A writing friend of mine asked on Facebook the other day, “What was the first book that made a deep, emotional impact on you?”
At first, I threw out books like: To Kill a Mockingbird and Charlotte’s Web. The majority of my ideas weren’t science fiction or fantasy since I didn’t get into that until middle school, and even then, most of what I read didn’t impact me until I got older and could understand their impact more.
But if I had to think of a book that impacted me as a child, and yet was SF/F, I would say Dr. Seuss‘s The Lorax (and yes, in my book this counts as fantasy as it has fantastical elements). It was published in 1971 during a time when going green meant almost nothing. Some people cared about the environment, but not enough. Not yet.
When I first read The Lorax at age 4, it scared me. I had nightmares about all the trees on our planet dying, and the Earth being swallowed up by pollution monsters until everyone died. With the book’s reminder, Unless, I vowed to do more to help the planet. Of course, this was a time when recycling didn’t exist and low-emissions cars didn’t either. There was very little one could do to be “green,” but I tried.
I covered paper in drawings and writing until there was no where left to write/draw, and only then did I throw it away. (Using less water hadn’t occurred to me yet.) But even then, I never felt it was enough. I felt such guilt at being unable to change the world around me. In some ways, I thought a five year old should able able to influence the world.
Growing up, my family cared nothing about the environment (and the majority of them still don’t). Most people didn’t in those times, but it didn’t stop me from wishing things would change sooner. But as I aged, I remembered The Lorax, and I vowed that when I was old enough to do better, I would.
I would like to think that, as an adult, I have done better for this world by reducing my footprint. And yet I still feel it’s not enough. Unless we suddenly have a way to terraform Mars, this is it. Earth is all we have left. But even then, unless we change our attitudes, we would only destroy Mars the way we have Earth. (Yes, I realize that some level of climate change is normal, and that some of the pollution on the planet is the natural cycle of things, but to say that we, as humans, haven’t irreparably harmed this planet is to be conceited beyond words.)
My foray into SF/F began way before I thought it did–with one story about the trees.
And a promise to do better.
P.S. You can find out your carbon footprint here: Nature.org’s Footprint Calculator.
(Image of drought by By Tomas Castelazo, CC BY 3.0)
Want to read other Flashback Fridays? Click here to see the list in this series.