Photo courtesy of subject. Graphic treatment by Denzel Boyd for COURIER
Photo courtesy of subject. Graphic treatment by Denzel Boyd for COURIER

“I will vote for you in the upcoming election,” I told Belle, secretly hoping that I would live long enough to witness her voting one day.

I am at an age when the world I once knew seems to be slipping away. When there is less to look forward to and more to look back upon. When a life lived on four continents comes back to me in vignettes—such as the monsoons of India, the glaciers of New Zealand, the coral reefs of Hawaii, and the campgrounds of California.

The one person who has kept me grounded through the travails of being a senior citizen is my granddaughter Belle, who, at age two, is a ball of curiosity. She hands me a leaf and says the word. She points to the “tree” and the “sky.” We connect through the natural world.

A world that is now in danger of extinction.

Recently, when I babysat for Belle, we were forced to stay inside and risk infecting each other with the coronavirus. The alternative was to go outside and inhale the smoke from nearby wildfires.

I could not explain to her the devastation we were witnessing as a result of climate change. I could not speak of the fact that our earth was now one degree Celsius hotter than preindustrial times. That to stop the temperature from rising by two degrees, humanity needed to emit zero carbon by mid-century. That ever since I had arrived on these shores in 1976 to attend graduate school in Berkeley, I had worked on curbing climate change and was disappointed that the politics of greed had prevented the world from making the progress I had envisioned.

“I will vote for you in the upcoming election,” I told Belle, secretly hoping that I would live long enough to witness her voting one day.

That night, we watched a documentary titled “A Life on Our Planet” by David Attenborough. As Belle giggled at the sight of the orangutans of Borneo, the wildebeest of Africa, and the snakes of the South American rainforest, tears streamed down my cheeks at the thought that the creatures may not survive her childhood.

As I fill in my mail-in ballot, I vote to safeguard our planet for my granddaughter. I hope that when it is her turn, she too will vote for a healthy earth. 

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