I had just fallen asleep when the earth shook.
An 8.0 magnitude earthquake had hit the coastline of southern Mexico, and we felt it here at Lake Atitlan in Guatemalan highlands several hundred of kilometers away. My husband and I jumped out of bed, looked at each other, deer in headlights.
I always think they will pass and they always do. I have never been in the epicenter of an actual earthquake zone, only felt the shakes (temblores) on the periphery. Many times I have felt those, over the past eight years living in Guatemala. Prior, my weather fear in central Texas had been tornadoes. Austin was too far from the coast to get much damage from a hurricane, nowhere near as vulnerable as Houston, Corpus or Galveston.
This one lasted a longer time than most, but due to my half-asleep state, I didn’t register anxiety as much as curiosity. Why won’t it stop? Our daughter continued sleeping soundly, so we stayed in the bedroom of our tiny two-story cabin and moved with the earth. Finally, it did cease and no aftershocks came.
Now I wonder, what will it take for us, as humans who live on Earth, to care for our planet? I wonder if it is even possible to reverse the course we are already so far gone on?
I live at a lake, a beautiful lake which absolutely should be a World Heritage Site, should be protected, a national park, a trash-free zone, something. Anything.
This lake appears to be gorgeous and healthy, from a distance. There are three mammoth volcanoes looming over its southern shore. I am on the north side, with a view of these three beauties every day, though partially obscured by trees, I can see the lake and volcanoes from the balcony where I write.
I have, especially over the past two years, come to live a much more earth-loving, “eco-friendly” life. I no longer have a car. I no longer use electricity, only solar power. I no longer have a flush-toilet, only a dry compost toilet. (Yes, I still use cars, electricity and flush toilets when I’m not a home. But I’m usually at home.) In fact, I have not left this lake basin, except for a brief weekend at the beach in February, in eleven months, since returning from my last trip to the States (and Canada).
Now, British Columbia is on fire. Washington and Oregon are on fire. Southeast Texas is underwater. Florida is underwater. Bangladesh is underwater. So many more places around the world experiencing floods, forest fires, rising temperatures, extreme weather. Climate change.
From the outside, the lake looks pristine. Its clarity is better than in the recent past, especially those times over the past decade that have brought major algae blooms, a thick film of greenish yellow cyanobacteria that eventually turned blue and purple and brown, stinking as it decayed.
The lake looks clean, but it is not. It is suffering from a lack of oxygen. This is a lake that was formed by a volcanic crater many millions of years ago, and has no rivers going out to the ocean. The rivers feeding into the lake contain chemical runoff from the farms now mono-cropping corn instead of growing diverse vegetables, grains and fruits as they used to. And untreated or poorly treated sewage from the dozens of villages around the lake basin. And many tons of trash: plastic, styrofoam, rubber, more plastic.
Hence, unless drastic action is taken by the communities and individuals around the lake, as well as the Guatemalan government to outlaw both littering and contamination of the lake at the corporate level, this beautiful gem of nature has a death sentence. No one knows for sure. Maybe 7 years. Maybe twenty?
Isn’t the same the true of the entire planet Earth? She appears to be okay, if you’re not in an area ravaged by natural disaster or an “underdeveloped” nation with trash lining even its most remote rural trails. Some people can even deny the reality of climate change still, because they haven’t witnessed firsthand a heatwave or the rising ocean reducing the shoreline. How long does the Earth have to live, unless we change our ways?
I don’t have the answer, and I feel so helpless when I learn about the vast, greedy corporate/government misuse of funds and desecration of the environment. I can only change my own behavior and try to influence those around me.
When are we going to wake up? It’s seriously now or never.
I stumbled upon this infographic the other day. This has cemented my decision to have only one child. My daughter is perfect and she’s not going to have any biological siblings. I want to pass a healthy, glorious, wonderful earth onto my grandchildren, onto all future dwellers of this plentiful planet.
This has also renewed my commitment to vegetarianism. A plant-based diet. This is not to say I will never ever eat meat, but I plan not to be lax about it, even when visiting Texas over the next couple months. Delicious, nutritious vegetarian options are always available. It is a choice. Mindful eating: plant-based, smaller quantities, slow eating, appreciation of the food, its ingredients, cook, server.
I feel good about not having a car. I drove one from age 16 to 29 in the USA, then for another few years here in Guatemala. It is a luxury and a freedom, a vehicle. I enjoy driving, going places, road trips. However, not having one is, according to this study, one of the best ways to positively impact Earth. Walking. Biking. Taking public transportation (and fewer transatlantic flights).
May we wake up and start caring more for ourselves, our fellow humans and our mother Earth. May our daily actions and practices serve to benefit all beings and our precious planet!