I’m finally under the covers, as inert as an overcooked vegetable, in my hotel bed. My mind relaxes into the sleep I’ve pined for all day. Ahhh.
Then I hear it. I’m startled awake. Irate. “Ugh. I last slept 3000 air miles and 18 hours ago! I’m too tired to deal with this.” I decide to pretend that I never heard the alarming noise. No one will know. The hotel won’t charge for my neglect.
It doesn’t work. The sound jars me awake continuously. Not because it’s loud, but because of what it means.
I’m hearing the scorching of the world.
You see, I opened the window but didn’t turn the thermostat off. What rings like an alarm in my tired head is nothing more than the soft hum of the heating system. I can’t fall asleep to the image of a refinery spewing gunk into the air to generate the warmth I’m wasting. I’m disturbed by the image of me pumping 70-degree air into the 30-degree Dallas night. I’m literally warming the globe.
Those darn green freaks
I will my weary limbs out of the warm cocoon, scamper across the cold room to the thermostat and move the dial towards a better world. It’s not a heroic act, but it’s more than I would have done 20 years ago. The younger Bea would have thought “I’m not paying for my wastefulness” and allowed the heat’s hum to lull her to sleep.
What changed? Why can I no longer be the environmentally insensitive girl I once was?
It wasn’t my choice. I had no interest in the vulnerabilities of nature. I considered the college Earth Day organizers in faded t-shirts freaky bores. I looked askance at the tables they set up in the cafeteria with signs like ‘’Compost your waste” and told my friends “Eeewww. That’s so gross.” Clearly, I was not naturally inclined toward environmental sustainability.
In the way a steady rain softens a hardened field, those eco-freaks changed me. Each of their articles in doctor-office magazines, posters on trailheads, explanations over dinner and hundreds of other messages softened my stubbornness a smidgen.
The cumulative effect? I’m now so not bored by environmentalism that it keeps me up at night.
Despite appearances, you are making a difference
Albert Einstein had an explanation for the dynamic between early environmentalists and me. “Great spirits always encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Those eco-freaks were the great spirits, aware of a little-known truth and courageous enough to stand for it. I was the mediocre mind, incapable of distinguishing a worthy nudge toward progress from inanity.
Whatever societal injustice you care about, whether it’s the treatment of animals or the global migration crisis, don’t give up on gently educating the rest of us. At first, and for what might seem interminably long, we’ll smirk, argue and test your patience.
However, meaningful causes compel. Eventually. Beneath our obsession with Instagram selfies, bank accounts and other pettiness, we have a consciousness that is designed to latch on to your idea. In fact, without pursuing causes beyond ourselves, we feel hollow.
Keep on educating, nudging, hoping. One day we’ll understand what you’ve been saying all along. We’ll realize that climate change has our planet ablaze and we’ll become tree huggers. We’ll learn of escalating neighborhood crime and we’ll volunteer to help. Whatever your issue, we’ll hear your alarm, wake up and move the dial towards a better world.