It is estimated that, up to the present day, approximately 100 billion humans have ever lived on Earth. This letter is dedicated to the potential one trillionth human life of the future, for whom inhabiting a healthy, sustainable, and beauteous planet is no longer a given due to the greed, plunder, and destruction of our generations– its ancestors.
Dear Trillionth Human Child,
I’m sorry. We messed up. We, the all-knowing. We, the preordained to be blessed. We, the mortal immortals. We, the flash-in-the-pan clever, fossilized-carbon-addicted, shoot-for-the-heavens-and-find-only-the-earth souls. We… the sapiens… yet unwise.
It tears my soul to be writing this, Child… and I wish you never had to hear it. But this, this is only the beginning…
How do you feel when I tell you that this world, yes, this beautiful world, the only that we’ll ever know, is broken? And not just broken, but dying… wheezing, coughing, raining pelting tears of sadness for all that once was and all that may never be; unleashing torments of fitful anger, whipping us, humans– her children — with never-before-witnessed lashes of natural disaster of the grandest order. Each year it gets worse. Each year we pray that the heat waves, the hurricanes, draughts, and crop failures will loosen their ever-tightening grip on our collective throat. Yet foolishly, we think that it must be a fluke, or the science is lying to us; this must be fake news, and things will surely be better next year… It is all too easy to live through our brief existence with blinders on, and this is exactly what our culture is doing, bemoaning these exponentially increasing warning shots from Mother Earth, while at the same time continuing to chug along business-as-usual.
I hope that you’re struggling to accept my words, Child, oh I hope… I hope that things are better for you. I hope your world is healing, and thriving, diverse, and alive. I hope that this place in space, this little blue marble suspended in time, is once again… balanced. Whole.
And who am I, you may ask, to be saying these things? Truthfully, this is not a simple question. In aggregate, in my present day, I am both the Speaker of the House, and the homeless man on the corner; the superstar stepping into the spotlight, and the wandering soul pacing the darkness. I am the sum total of humanity as it has become known in this age, your future’s past. I am its strivings, its achievements, its irreconcilable shortcomings. I am the commercial fisherman trawling the oceans clean of innocent beings, the merciless dictator stripping both his human and wild subjects of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am the hunched, burdened back of the global miser; the cloaked, shadowed spite of the legions of fossil energy slaves toiling away non-stop for nearly two centuries. For what, you ask? The name of progress, of growth, of betterment.
Yes, I am all of these things. But, most of all, Child, I am you, and you are me. That this civilization does not see beyond short-term profit, production, and survivability is a curse to all that lives, and all that may ever live. Today, we inhabit an age of supernormal stimuli– bombarded endlessly, mindlessly by intoxications beyond our wildest imaginations– each but a cog in an ever-quickening, monolithic wheel of consumption. Altogether, modern culture is a technological, economic superorganism with an endless hunger for more, greater, and better, fed by pitiless pillaging and burning– a destruction of all that can be used and all that stands in the way.
Did my generations ever think that this reality would be possible? That, but a hop, skip, and jump from the dawn of the anthropocene, we’d be forced to reflect on the scope of our fallacy? That, on one drizzly, dreary day in the year 2018, a nineteen-year-old human would pause, look up from his magic computing machine, gaze right, gaze left, and have cause to feel utter disquiet about the doings and tenure of his species on his planet? Which, Child, very truthfully, is a fallacy within itself; in that this gut check, which should be plaguing the consciences of all 7.6 billion and counting, is no more than an afterthought, if that, to all sans a select few; thereby leaving those ecologically literate persons who recognize and care, not unlike the ancient Greek god Atlas, bearing nothing less than the weight of the world on their shoulders.
But a mere 1/10 of human lives leading up to yours have been lived, Child, and it is, it must, be one of our deepest and most profound regrets that the other 90% teeter on a perilous precipice of our generations’ design.
However, I want you to know that all is not lost from here. We have not folded the cards. We have not thrown in the towel. Our survival, and your survival, Child, depends on human minds. Yes, minds. Plural. All of ours. There will be no all-encompassing leader, no all-powerful savior, no second-coming of a mythical Messiah to rescue us from the wallows of our ignorance. I can but desperately hope that this ultimate immorality we practice will be only a blip of long-ago time to you. Until we run out of the crude gold of fossil energy underpinning our modern existence; until we can no longer afford to zoom around this planet with our rose-colored glasses, pretending like we own it instead of it owning us; until an end is put to this mad trance we are under… we may think that this future reality will never come. For the sake of us all, it must be desired that such a reckoning soon arrive.
It is true. I will never know you, Child, and you will never know me, but that does not make us any less of brethren within this fragile, ever-shifting universe. This is not my world to own, and therefore it is not my world to conquer. To reign. To destroy…
For there is much to preserve, and much to live for. Our true blessings, beyond measure, come not from up above, not from our sky-scraping, people-moving achievements, nor our fabled, revered deities, but from our Mother de terra, all around us. Heaven is on Earth.
I don’t know what your existence will look like, dear Child.
I don’t know if you’ll have an existence…
Nevertheless, let this brief writing stand as a testament to you. To you, and to all future beings that have not yet inhaled a breath of fresh air, let the inky current of the sea run through their gills, flapped their great wings and soared through the moonlit darkness, or tentatively opened their eyes for the first time, unleashed an unbridled, proud cry of hope, and taken, evermore, their place in the community of life.
This is an ode to you. To us. To forever.