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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/19/20

Message from Mother Earth

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Message Helena Palladino

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
(Image by Wikipedia (, Author: NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans)
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Dear Humans of Earth

I write to you today as the mother of the place you call home, because I am desperate, and frankly you should be too. Humans have created a lifestyle that is no longer sustainable for any who live around them. Because of your choices, pollution fills my lungs, plastic pollutes my veins, the oceans and rivers, and my skin has become bare, stripped of the nature that once covered it. Now there are only cars and buildings from your man-made jungles and the constant flurry of people. My other children, the animals that live alongside you, are no longer safe in this world you have created. They are being hunted, slaughtered, bred for torture, and living on the brink of extinction due to your actions.

At this moment, you are facing a multitude of problems, all of your own making. Your choices to strive for constant growth and risk are the beginning of your own extinction, and I can no longer help you until you choose to help yourselves. My plants and oceans can no longer absorb any more of your pollution and carbon dioxide, my water cycles can no longer produce enough before you deplete its sources again. Without water, food, or enough land, neither my animals nor plants, let alone the humans on earth, will be able to survive. I don't believe humans realize that environmental problems are closely intertwined with societal issues, such as inequality and injustice, and if they did, I wonder if they would take nature more seriously. Humans are now born into a cycle of overconsumption and materialism where all you ever do is work and shop without enjoying life in front of you. Social injustice, environmental injustice, resource depletion, and global warming are all things you have brought upon yourself and will be the cause of your extinction unless you figure out a way to make it better. Because at this point, there is nothing more I can do.

Most environmental problems stem from the fact that there are simply too many humans living on planet earth, and living unsustainably. If there were only 1 billion humans living on earth, their impact probably wouldn't be as significant, and maybe even manageable. However, this is not the case. With more people, there needs to be more basic resources: food, water, shelter, clothing, and in 2020, most likely a car and a phone. These are basic rights for a human to live well, and yet there are currently 2 billion people who don't even have access to clean water. There are many derivatives of overpopulation, and many people tend to overlook it without realizing that it affects every single person on the planet, not only those who are living in poverty and misery. For example, global warming - one of the biggest threats the human race faces - is a byproduct of overpopulation. Global warming stems from the large amounts of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere each day. More specifically, carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2), like all other greenhouse gasses, absorbs the infrared cooling rays I use to cool myself. It radiates warmth, trapping heat in the atmosphere, and creating an overall warmer climate (Volk, 2008). The average American emits roughly 20.8 tons of CO2 per day adding to a total of 7,600 tons per year per person. Then compare that number to a much smaller and poorer country like Zambia, whose average person only produces about 0.23 tons of CO2 per day (McLean, 2017). This is when we see that these issues are not only environmental but also societal. The people living in 100 of the poorest countries produce less than 3% of our total emissions and yet they are the ones who ultimately pay the highest price for your actions (Wedel, 2009). Yet these same 100 countries are responsible for the highest rate of population growth. More than 90% of the world's population growth is taking place in developing countries. Parents who constantly struggle with poverty and hunger, are highly incentivized to have large families, as their children are seen as a source of income, a resource. This has become a huge issue. I, Mother of this planet, can only realistically sustain (if the human race magically decided to reduce their carbon emissions and begin living more sustainably) 10 billion people. Nevertheless, the pools of my carbon cycle: the atmosphere, soil, ocean and life forms can no longer handle the absurd amounts of CO2 being released daily by humans and their technologies. CO2 levels are constantly rising and humans continue to destroy the other outlets of the carbon cycle and the absorbing powers of the other carbon pools are decreasing. This then causes global warming to further intensify, warming oceans and further decreasing its absorbing power, while changing the chemical balance of the ocean. Oceans are acidifying ten times faster than expected because of the massive amounts of carbon dioxide they absorb (Mckibben, 2010), 80% of all forests have been permanently damaged or destroyed, releasing all of that excess CO2 back into the air (Volk,2008). Plants absorb approximately 30% of the atmosphere's carbon dioxide, making them essential in reducing climate change (Gibbens, 2019). Yet humans continue destroying plants to make their houses more valuable or to graze more cattle. As the climate warms, ice caps have begun to melt at alarming rates causing the rising sea levels seen along the coastlines of the Maldives, US coasts, and any other coastal cities. Not surprisingly, it will be those who caused the least amount of damage that will be paying for it. Something humans must understand is that every part of nature is connected. If one branch becomes unbalanced, all of it falls into chaos. Everything humans do today pollutes or destroys in some way. Your cars pollute the air and require fuel, your houses are the cause of deforestation and loss of animal habitat, and your food systems have become so heavily industrialized that most of the time you don't even know where your food comes from. 80-90% of the food produced around the world comes from industrial farming where over 200 million tons of fertilizer is used each year, not to mention the damage caused by factory farming to both your societies and the environment. The animal agriculture industry and humans' use of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation, also known as factory farms) is one of the most socially and environmentally harmful actions humans have taken (Food. inc, 2008). You enslave my children - the cows, chickens, sheep, and pigs - just because you seem to like the taste of them, and in the process, heavily pollute my rivers with 'accidental spills,' pollute the atmosphere and exploit your own people in the (Bell and ashwood, 2016, pp 79-98). This is something that I never understood. When the total land used for growing animal feed and grazing land is added up, it accounts for 77% of the global farming land, which could be used for so many other things (Ritchie & Roser, 2013). Additionally, humans are now pumping over 30 billion gallons of water and one-third of that goes to animal agriculture, while there are over 1 billion people who don't have access to clean water (Blue gold, 2008). So humans have once again consciously their greed over their necessities.

