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Rebecca Burnell
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Dearest Maxine,

If you, or anyone else, reads this in 2050, then my nightmares have not come true and civilization has not come apart at the seams. For that, I would like to take a moment to thank the 7 billion people currently alive on this planet, for having made the unimaginably difficult sacrifices I believe we must all make very very soon if we have any hope of avoiding uncontrollable descent into climate chaos. Know that today as I write this I am terrified that we stand very near the brink of planetary disaster, with climate changes feeding on each other, bringing us perilously close to the ultimate tipping point. I fear for our future safety on a daily basis; I fear that your medications will become unavailable, I fear for our continued food security, I fear for the unfathomable loss you will experience as the 21st century world your generation was promised slips away.

And yet, I get up out of bed. I wake you up and send you off to get the education I am convinced will be mostly irrelevant in all too few years. Knowledge of a very different sort will be what’s needed by most of us. I do what I can to hang onto what is beautiful, and true, and I try to fight for the changes I have no alternative but to hope will manage – somehow, against all odds – to save us. I am also learning to grow food, and how to preserve what is harvested, how to knit and how to build useful things. How to hold on. How to teach. How to build community. I will pass these things down to you, whether you realise you’re learning them or not.

I have found far more satisfaction and enjoyment in practicing these skills than I’d ever have imagined. It’s an incredible relief to discover that trying to get ready for what could be a horrific future is actually, for the moment, the antidote to my fear, my paralysis, my rage, and my despair. Whether I’m grasping at straws or whether these skills turn out to be necessary for me to have worked on, I’m thankful that in picking them up, I have found some measure of peace and ability to enjoy life for each moment we have before our lives are changed.

I know you don’t feel very strong right now, but you are much stronger than you think. You are a brilliant mind, and you already have qualities of leadership that humble me. If the human race manages to stop the use of fossil fuels (and stop it much faster than we currently seem on course to do) and if the Arctic doesn’t release as much methane as we think it will as it warms, perhaps we’ll manage to stave off an apocalyptic future, and retire to live a far more simple life as a species than we currently do. I believe you could adapt to that, and that you’d be a valued member of whatever community was lucky enough to count you in their numbers.

Never turn your back on your creativity, no matter what future you inherit – harness it to inform, embellish, and inspire you no matter what life you find for yourself. It is of profound use in creating meaning and beauty in even the most menial of activities. It is an essential element in teaching, and in learning, and in community building, all of which you will engage in for the rest of your life come what may.

In moments of hopefulness, I dream of seeing the world you will rebuild, despite everything the generations which came before you did to destroy the planet. If I have one request to make of you, it’s that you spend your life insisting that humanity Do No More Harm. I’ll spend the rest of *my* life trying to ensure that it’s a principle you carry with you always.

I’m so sorry I couldn’t do more to prevent what will be underway by the time anyone will be reading this. I’m so sorry for what we’ve done to this beautiful blue planet. I’m so sorry for how we’ve so fundamentally failed our own children. I’m so sorry for the anguish I fear we’ve handed you.

Please let me be wrong.

I love you always,
Mom

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