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  • amylynnhardy22

Tipping Points




A day after I had visited a rainforest for the first time

I read that the Amazon has reached its tipping point

it was on Twitter, and I grappled with the fuzzy words before me

until I pulled on my glasses.

But it was true:


the lungs of planet earth

can no longer be saved

 

I put down my phone

And grieved this.

I grieved the greed of late-stage capitalism

And the bulldozing of a lush ecosystem for cattle farming

I grieved all the species that have succumbed

I grieved my own carbon footprint

and the distance between my reality and that of the Amazon

and how a trillion-dollar company is named after a rainforest

 

I had just explored El Yunque rainforest in Puetro Rico,

a place

which produces 210 billion gallons of water a year

which swells with the fecund heat of life

which is bursting with biodiversity

 

which itself has traces of late-stage capitalism

 

like

groups of 100 tourists

trekking over its risen roots and clay floor

on an “authentic” adventure

(that millions do each year)

that I had just participated in

screaming and jumping off rocky cliffs

and rope swings

sunscreen and bug spray in waterfalls

with a tour guide who may or may not

support the sentiment of “go home gringo”

which I saw spray-painted on walls

 

But it’s also the late-stage capitalism I’ve seen in other places:

the glittering eye sore of a Carnival Cruise Ship

grotesque in its lavish abundance

pulling off the coast of Old San Juan at dusk

as I sat on the beach and squinted to see stars

 

or Burger King and Walmart sprinkled over the country

like fleas

 

or when the tour guides at Laguna Grande, repentant,

informed us that the water level of the bay was dangerously low

In fact—it had never been this low

in its entire history, and that many corals would perish as a result.

But we still ran our hands in the water and splashed under a tarp

to see the bioluminescent algae,

because, well, that’s what we paid for.

 

I hate that I’m a part of it

I hate it and yet I continue to participate

I hate this paradox.

 

My first night in San Juan I pointed and scolded

a statue of Columbus in Plaza Colón,

demanding: “Why is he here?!”

when he is the OG symbol of colonialism

Columbus arrived on Porto Rico

and the native Taínos stood naked and shameless before him,

which maybe was the first step in this

process of globalization that makes us sacrifice rainforests

for McDonald’s cheeseburgers.

 

But I was also in the plaza, so…

Go home, gringo?

 

We are all guilty in our own way.

 

And yes,

this world was tipping long before our incarnation

 

In 2023,

we flail around seeking solid ground the way Columbus did in 1492

because we’re busy worrying about our credit scores and 401Ks and mortgages

or if we’re going to get cancer or heart disease or a promotion

or be able to afford the next iPhone or trade in our car for something better

because that’s what capitalism wants us to worry about

hoping for a week of vacation once a year

so we can sip fruity cocktails and forget

the damage we have caused

 

But why worry at all?

what does any of it matter as earth degenerates before us—

when the goddamn Amazon has already reached its tipping point?

Why do we write poems and book flights and eat all the fast food

when our planet’s fate is sealed?

 

What’s your tipping point?

 

You see,

I’m asking because I don’t really know what mine is.

Does this gringo just stay home?

Will I stop traveling for the sake of nature?

Will I forgo seeing the world in order to save it?

 

I can kneel down and pray:

“Father, forgive us, for we know… not what… we… do???”

 

False.

We do know.

We’ve known for a while, right?

And we can say:

“we know exactly what we are doing,

and yet we fail to change.”

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