Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

The Future

By Jakob Zapanta '24

Our future, it’s uncertain. We're on a path to self destruction, but almost no one seems to care. Right now, the future of humanity is in a plane with no pilot, dropping out of the sky. Every single passenger can fly the plane, but no one wants to risk unstrapping their seatbelt and walking into the cockpit. That would be dangerous. So when I think of a future, two scenarios come to mind.

In the first scenario, no one stands up, and the plane crashes. It’s a time and place where water is scarce, trees seldom stand, and food is a luxury. Where the once lush Earth is now bleak, barren, and brutally hot. Where our skin gets burned when we step outside, where we need to wear oxygen masks to survive, where everyone is the enemy. Where we go extinct. We’ll look back in anguish and wonder where it all went wrong.

We burned too much fossil fuels. Wouldn’t stop. Bred too much livestock. Wouldn’t stop. Cleared too many trees. Wouldn’t stop. Wasted too much stuff. Wouldn’t stop.

And we’ll think, “why didn’t we do something?” “Why didn’t we stop when we knew we should’ve?” We’ll think, and think, and think some more, our oxygen mask clamped against our red, searing, sweltering face. We’ll think with our stomach rumbling in the background, our tongues cracking, lips chapped. We’ll think and think and think and think, until we can’t think anymore. We’ll probably come up with lots of excuses. Excuses like, “it would have been impossible to stop” or “lots of people would suffer if we tried to do something.” This is what we’ll tell our kids, our grandkids. We’ll try to explain to them, try to make them see it from our point of view. But they will never forgive us. Because no excuses will ever excuse the fact that we knowingly did this to ourselves. That we did it, hoping with almost no hope that the data was faulty, that the predictions wouldn’t come true. That the scientists, the activists, that they were wrong, all wrong. But they weren’t.

But there’s another way. We can take off our seatbelts. We can stand up. We can fly the plane, and save ourselves.

When the coronavirus struck, we took action. Schools were closed. Countries locked down. We didn’t pretend it wasn’t real. We searched for solutions. The world united and took action. This kind of leadership, it’s what we need right now. It’s what we need if we want future generations to even have a future.

The coronavirus, it’s awful. Hundreds of thousands have died, and more will certainly follow. But if there’s one positive to this disease, one lesson to be learned, it’s that we can work together to accomplish a common goal, no matter the size. Once we accept this, we can solve our most daunting challenge ever: climate change.

We can do it. The solution, it’s right in front of us. It’s been there for years. We just need to take action. And once we do, it’ll be great. It’ll be historic. Our kids, our grandkids, they'll listen in awe as we tell them how the great world leaders of the 2020’s turned it all around. And then they’ll ask, “but how did you do it?” And we’ll look back and remember how we changed our fate. We'll tell them all the details.

We burned too much fossil fuels. But we stopped. Bred too much livestock. But we stopped. Cleared too many trees. But we stopped. Wasted too much stuff. But we stopped.

They’ll learn about how we stopped doing what was easy, and started doing what was right. They’ll learn about how we knew that the data wasn’t faulty, that the predictions would come true if nothing changed. They’ll learn about how we stopped hoping that the scientists, the activists, that they were wrong, all wrong. Because they were right.