(CNN) — Dear River,
The problems with an economy built on dirty fuels and planned obsolescence were so disgustingly obvious back in my boyhood that leaders from both political tribes agreed to create the Environmental Protection Agency and pass the Clean Air and Water Acts. As you learn more about the Congress of your birth, this will seem adorable.
“‘These people didn’t leave as much behind as people who attend food fairs do,” said a sanitation official at the time. “It was an environmentally sensitive crowd.”
But while we were focused on our most obvious missteps as a species, none of us could see the trillions of tons of planet-cooking, reef-killing fossil fuel pollution pumping invisibly into our seas and sky. And the consequences were too slow-mo to notice.
We don’t know how accurate these models will prove to be because, as the scientists like to say, we have no spare Earths to experiment with. This is it. You, your sister, your pal Matilda and the rest of the neighborhood scooter gang are the test subjects.
When you look back, you’ll probably wonder what we were doing with this information beyond recycling junk mail and seagull-safe six-packs, but you should know there were countless good souls ready to pitch in. “What can I do?” I’ve heard in many an airport and at some point I started responding with a list.
1. Get mad.
2. Get ready.
3. Get as many new friends as you can.
When you realize that their bosses in the C-suites decided not to tell anyone for decades, that anger will then be a renewable resource and could fuel any number of peaceful actions, from turning urban spaces green to statehouse lobbying to volunteering in places of environmental injustice. Since the climate crisis touches everything, everywhere, follow your passion to a point of action.
Nature photography inspired the creation and preservation of Yellowstone National Park. Your snaps of nature could also help the planet. CNN’s Bill Weir shares tips on how to improve your nature photography.
And this feeds into Steps 2 and 3.
By throwing Earth out of balance, we’ve baked ourselves a pie chart with three slices: Mitigation (stopping the problem), adaptation (bracing for the problem) and pain. The relative size of each slice is yet to be determined, but an active, organized community is the one thing that helps ease all three. And nothing scares polluters more.
The two years since your birth have been also been packed with a pandemic, insurrection, impeachment, a cold civil war at home, a hot ground war in Eastern Europe and the deliberate erosion of truth. Throw in industrial-sized addiction, distraction and depression and ’22 was… a lot.
And as for Earth Day? Think about it this way: What would life be like if you only showed Mom you love her on Mother’s Day? Even if you never gave her pain a second thought the rest of the year, you’d only be hurting yourself.