In her essay, “Winter Solstice”, Lisa Hupp says, “[i]t takes courage to love a place, to deliberately choose digging in and taking responsibility for its fragile well-being. Recognizing the magnitude of our impact on the community of life that sustains us means coming to terms with fear, loss, and degrees of despair.” Her words resonate somewhere at my core and I find myself repeating them like a mantra, “coming to terms with fear, loss, and degrees of despair.”
Hupp is one of twenty-two millennials whose essay appears in the newly released book, Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changing Planet (Trinity University Press). The book is a powerful collection of essays representing a diversity of millennial voices. Some stories are sad, some are angry, some are searching for hope.
The millennial generation—kids born roughly between 1980-2000–is the first generation born into this time of accelerated climate change. Their world is being whittled away at the edges, melting from top to bottom. Bye-bye trees. Bye-bye lakes. Bye-bye birds and fish. Like a scary bedtime story. This is the backdrop against which they live their daily lives—as witnesses to the disappearance of nature.
I read the whole book, cover to cover. Some essays I read more than once. The stories broke my heart, they gave me hope, they made me angry, they made me cry. Sometimes all at the same time. In her essay, “We Are the Fossil-Fuel Freedom Fighters”, Bonnie Hemphill says, “[w]e who have come of age after the end of nature know that we have inherited damaged goods. But we’re strong and we’re smart, and we can and we will rebuild.” They insist on hope, even if they have to dig through parched soil to find it.
I’m glad I read the book—though seeing the world through the eyes of millennials is not always easy. As Blair Braverman says in her essay, “Post Nature Writing”, “[m]y impatience … is a result of growing up with the overwhelming knowledge that we’re running out of time.”
I think about my own children and my nieces and nephews—all of whom are millennials. Sure, every generation has its challenges. But the magnitude of this challenge skyrockets off the charts when compared say, to my generation—the sixties. I ask myself how my own kids will cope. What will make them resilient? Where will they find hope? I don’t have any answers. But this book might be a start to finding them. So if you are you a millennial, or if you know a millennial, crack it open. Use it to open dialogue, encourage engagement, and to create community and collaboration.
Use it to insist on hope for the future.