My favorite book to read to you right now is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I’m amazed that at just two years old, you will sit at night and listen to the whole book (or at least most of it). Is it because you love looking at the pictures? Or because you know how much I love reading the book to you? The other day while reading the book, you said “where did the trees go?” It is a good question and I just didn’t know how to answer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of world I want to leave to you, and the world we are actually leaving you. The pages of the book reflect in many ways how we currently treat the earth, where we fill the air with smogulous smoke, leave the water all smeary, and cut down our Truffula trees. Our society reflects the Once-ler, when he says:
“I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads…”
How can we change the way that we as a society are using our resources and treating our planet? What should we be doing to make these changes? And can individual actions on reducing pollution and addressing climate change make any difference?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this last question since I have started working on this project DearTomorrow. The theory of the project is that if people can personally identify with climate change, they will be more motivated to act. But one of our challenges is that the suggested changes do not match the scope of the problem. If one’s only suggestions are to recycle more, change a light bulb, or create a garden, then we will fall dramatically short of what is actually needed—a complete transformation of our energy systems and built infrastructure in just a few short decades.
The good news is that with new technology and with growing momentum on climate change, there are increasingly more ways that people can make a huge impact—we can join organizations in our communities that fight for clean water and air, advocate for governments and companies to invest in renewable energy (solar panels are now at an all-time historic low cost), insist that our cities, schools and public funds are divested from fossil fuels, and vote for and continually support a candidate who advocates for clean energy policies and climate protection.
More importantly, I have come to recognize that no matter how big or small the action, people must have an opportunity to personally demonstrate that they care—and this is what is important for greater change. One passage at the end of The Lorax captures this idea:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
So, I will end this letter with two ideas that I hope to impart on you. First, I want you to know that I care deeply about climate change and that I took the best actions that I knew of at this time. For me, this means working on DearTomorrow. For some, to care means making small behavior changes (turning off the lights, driving less, recycling), while for others it will mean getting involved in a community organization or becoming politically active on climate change. All of these actions—no matter how small or insignificant they may feel—are important. And second, I want to teach and empower you to do the same—to care about an issue and to take action.
You are far from the age where you can fully understand these concepts, so for now, I hope to pass along these ideas to you by taking you on walks in the park and reading books like The Lorax.
And so I say to you before I kiss you goodnight…
“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”
[This letter is part of a new project DearTomorrow, which asks people to reflect and write about climate change to their loved ones living in the future. Tell your story about what you are doing about how you are thinking about climate change and submit it to deartomorrow.org. To get more involved in parents groups working on climate change, visit Our Kids’ Climate.]