And reminded me that I’m on a better course.
It’s the eve of my 30th birthday. The unabashed honks of the flamingoes have finally died down and I’m sipping on a much-needed glass of wine.
Yes, flamingoes. I am ensconced in the Portuguese countryside looking after the home of a bird conservationist. But instead of doing whatever the F someone is supposed to be doing as they slip gracefully into their thirties, I find myself applying to volunteer with environmental organizations on the other side of the world.
Turning thirty may drive people to question what they’re doing with their lives. Tonight, I find myself wondering what I’m not doing — and why.
Despite being a milestone, this particular birthday snuck up on me. I can attribute some of that to moving (I am a digital nomad of sorts) and settling into a new home. But I’ll give credit where credit is due: to the smouldering Amazon and the fallout of media coverage that Facebook’s algorithm has intuitively selected for me.
The Amazon fires have been weighing on my mind. Perhaps it’s because I can’t escape the racket of macaques; curious birds confined to a cage yet spared from the destruction and devastation that their kind— and countless others—are facing in Brazil.
Or perhaps it’s because my social media feed is riddled with an alarming combination of misguided comments and defensive rebuttals to scientific fact.
Birthday greetings are also trickling in as I type, but I am more concerned about the state of the planet and the longevity of humankind at this particularly crucial time. I frankly can’t give a f@#! about my 30th birthday right now.
If you wanna talk about age, the Amazon is ~55 million years old and Earth is ~4.5 billion years old.
Can we stop and celebrate that for a second? Or at least pause before pushing our environment to its absolute limit?
The state of the planet is not the existential crisis I thought I’d be wrestling with tonight. But at least it’s a worthy one.
We stand on the brink of irrevocable change
In the grand scheme of things, we will be a tiny blip on Earth’s timeline. Yet just a handful of generations (including ours) have managed to revolutionize the world, building societal norms that are undeniably unsustainable.
We invented airplanes, harnessed fossil fuels, and manufactured the meat industry from the ground up. Our ideas—equal parts innovative and shortsighted—are responsible for the crisis we and our planet now face. Our traditions, culture, and habits too.
Humankind must evolve, as we have been doing since existence, very rapidly in a better direction.
Which leads us back to me polishing off this bottle of wine and evaluating what more I can do with the decade that is upon me.
My twenties were about ‘finding myself’
Reflecting on my twenties, my heart feels full. I learned and seized opportunities. I explored, experimented, and grew from failures. I loved. I became acquainted with the outdoors, discovered rock climbing, and learned to surf. I began spending larger proportions of my time amidst tall trees, chalked boulders, and unabating waves.
I did the things I thought I was supposed to do, like getting a degree and starting a career. I also did things just because I wanted to. I spent two semesters abroad, playing women’s rugby, travelling solo from Myanmar to Alaska. I stumbled through most of it, making big decisions on gut feelings and whims.
Even so, I learned a lot along the way. Of all the invaluable takeaways, perhaps the most important is that I can design the life I want to lead. And my chosen lifestyle doesn’t need to contribute to the collective, systemic harm we’re subjecting our only home to.
A decade has brought the gift of change. I used to work for a fast-fashion brand and bought new clothes every week. I used hit up Costco to stock my freezer with bulk chicken breasts and cook with bacon grease. I used to drive to work every day and fly without even thinking about my carbon footprint. It took a decade for these habits to change, and I am still a far cry from a model environmentalist, but I am a work in progress. I am willing to outgrow old ways.
A decade has also brought the gift of perspective. Gone is the dread of under-achieving; my definition of success has changed. Gone is my attachment to many things; I have gravitated towards the people, places, and causes that truly matter to me and learned to let other things go.
I exit my twenties self-assured and less concerned about defining myself. Tonight, I enter my thirties facing an opportunity to re-shape my life and world with more thought and consideration. Just as I have escaped a 9–5 and expanded my definition of ‘home’, I am empowered to act as a steward of this planet—a noble role that we are all meant to fill.
My 30s won’t be (just) about me
As down and out as I may sound about the state of the planet on this particular birthday (I’m now 45 minutes into 30!) I’m actually genuinely excited about where to go from here.
Good things are happening while we sit and read and fret. There is so much we can do for the planet and for each other. It begins with embracing change. It requires a willingness to take part in a little process called evolution.
Humans are agile. We can adapt. As we age and mature, we become better equipped to make wiser choices. I’m not concerned about my age, pending wrinkles, or the things I haven’t accomplished. I am burning with passion to continue my journey of making informed changes and adopting mindful habits… to become more vocal, encouraging, and proactive.
As I cross this threshold and hurtle into a new decade, I feel as though I am on a better course. I invite you to come along.
The simplicity of course-correcting
Addressing environmental issues starts with something as simple as identifying a problem and changing our behaviours.
We have done this all our lives. As babies learning to walk, we bumped into things and found a way around them. Ever since, we have adapted to all the unexpected things that crop up in our lives, whether delayed flights or unexpected breakups. As individuals, we have proven our resilience over many incidents. As a species, we have proven our resilience over lifetimes. Yet in this crucial moment, there is such a strong resistance to changing our ways when it comes to what we eat, wear, or drink our coffee in.
We take from our environment when we should borrow; the latter implies using lightly with the intention of giving back. We must identify and accept that the way we live is problematic and course-correct.
We must course-correct as individuals and at the same time, we must course-correct as a collective species. Can humankind make this very necessary shift without dividing?
I believe we can, in time. As someone both reformed and actively reforming, the solution is not rocket science (I majored in poetry and manage to make it through IPCC reports). Whether or not you’re in a similar state of upheaval over the Amazon, here’s what you can do—and encourage others to do—put very simply.
Get the facts. We have the brainpower and technology to be both informed and mindful. Information is out there so find it, question it, and rationalize it. See how new information and ideas apply to your values, lifestyle, and relationships.
Do something. I won’t preach about activism or labels. I’m not here to talk you into becoming a vegetarian, vegan, or no-plane pioneer. The steps you take to reduce your footprint and act with the environment in mind (and at heart) are yours to choose and enact, should you wish.
Please choose wisely.
As for this new being 30 thing (yup, I am 30), here goes nothing…