My tipping point is no longer a distant future, but rather something occurring at this very moment. Tipping points are large changes that are extremely difficult if not impossible to reverse. From the climate perspective, the tipping point is estimated to be at 2.0Â degrees celsius, before ecosystems undergo permanent regime shifts. However, if CO2 levels continue at the same rate, the projection is said to reach 3.0Â degrees (Bernier, 2020). It doesn't take a genius to see what is right in front of them. Summers are increasingly hotter, drought alerts always seem to be on the news, record hurricanes, and floods (Bell and Ashwood, pp 14). What else could it possibly be? I can assure you, it isn't my doing. I tried my best. I gave you enough water, enough land, and enough food, but you didn't use any of them wisely. I can no longer sit by and watch the humans of Earth destroy the only planet they will ever have. It is something they should be fighting constantly to protect.

Man has created ideologies of both environmental domination and environmental concern, yet the domination part seems to have much more of an impact. Most of these come from ancient ideologies and social constructs that have become acceptable in today's age. Religion, patriarchy and the social construct of nature guide people's actions and make up their identities. Mankind is a group of highly emotional creatures driven by what they believe is moral, and what has now come to be socially acceptable. In today's age, it is completely morally and socially acceptable to destroy the environment. Humans are no longer a part of nature and have separated their carnal bodies from it too. However, everything on earth is a part of nature, whether it be the animals, plants, humans, or creation made by humans. Yet, man has turned nature into a social construct, separated and divided it into good and bad. This plays a large role in environmental domination (Bell and ashwood, 2016 pp. 257)

Before Man invented machines and technology, he was forced to be in contact with the soil, the land, the trees, and the grass every day. This meant the relationship between man and nature was far better. They were on par with nature. Then came the Moldboard plow. This was essentially the first machine ever made by Man and served and symbolized the breaking of ties between man and nature. From that point onward, Man was no longer a part of nature but rather the exploiter of nature (White, 1967). Man began having an exploitive and domineering view of nature. Roughly around the same time, Northern farmers were beginning to switch from Paganism to Christianity. This is essentially why their view of nature changed so much. For pagans, every rock, tree or plant was animated and filled with history, therefore destruction of any kind was seen as sacrilege which differed from the Christian point of view where God has given them the world to do as they pleased. Through Mosaic teachings, humans saw it as their right to take dominion of my oceans, my children, my skin. They saw it as their right to exploit, re-create, and change the Earth and its harmonious cycles (Bell and Ashwood, 2016, pp. 202).

Religion is most certainly the hardest ideology to fight against seeing as it becomes a part of a person's identity from the day they are born till the day they die. It drives and influences them in many aspects of life. However, patriarchy is equally dangerous as it has become so heavily ingrained in society that most people don't even realize it's there anymore. Most people believe that patriarchy is more of a social problem and fail to understand that it affects the environment just as much. For centuries, nature has been associated with women; loving, nurturing moral, inferior, and weak. This is probably one of the greatest faults in human society, believing that women are incapable of the same things as men. Not only does this undermine women's intelligence, strength, and capability, these stereotypes also encourage environmental domination. 'The Earth is feminine and is there to be claimed, conquered, raped, and cultivated'. Women can longer be seen as reproductive machines who need to stay quiet, and thankfully, the world today is changing this perspective. Women's role in overpopulation is quite extensive and they are also the solution to it. They need to be heard, and once they can be seen as equals to men, humankind will take a major step forward (Bell and Ashwood, 2016, pp. 211).

