Hope in the Heartbreak
As an environmentalist, I sometimes let my mind wander into the future. What would the earth be like if humanity suddenly disappeared? And I’m not the only one whose brain has traveled to the dark places. There are youtube videos of speculation, most bordering on the same theme: if humans disappeared, nature would rise up, unflinchingly, violently, to claim her throne again?
At first I was comforted by this idea; the earth’s resilience so inspiring. She would survive. But I was unsettled by other thoughts. Are humans parasites leaching the earth? I was left with discomfort. I don’t want to see humans as creatures consumed with the idea of consuming, until there is nothing more to exploit.
It is easy to let despair and hopelessness take over. When national parks are being overrun with trash and pollution. When climate change is ignored. When it seems like nothing is changing. And when I feel myself losing all hope in the face of overwhelming problems, I focus on the present.
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Colorado. Deep in The Rockies and offline, I’ve never seen such rugged beauty before. It stunned me. The mountains and trees rose up, ever so alive, breathing into the atmosphere, asking for space. And it was given. The locals coexisted with them. Companies make a deep effort to be conscious of their footprint as do so many businesses in Carrboro. Communities come together for the earth. There is hope.
As I walked through airport security last weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the jobs impacted. The 800,000 people who went home with no paychecks for weeks, many of which had little to no savings in their accounts. And yet, stories started rising. Stories of free pop-up kitchens and food banks. Thousands of individual campaigns and gofundme pages sprinkled around the web. Companies, big and small, offered help to furloughed workers. Outdoor brands such as Patagonia, Columbia, North Face, and many others are donating money to national park restoration and asking communities to volunteer to clean parks. As devastating as the shutdown has been, the unity with which people offered a helping hand cannot be lost in history books.
It is our duty to commemorate the resilience of community and helpfulness by continuing the activism in any way we can. While the government shutdown has closed off access to the national lands that we love, there is space for us to show appreciation for nature and community. While we are pushed by society to constantly consume, it is easy to forget we have choices. Choices to support hope, community, and cohabitation with nature. She’s all we have. The choices, however small they might seem, matter. I refuse to believe that we are driven by evolution to survive at the expense of everything around us. Instead, humans and nature can coexist. We can nurture each other.