My mom looked at me in surprise. "Of course not. Sure, the planet will die eventually, but it'll be millions of years from now, far beyond any of our lifetimes."
I sat back, satisfied with the answer. I was in elementary school and trusted everything my mom said.
But every summer seems to break the record for the warmest summer ever. Every winter is the same or it breaks the record for the coldest winter ever. Forest fires burned every year, the skies turning unnatural colors. "Forest fire is supposed to be normal," people said. "Fire is healthy for the forests, but not like this. This is too much. This is out of control."
As a kid, I could track the annual changes in the environment I grew up in and knew that they were effects of climate change. And as a kid, I saw that the rate at which the environment was changing was too fast for comfort. So I asked my mom the question. And her answer became my night light, one I waved towards mountains of evidence, hoping they'll go away.
Sure, the planet will die eventually, but it'll be millions of years from now, far beyond any of our lifetimes.
Beyond any of our lifetimes, I chanted over and over again at every terrifying headline that comes across the news. I was an ordinary kid that was going to live an ordinary life and die an ordinary death and some unfortunate people generations down the road were the ones that have to deal with climate apocalypse. Not us. Because it wasn't going to happen in my lifetime.
Eventually, I had to outgrow night lights and realize the unfortunate people were in fact us.
When you're standing on a ground that's falling away beneath you, you can't stand there idly and hope you die before you fall because no matter how much you may repeat it, the lie crumbles away the closer you get to the edge, and you stop wishing for someone to save you, and instead you start scrambling with mad abandon to save yourself.
Like any human being, we have hopes and goals. We were asked throughout our childhood what we want to be when we grow up, and so we dreamed, wildly and passionately, of the adult life we'll get to live. Then we get a little older and we realize that we are children with dreams but no future to carry them out in.
The international community agreed to keep global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. Yet there hasn't been any paramount success in achieving this goal. Global temperature will probably exceed that by 2030.
We'll still be young then.
It's a strange thing to describe growing up like this, growing up not knowing if there's a future for you where you can grow old, retire, and have grandkids that will have grandkids of their own. There's lethargy of course. If there's no future, why bother pursuing in any dreams? But there's also anger. How come we spend time dreaming of a life only to be told that we can't live it? Sure, the hopelessness of the situation may make us abandon any fanciful goals we may originally have. But something has to fill in the space left from our abandoned hobbies, and that is the strong overwhelming need to fix this.
For me, there's just sheer terror. The world might not end by 2030 or 2050, but we can't deny that natural disasters are getting worse, carrying off lives each time one occurs. We can't deny that years ago, island governments have already begun to worry about their lands sinking underwater. We can't deny that communities in poverty will be the first to hit and be hit the hardest, and by the time the rest of the world is affected enough to care, it may be too late for them.
We can tell ourselves over and over again that it won't be us, that it'll be some poor unfortunate soul elsewhere that's going to be the ones hurt by this, but some of us are going to be the ones killed in the natural disasters, some of us are the ones that live on the islands threatened by rising waters, some of us are the ones that live in communities that can't afford to be impacted by climate change. And the number of us being affected is just going to keep rising.
We have a lot of years left to live. That's a lot of time for climate change to get worse. Too many years left for us to still say that it won't happen in our lifetime.
Too many years left to lose to a worsening environment.
It's downright terrifying to think about so instead we fight.