You kill your trees and live in their dead bones. That’s what she’d said to me as I left the forest last time. I’d looked back at her with wet eyes and could not deny it. I could’t tell her that she was mistaken, that I’d not been part of it, because I hadn’t questioned what we did. I hadn’t thought to stand up and resist, or to speak against it. In the end, I’d gone back to my dead-bone house. Sat in my soft skin chair that once belonged to a living creature. Then I reached over and I drank from a bottle. I drank the blood of the earth, and I tossed the cheap, cheap plastic into the garbage. Finally, I switched on the TV, powered by generators that burned the earth and pumped black soot into the sky.
She was right, and we were wrong, but we couldn’t change. No, that wasn’t it. We wouldn’t change because we were afraid of what might happen. We were afraid that we’d lose our wealth, or our conveniences, or that we’d somehow have to work harder for what we had. And this fear overrode the knowledge that we were actively destroying our world.
That night I went to sleep on my soft warm bed and dreamed that the world had turned to dust. Nothing green grew and nothing alive crept across the ground. I walked to the ocean shore and saw a field of plastic bags and detritus that stretched to the horizon and wrapped around the earth. I sat down in the trash and I cried, and I screamed out against the people of the world—at myself. I wanted someone to answer my question.
“Why?” I beat the ground, and yelled at the sky, but there was no one to hear me. “Why did this happen?!” And the answer came back as loud as anything I’d ever heard.