I believe I have made my disappointment in the human race quite clear. However, many of you are trying to be better. Some have realized that the Earth is your home and with all its beauty, nature, and harmony, it is unique and the only one humans have. Environmental concern is being used more and more in this upcoming generation. Unfortunately, environmental domination has been around far longer than environmental concern, and only emerged in the early 1960s, but is incredibly significant in changing human ideologies towards nature. There needs to be fast and radical changes to the political and economic systems in your world if positive change is to occur. Changes in ideologies, thought processes, habits, and lifestyles are imperative. This is the only way you can save yourselves and it needs to be right now.

Virtual environmentalism is going to be the most important change the human race will make. Right now, people use fuel-powered cars, fossil fuel-generated energy, eat fast food, and plastic goods because it is functional and cheap. Virtual environmentalism is the act of making environmentally friendly options the best, most accessible option so that being environmentally friendly becomes something every single person can do because it is the cheapest and easiest option. For example, making solar energy the cheapest option. It would mean restructuring society so that being environmentally friendly would become the new norm (Bell and Ashwood, 2016, pp. 376). Another truly important step would be restructuring humans' perspectives and ideologies towards nature. This is something that this coming generation has already begun doing. Battling against patriarchy and damaging stereotypes, and fighting for women's participation in the paid economy is also crucial. Millennials are constantly moving towards being more environmentally friendly, and are trying to change the ways of the past (Haaland, 2018). Organizations like Fridays for Future are being led by the youths of the world and are no longer tolerating false promises made by world leaders (Fridays for Future, 2020). Religion, on the other hand is much harder to change, and yet more and more Christians are giving up the belief that God will magically fix the world and are leaning towards the more ecological side Christianity which believes that God made the environment and therefore followers must protect it (Bell and ashwood, 2016, pp. 202). However, there is still a long way to go, especially because the older generations are still running the world and are having a very hard time coming to terms with the fact that times have changed and now so do the ways of the world. There are ideologic solutions and they take time. They are not easy but are long term and are something the world desperately needs.

The material solutions should be easier. Reducing carbon emissions to slow down global warming and climate change is a temporary solution but is equally important because unfortunately, the large-scale changes don't happen overnight. The average human emits approximately 4.4 tons of CO2 daily and to prevent dangerous climate change, this number would need to be reduced to about 1.5 tons. As individuals, three solutions would cut down your carbon footprint significantly. The first would be to switch to renewable energy in your household. Solar and wind are currently the best options on the market. Buying more energy-efficient appliances and especially cars would also make an incredible impact. The second would be to reduce or completely cut out meat and dairy consumption, which will heavily reduce deforestation rates, water and air pollution and human and animal exploitation. The third would be to change your expectation of lifestyle. Trying to be content with less and moving away from the highly materialistic and growth-obsessed mindsets humans have adopted. Population control or stabilization is also incredibly important. Once again, giving women a voice in the paid economy is one of the best solutions. Demographic studies show that once women are seen as equals in the workforce, reduction in birth rates is a consistent outcome (Bell and Ashwood, 2015, p. 156). Decreasing the division between social classes is also equally important. Once adults stop seeing children as economic and labor resources, birth rates will also decrease immensely. Developing countries can look towards growing sustainably rather than fighting for the survival of their own people. For development to begin, there needs to be major improvements in education, and increased job opportunities. However, these steps can only be taken when corruption is dealt with as well as money problems in the country.

To conclude, I hope you have genuinely taken my words to heart and heard my pleas. I speak for all of the animals, oceans, and plant life. Humans can no longer live in this fantasy world where they act as the only important organisms living on Earth. Living in the narrative that soon something big and revolutionary is going to sweep in and save you all is not realistic. The only ones that can save you now are yourselves by changing both your economic and societal structures and learning to live with less, produce less, and waste less. The structure of modern humans have created for themselves is driven by a desire to live abundantly, but it is this thought process and lifestyle that has created all of your environmental and social injustices. Now you must change them in order to fix it. You have a choice. You can make drastic and real changes immediately so that all living systems on earth can once again exist in balance, or you will perish and the rest of us will recover and thrive without you. I hope you choose the former.


Mother Nature

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Helena Palladino is a fifteen-year-old Brazilian student currently hacking her high school education via distance learning at American universities. With a strong desire to make a positive difference in the world now, she is putting (more...)

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Message from Mother Earth

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