recall feeling very strongly about what I wrote. Miss Alexander, my teacher, also felt strongly about it and submitted it to Reader’s Digest for a student writing contest. My memory is that it was accepted for print, but I never saw it printed in black and white.
As years passed I expanded my advocacy and interest — many years of Sierra Club memberships and meetings, beach cleanups, avidly reading the writings of Wendell Berry, and many failed attempts at organic gardening.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago. I heard of young Greta Thunberg last year sometime as she made waves by striking from school to protest climate change and world leaders’ inaction. When the Global Climate Strike took shape, I asked my children (11 y.o. son and 9 y.o. daughter) if they wanted to participate. They asked questions about it - what it represented, who Greta was, why it was important. Then they said they wanted to skip school on Friday and do it.
Now, my children love school. When they’re sick, they protest having to stay home. Missing a test or quiz gives my son mild anxiety. However, the march understandably meant more. So we narrowed down the message for their signs, painted them, packed up some water and sunblock, and headed to Fort Worth’s City Hall.
A few minutes late, we casually slipped into the line as it circled the block. My kids’ voices were soft at first, but when joined with others became louder. They were participating in their first demonstration, walking alongside young & old alike, and were having an awakening of sorts.
I had just returned from responding to Abaco, Bahamas where a Category 5 leveled an island. Side note: they need to expand the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale to include Category 6 hurricanes based upon Hurricane Dorian’s sustained strength. We all got the prize for the hottest summer on record, and, as we marched, Houston was flooding (again).
I'm tired of sitting back and relying upon corrupt politicians to do something when the evidence is sound and plentiful. My kids didn't need to see the inaction of others to drive them to action. Apparently it was simply the right thing to do. Funny how our children teach us the simplest and most important of lessons.
My kids have not fallen in love with homes cooled to 70˚ on summer evenings. They have not yet become accustomed to SUVs whisking them short distances around town. They are still fascinated by our backyard’s ecosystem, and they don’t mind the recycled paper products in our home. We’re doing our best to keep their hearts and minds focused on the right things. None of this is inconvenient for them, and I’m positive they could endure a lot more if asked. It is, after all, their world. We’re just borrowing it.