I Did Not Have Children to Bestow Unto Them a Dying Planet
Valclav Havel says hope is the “ability to work on something because it is good, not because it has a chance to succeed.”
When I took three-year-old Kai to the Great Barrier Reef in 2010, I didn’t know I had brought him to his first graveyard. He won’t remember us standing on an island of bleached and broken coral. Nor how we swam searching for color in the reef, getting too excited over dull peeks of pink. He only knows that after we left, a cyclone destroyed the island we visited, rendering it uninhabitable for living creatures.
When we left Australia, I knew I had to do something to find hope, so I took advantage of my jobs as a travel writer and took my kids along on assignments to see places that might not exist in their lifetimes. I imagined that introducing them to the world I adored would inspire them to love this planet and need to become caretakers themselves. I imagined I could show them what was worth fighting for. I hoped all was not lost.
At first it was hard to avoid the anguish of experiencing so many places directly changed because of our climate crisis. The impact of humans on our warming world cannot be ignored. Polluted shorelines of Latin America, tourists sipping glacier melt from plastic water bottles on a retreating glacier, films of sunscreen oils floating atop bleached coral reefs. I was beginning to feel more distraught than anything else.
I knew I had to do more, but what?
By chance on assignment, I met a group of Panamanian kids who had been teaching their parents about the importance of tending to their beach. These kids started a recycling program, cleaned up the plastic on their beach (and made art from it) and planted dozens of trees.
Seeing kids take on such a big problem with ease, I wondered why I thought it was my right to see all my bucket list destinations. Why didn’t I want to use the privilege of my travel writing career to locate stories of hope? So, like all good travelers, I changed course. Explorers are improvisational at heart. So instead of just powering through to see remains of a once incredible destination, I started taking only assignments…