Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Imagine. Imagine, in your mind, a tree. A tree that has stood there for many, many years. A tree that is large, and tall, and strong. A tree that is supported by many animals, and a tree that supports each of those animals in return. Now, in the time it took you to read that much, a tree, possibly one just like that, has fallen. Now count to 24. Yet another tree has been cut down. Every 24 seconds. Every 24 seconds.
Now imagine yourself as a small animal. A squirrel, maybe. Imagine your friend, maybe your partner, on the other side of a human-made path. Imagine the nut you hold in your mouth, the one you plan on giving to the squirrel across the path. You step cautiously onto the path and start to dart across. Almost there… almost there… wham. Your nut falls from your mouth. You are pressed against the path. You are beaten, hurt, simply for trying to reach someone out of kindness. Dead. You are also glanced at, and then tossed away from a human's lips like you are nothing. Just another inconvenience. Just something to avoid. Every year, in the United States only, an estimated 41 million squirrels, 26 million cats, 22 million rats, 19 million opossums, 15 million raccoons, 6 million dogs, and 350,000 deer become roadkill.
Now imagine a turtle. A hawksbill sea turtle, to be more specific. Normally, it would go to a coral reef to eat its regular meal of sponge. This helps both the coral and the turtle, because the sponge harms the coral, possibly killing it at times. The turtle gets rid of it, but also uses it as a food source. However, over time, the turtle has found it more and more difficult to find food. This is because more and more corals are becoming bleached, due to rising sea temperatures. The turtle, however, doesn’t know this. It is simply focused on sustaining itself. Eventually, the turtle recognizes that the coral can no longer give it the nutrients it needs and has to leave. After looking for what seems like forever, the turtle comes across something possibly worth eating. It is just the right size for its mouth and is colorful and appealing to eat. So it gobbles it up. It has found an abundance of these things, and they don’t taste half bad. But a little while after this feast, it feels a little sick. It starts to sink because it has no more will to fight the pain in its stomach. It slowly stops breathing… and suddenly, it’s gone. Dead, at the bottom of the ocean. About 1,000 sea turtles are found dead, wrapped in plastic, on beaches. But how many die in the ocean, and get eaten by animals higher in the food chain, passing the plastic down the line? How many turtles sink and die from what we have put into the ocean? And why is it that we haven’t stopped, we haven’t woken up to the sadness and death that we are causing?
Now, erase what I have said, and imagine a world. A world of life, of happiness for all living species. There will always be small things, small conflicts in our everyday lives. That is unavoidable. But look past those interferences. Imagine in your mind, a place where everywhere you turn, you see a living tree or plant. You never have to look at a squirrel pressed on the road again. Imagine a world where our oceans are clean and safe. Imagine a world where you never have to breathe a wisp of smoke, or smell the nasty smell or hear the sound of a rusty car starting. Imagine a world with all these things and more. A world where we have made up for all the sadness and death we humans have caused. Not a single one of those dead trees, squirrels, turtles, polar bears, penguins, cheetahs, pandas, frogs, elephants, humans and so many more, was worth it. I could never say that. But maybe, just maybe, we could find a way to move forward together, and create a world where no more of those lives have to be lost.
So imagine, in your mind, that world every day, and make the simple changes that each one of us needs to make to create that image. Because it doesn't have to be an image.
It can be a reality.
Amelia Durbin is a 12-year-old in Northampton, Massachusetts. She lives with her Mom, Dad, little sister, and a wonderful but very energetic dog, Roux. She loves to read, write, make clay jewelry and animals, along with play and listen to music. She is also very interested in the topic of climate change and annoys her friends and family to death with new facts, ideas and decisions. She mainly writes poetry and fiction but decided she'd give climate non-fiction a try.