Ginny McReynolds
Writer, Retired Dean
Sacramento, California, United States

Be That Person

“Technology had separated us from each other and we’d forgotten how to talk, how to tell the truth, how to listen.”

Dear Future Friends,

I am writing this just three months before the Paris Summit, the UN Climate Change Conference of 2015, when the nations of the world will finally make a commitment to reduce global emissions.

I know when you read about us, your somewhat recent ancestors, you will shake your heads and wonder why we didn’t do more sooner.

But, on the eve of this momentous juncture, I want you to know something important about those of us who came before you in the hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes. It may be hard for you to believe, but we did very little to protect our earth because, for a very long time, we didn’t realize it was within our power. We felt disconnected and immobilized. Technology had separated us from each other and we’d forgotten how to talk, how to tell the truth, how to listen.

Quite simply, we put our futures into the hands of world leaders and we waited for them to act. We dutifully dropped our tiny bag of aluminum cans and computer paper into our recycling bins as we got into our carbon-emitting cars and drove to work. We convinced ourselves that one person couldn’t possibly change the direction of the environment, and we patted ourselves on the back for taking shorter showers and buying local.

When we read in the newspapers about big businesses complaining about the cost of changing their environmental practices, we turned the page. When politicians paid only lip service to environmental causes and took campaign donations from major polluters, we voted for them anyway because we didn’t bother to research the other candidates and we weren’t informed enough to know which hard questions to ask. When our “radical” friends talked about climate change, our eyes glazed over and we worried they were getting paranoid, so we didn’t join their letter-writing campaigns or listen to the detailed facts. Quite frankly, we just hoped it would all get solved on its own.

As a result of that lack of knowledge and attention, we nearly gave it all up. Fortunately, though, there were those among us who stuck with the cause, who understood that our individual direct actions were making things worse, but could make things better. It was these people who almost literally kept the environment alive. And, it is these people you have to thank today when you walk along a high peak and gaze across a clear sky at a pristine lake.

Remember this when you feel apathetic, when you think you have no power to be part of the solution. And you will.

One person can make a change and a difference. Be that person.