Sarah Says: A Mother's Open Letter On Saving The Planet For The Children
We were sitting in the nursery in San Francisco’s SFO Airport, my infant suckling at my breast, and my teenager perched atop the sink counter, swinging her legs and holding her phone’s receiving end to her mouth. We had about half an hour until she boarded her flight back to New York, where she currently lives with her father, my ex. I guess it could be a long story, but in the interest of not-spilling-my-entire-life-onto-the-Internet, we’ll summarize it as such; I found out I was pregnant right at the cusp of my husband, Jon, starting a company in California, and Kaya getting ready to transition into seventh grade at her school in Brooklyn.
Before the baby came into the picture, we had been prepared to see Jon only half of the month, as he traveled back and forth between business and family. When that ultrasound confirmed Juno’s existence, everyone weighed in and decided collectively that it would be wisest for me to move to California to have familial support (we were completely on our own in Brooklyn), and least disruptive for Kaya to stay in school where she was. So her dad moved back to the Big Apple, and we moved to the Bay Area, and Kaya basically has more airline miles than anybody else in her modern family.
A tearful conversation with my daughter woke me up to how little I was actually doing to save the planet for her.
So, amidst the blaring of the paging system on the concourse, I was interviewing Kaya, for this very column as a matter of fact, on a whole gamut of topics—some, pretty sensitive in nature. We spoke about cyberbullying, her analysis of parenting styles in the Philippines versus America, and I listened to her explain how she was able to handle the divorce the way she did. I still intend to share her insights, because I think they’re incredibly valuable, but something happened in the middle of our interview that prompted me to write this first. An open letter, that started with one plea, and has now evolved into a series of calls to action.
First step to respecting nature is to have your family spend time in nature.
“Why do you care about the planet so much?”
It was one of the lighter questions I’d asked that day, so you can imagine my surprise when her face began to wrinkle the way it did before she started to cry. Eyes turned into half crescent moons en pointe, now spilling over with tears, looking at me. Pleading. Lip quivering. Breaking my heart into a million pieces all over that airport nursery floor.
Oh my God. What had I done?
She shook her head, letting me know she hadn’t expected the tears either. I stuttered variations of “sorry” as she found her words.
After some moments, quiet, bursting with my apologetic concern, she shakily said;
“I read somewhere that it doesn’t matter how many trees we plant
to save the planet now. It’s too late.”
My darling girl, a precocious empath who used her own money from babysitting and selling her art to buy metal straws, and bamboo utensils, and castille soap and essential oils, from which an entire line of home and personal care products were made (shampoo, toilet cleaner, deodorant, toothpaste, face masks, toner, glass polish); the kid who dragged me out of bed the first day the compost bins were open at the community garden, was now sitting in front of me, a young woman, feeling the weight of generational screw ups resting squarely on her shoulders.
I thought I’d been doing a good job. We recycled, I use tote bags instead of plastic, and was conscious about the source of my food and clothes. But every generation needs a wake up call from its youth, and this was mine. I hadn’t been doing nearly enough.
Kaya had been calling out for help all this time. I’d failed to understand until now.
Plea #1: Take care of our planet, it’s the best gift we can give our children
Sure, the Bransons and Musks of the world are figuring out ways to travel to and inhabit other planets, but at this juncture, there is no plausible Plan B for the human race if we continue living the way we do.
Instead of ploughing you with talking points that have been yelled at us by desperate environmental activists for decades, I’m going to share with you the steps I’ve personally committed to in deepest hopes it will divert my daughters from living out their bright futures donning gas masks, on an imploding rock.
I strive to practice gratitude. I really do. But there’s nothing that teaches you gratitude like a proper shoe-switch, and so I’ve come up with a fun little game.
Step one is to assess the attention I often crave. It looks a little something like this:
“Oh my God, please PAMPER me; somebody take the baby and assure me she’ll be fine and just send me to Palm Springs with a pre-planned itinerary and no obligation to show up to any of it if I don’t feel like it. Have the entire house professionally cleaned, and hire Marie Kondo to do what she does, but be a mind reader and figure out what sparks joy on my behalf. Have my water bottle filled and remind to me to stay hydrated twenty five times a day, so I know you love me. Feed me things I crave, but make sure they’re Whole 30 compliant and ethically sourced. Let me dress like Jesus or the Greek gods and goddesses, but in Filipino woven fabric; and tell me I look stunning even if I wear the same thing, every single day.”
Kaya’s been using this for as long as I can remember, but I only made the switch the day of the Epic Interview. It’s called Ecosia (ecosia.org), and you can download it as an app on your phone, and also install it as an extension, which automatically makes Ecosia your new search engine in Safari, for example. Why is it awesome? Because Ecosia uses their profits to plant trees. Meaning, you just go about your daily internet searching, and you’re contributing to a chain of events that could save lives. Plus, their servers “run on 100% renewable energy, and every search request removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.” They publish their financial reports, for transparency and accountability as well. Um, MASSIVE.
Goodbye Meat, You’re Tasty But Deadly
You can go ahead and search for the stats (on Ecosia, because you downloaded it immediately after reading that last paragraph) on how much of global warming can be attributed to eating animal products. Or you can follow musician Moby on Instagram, because he reminds me all the time. And lord knows we need reminding. All. The. Time.
Because we’re spoiled and creatures of habit, and because this is serious.
The Meier-Heredia household is now officially meat-free, and slowly becoming poultry and dairy-free as well. If you know either Jon or I, you will understand how huge of a step this is. I mean, I’m Swiss and Filipino; cheese and rice were the Pillars of Life. (But hey, you wanna talk about pillars of life? Try oxygen, clean water, and A PLANET TO LIVE ON.)
Am I doing my job okay so far? Are you still with me? I have to be loud. Read on.
Never quite fancied yourself an activist? Now is the time. Speak up, get others riled up, while we still have a chance.
Clean It Up, Spread It Out
Jon was already on the beach clean up path, but instead of me uh-huh-ing whenever he tells me when the next date is for the calendar, I’m now committed to not only showing up, but to spreading the word. If even a fraction of us exhibit a fraction of the passion our children do for the planet, then maybe we can somehow right our wrongs.
Because, ultimately, we did this. With our hairspray, and our plastic toys, and diapers, and convenience, and our affordable clothing. Our hamburgers, and sachets, and our beach slippers that we left in the sand on drunken Boracay nights. (Come on, I know that wasn’t just me.)
If you don’t have children that you care about, then OMG, please do it for mine!!
Please, please, please, take from this list what speaks to you—heck, take what doesn’t! We have to start sacrificing our stupid comforts, so that our children, and our children’s children, can have true comfort. Ease of breathing. Option of life.
These are just a few things my family and I are doing. For more ideas that you can adopt and preach, go and Ecosia (now my favorite verb) “how to save the planet” and rabbit-hole yourself into a continuum of articles and tips.
When you’re done with that, I should be back, with my Mother’s Month Plea, number two.