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Wake-up Call | The Nation

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Wake-up Call

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As the statue of blind justice holds the tipping scales in her hands, so too does our generation hold in the balance our own precarious future and, arguably, that of the entire world. At no other moment in the earth's history has there existed an impending disaster that has been recognized, predicted, studied and ignored. Our generation is charged with making a collective wake-up call, being a modern-day Paul Revere, sounding an alarm that will startle even the most complacent, cynical and resistant in our society.

For this year's first-ever Nation Student Writing Contest we received more than 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. The winning essay--"Project Corpus Callosum" by Sarah Stillman of Yale University--and five finalists are published in this issue.

About the Author

Brie Cubelic
Brie Cubelic is a senior at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and a finalist in the 2006 Nation Student Writing...

The issue is environmental survival. But we must progress from groups of disparate organizations seeking to protect individual segments of the environment to a cohesive, integrated movement toward sustainability. Our challenge is to change the collective mindset; to create an informed, powerful electorate that demands responsiveness from its elected officials; to assume an active role in promoting and supporting individuals and companies who work toward these common goals.

Reading about the exciting possibilities of natural capitalism, I became hopeful that we as a country could actually regain our sanity and take steps to reverse policies of reckless use, overuse, waste and destruction of our natural resources. This would require a change from the concept of disposability to sustainability; from planned obsolescence to continued operation; from ownership to usage; from sales to service. Companies would design products to last, only being repaired or replaced when necessary. Scientific research and development have already created products and materials that can transform our world. New fuel sources are already available to replace fossil fuels. They are renewable, would reduce our oil dependence as well as stop the destruction of the environment in the name of drilling for new sources of oil and natural gas. But the most important reason for their development is the reduction of greenhouse gases, the major contributor to the imminent disaster of global warming.

Technology has led to our present condition, but it has also paved the road out of it, if we choose to follow that road and not the one of arrogance, greed and special interests. That road leads directly to global disaster, and our generation will be unwilling passengers on that ride.

We must take action now. We do not have the luxury of evolution's resolution, for the problems we have created are beyond nature's ability to solve. They may very well be beyond ours. But we can no longer remain victims of governmental and industrial collusion that prolongs profits but delays progress. We must demand that incentives be provided for adoption of those products and practices consistent with the tenets of natural capitalism.

Technology has also produced the information highway on which we may communicate with educators, governmental officials, organizations and people throughout the world in an effort to unite in our call for action. We must make our one voice so lucid and so resonant that even the deaf ears will hear. They will be warned. We will not wait. We will not be placated or ignored.

We all dream of sunsets and oceans and walks in the woods on perfect days. We have taken them for granted, but now we must help our earth if it is to continue to provide the pleasures some of us have wantonly disregarded. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Our inexhaustible supply of resources is becoming exhausted. Industrialization has reached a point of diminishing returns. Military technology threatens to annihilate or contaminate all or most of our world. How much more abuse can it take?

There is hope. There is a plan. There is a future. We must learn about and begin to embrace the concept of natural capitalism, where both natural and human resources are valued and maximized. We must realize that we are dependent on nature, not masters of it. We must become careful and respectful stewards of all forms of life, for their future portends our own. It is time for us to prove that we deserve our place at the top of the food chain, that we really are the most intelligent of the species. We really can create a world free from wars over access to natural resources. We really can breathe clean air and drink clean water. What better gift to give to our grandchildren? It is up to us to tip those scales in favor of our environment--and, as in the old movies, to provide that therapeutic slap in the face. Perhaps, one day, the world will say, "Thanks, I needed that!"

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