I recently heard about Letters To The Earth but I misread the concept to begin with and thought it was just a general climate change based letter, not specifically addressed to the Earth. So here is the letter that I would have submitted.
My dear descendents,
If climate scientists are correct then your lives will be very different to mine and so I wanted to write this letter to you to explain current thinking and actions regarding climate change.
I’ll start by explaining that as a child everything we could ever want was readily available – strawberries in February, not a problem! We could walk into any supermarket and pick up the same produce all year round… and it was all wrapped in plastic! Gone were the days of walking into a shop and buying however much of something you wanted, now you picked up the item you wanted packaged up into the amount the shops wanted to sell to you – it may sound odd to you now but to us, back then, it was just the way things were, no one really thought to question it. Single-use items were becoming very popular in general, from nappies to partyware, we suddenly preferred throwing things away rather than washing and reusing them… At this age we were being taught about climate change but, in all honesty, it felt like an intangible cloud of doom that was never going to affect me. Of course, back then, for every other scientist warning us of what was to come, there would be a climate denier.
Over time more and more hard data and evidence came in about climate change and people were becoming more willing to act. We began recycling and started congratulating ourselves on a job well done. We actually thought that recycling was going to be the solution to all our climate problems. It didn’t occur to us at first that recycling still requires a large amount of virgin resources, less than producing from scratch but still more than was sustainable. Despite everyone’s recycling efforts we were still generating more landfil waste than we could realistically deal with. Actually we were also producing more recycling waste than we could deal with so we were exporting it for other countries to deal with for us. We continued to be able to buy anything we wanted whenever we wanted, and a handful of people were starting to take their own bags into the supermarket with them instead of using the plastic bags provided at the checkouts.
In my early thirties I came across the statistic that the average woman will go through around 17,000 disposable sanitary products in her lifetime. That stat was too much for me. I did my research and invested in a menstrual cup to replace the tampons I would otherwise have purchased. From there I started looking at other ways in which I could eliminate waste from our lives. Shortly after this a new law came in meaning that supermarkets could no longer give away plastic bags, they would have to start charging a fee for them, and that did actually work to drastically reduce the number of bags used. It was just a drop in the ocean but it was a start. All the while climate data continued to roll in. Most people were now convinced of the problem but we’re unaware of just how urgently they needed to act. There were still a few hard-core deniers out there but in the face of so much evidence contrary to what they were saying, they were begining to be viewed as laughing stocks.
We were already starting to really feel the effects of climate change at home and around the world… the intangible cloud of doom was suddenly hanging over us.
Many Governments paid lip service to environmental concerns while consistently falling short of their carbon targets. Why are they so willing to gamble your future away? You don’t matter to them right now, they’re more concerned with their current electorate and securing their seats at the next election, anything beyond that is irrelevant. Plus, big corporations don’t want a change to the status quo, they’re making far too much money from the way things are, so they employ powerful lobbyists to sway the politicians towards inaction.
As I write this I’m doing my absolute best to make the necessary lifestyle changes, and convince others to join in, to ensure the security of your futures… but I fear it’s all come too late!
So far Paul and I have 1 child, Jay, and we’re determined to teach him (and any other children we may have) how to live sustainably – it’s something of a learning curve for us as it’s so different to how either of us grew up. We’re trying to grow some of our own fruit and veg as well and I hope these are skills that continue to be passed down and will hopefully serve you well.
The experts are currently telling us that globally we can expect to see greater levels of flooding, more severe droughts and more extreme weather events. More locally though we’re being warned of a lack of water within 25 years of me writing this letter to you. With that comes the concern that growers will be unable to produce enough food to effectively feed the population.
We’re also learning of the full extent of our disposable arrogance. We’re finding out that the nappies my mother put me in as a baby will not degrade for 500 years for example. We’re learning that the plastic tray our ready meals come in aren’t recyclable. Most alarmingly we’re learning that there have already been 5 mass extinction events throughout Earth’s history and we’re currently barrelling towards a 6th extinction event but this one is being caused by us.
Man-made objects are being found in the deepest depths of the ocean. Pieces of plastic are being found in the stomachs of almost every animal autopsied. Micro-plastic particles are so pervasive that they’re being found in the very air we’re breathing, on top of all the other pollutants I’ve grown up breathing in that is.
The water and food shortages are predicted within my lifetime so I can only imagine at how much of a struggle life must be for you.
For all the times I opted for a takeaway or ready meal instead of cooking at home; for every disposable cup I used because I couldn’t be bothered to wash up and for all the harsh wildlife destroying chemicals I poured down the drain thinking I was getting my house nice and clean – I’m truly sorry!
I’m sorry – such hollow words to echo through time! But that’s really all I can say. I’ve spent many years being wasteful and have now thoroughly changed my ways but I fear change hasn’t come quick enough to safeguard your future.
It is my greatest hope that we do in fact manage to act in time. However, many people even today truly believe that climate change is too big an issue for them to be able to do anything about. They are of course wrong. Everyone doing something makes the issue much smaller and easier to tackle on all fronts.
My biggest regret in life is the part I’ve played towards the destruction of our world.
I wish you all the very best.
So that’s my letter. Over to you: whom would your letter be addressed to – town Mayor, historical figure, someone in the future, maybe even your past self? And of course, what will you say in your letter? I look forward to finding out, so get writing and let me know how you get on!
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