Cape Cod is a small finger of land reaching out into the sea; Ellis Landing is a freckle on that finger. My husband’s great-grandmother, an Irish immigrant, brought his grandmother, a native Bostonian, there as a child. His grandmother brought her children, who, in turn, brought theirs — including my husband. It was where we went on our first vacation together, where he and I finally got engaged and where we’ve brought our children almost every summer since they were born. They’ve raced over the sand and learned from their older cousins how to bodysurf.
Every year, the Landing gets smaller and smaller as the beach is consumed by the rising tide. The freckle is slowly drowning, but its disappearance suddenly feels much closer.
President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — which many argued might not even go far enough to stem the effects of climate change — makes me see the world as a series of Ellis Landings. I wonder what won’t exist anymore for my children. When will the Statue of Liberty be submerged? What will happen to our food supply? What kind of legacy are we leaving, and how do we persevere?
As a parent, it’s enough to make me want to buy a cabin somewhere way above sea level and start hoarding canned goods. Of course I’m afraid of what this means, both globally and personally. It makes my stomach wobble, like receiving a bill you don’t have the means to pay. I keep thinking of a scene in Karen Thompson Walker’s eco-collapse book The Age of Miracles, where a rich friend gives the narrator the rare indulgence of grapes, and she reveals, even as she luxuriates in the fruit, that it was the last time she ever ate it. I’m scared of a world that lacks far more than grapes. I’m scared of a world without clean air.
But I can’t afford to wallow in despair and doomsday thinking — none of us can. Nor can we indulge our fears of what the world may become by hiding our heads in the sand. Fear and hopelessness lead to paralysis and inaction. Succumbing to that is to give up, and I refuse to give up on my children’s future.
Our death warrant has not yet been signed. The process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will take years, and we can still reverse course before it’s too late. But the Trump administration’s actions should sure as hell serve as a warning and a reminder that apathy is not an option. The people on the front lines — the journalists, scientists, activists and professors who will never stop fighting for our planet — need our support. As Americans, we all have a voice and a vote. And we must use both.
Within hours of Trump’s announcement, scores of ordinary people, industry leaders and even whole cities and states had already begun to formulate plans of action. I want my kids to know that we are not sitting down and not giving up. It’s terrifying to think of the seas boiling and the skies falling, but we’re not there yet. There are letters to write and phone calls to make; there are changes that every single one of us can make in our daily lives, starting right now. It’s a small price to pay to ensure that we leave our children (and their children) a world where the air is safe to breathe and the water is drinkable.
Ellis Landing has been a part of my family’s history for a century. It’s not done yet.