A Plea to Mother Earth

Dear Mother Earth,

My nation gave you a different name and made you ours—Ibu Pertiwi, they call you. But I your motherhood is too vast to be contained in our archipelago’s language alone. It reaches the breathtaking savannas in Africa, to the falling flower petals on busy Asian streets, to the deepest canyons in America, and hiding in the romantic boreal forests of northern Europe. So let me call you Mother Earth, for your love overflows to the entire planet.

Dear Mother Earth,

While your fondness to mankind is universal, neither of us could deny that you play favorites still, and my guess is that we’re right on the top of your list. At the beginning of time, you chose us to be given the lushest of trees, the most fertile lands, and the bluest, vastest seas. Tropical rainforests in the lowlands and the tallest mountains of Sumatra, of Borneo, of Papua giving us everything we need—leaves that cure, fruits that feed, and honey that sweetens, all the while keeping us clean water to drink. From the curve of your ocean waves, our bravest sailors caught fish, made salt, and understood beauty.

Dear Mother Earth,

Since the first sapiens settled down to grow their own food on the ground, we have failed you over, and over again. We had become greedy. We thought we tamed nature, we had the power to make nature sprout, bloom, and spring all kinds of plants. We opened up the very forests that had fed us, to make ways for more than we needed. We called those lands ours, made an entire system to govern them. We waged wars and killed one another in order to keep those lands, and sometimes to acquire more. We put animals into labor for us, we made clothes, carriages, tools that allowed us to do more. We had children, and grandchildren, we multiplied at the rate faster than we ever did—in all corners of the world.

Then sometime in the last few decades of 18th century, another miracle happened. They called it the ‘industrial revolution’. We could then make large factories that can produce goods at the rate never imagined before. We were able to make more food, more clothing, and more everything else for more people. The ‘economic pie’ as they called it, increased by tenfold per capita, while our population increased from a little over a billion people to almost 8 billion. About 3 of every 100 people on the planet today lives in my country—can you believe it?

Dear Mother Earth,

I thought it was pretty bad when we started opening up forests, removing a biodiversity of animal species out of their home. But what I earlier called a ‘miracle’ came as a deal with bad news—it turns out our factories, power plants, and cars emits large toxic gases to your atmosphere. When we burn our coal, oil, and other fossil fuel—they emit carbon dioxide and a bunch of other gases that trap heat on your surface, almost like a greenhouse effect; I guess that’s why they call it greenhouse gases. In less than two centuries, we have released gigatons of those emissions and putting your average temperature up by more than 1°C as a result.

Already, your ice sheets are melting, rising sea levels and drowning low-lying coastal areas—including hundreds of small islands in my country. At the same time, drought and heatwaves hit, bringing wildfires to California and Australia, burning peatlands in Sumatra and Kalimantan, killing many in Europe, and failing rice harvests for thousands of Javanese farmers. This year, almost 170,000 of people in Jakarta had to celebrate new year’s being drenched in flood, and over 200 even died. Hundreds of scientists from around the globe had told us that if we continue doing this and letting you warm by more than 2°C, then a mass extinction begins.

Some people don’t get it. They said an increase of 2°C temperature is something anyone could easily survive. What’s the big fuss? What they failed to understand, is even for a human body, getting from 37°C to 38°C could be fatal. Worse, some people don’t even think you’re sick at all, or that if you’re sick, us humans were not to blame, because this is something you just go through every century. We should just keep doing what we do, for the sake of the ‘economy’.

Dear Mother Earth,

The scientists said that we only had 10 years to save you. They could not be more wrong!

You are fine on your own. It is us who needed saving.

You have withstood billions of years of extreme events—you went through the ice age, thousands of deadly volcanic eruptions, perhaps even meteor strikes. You persevered and continued doing revolutions after revolutions around the sun like nothing happened.

But us, we’ve only lived here for 0.005% of your time. Yet in that limited timespan, we have shaved your extensive forests, extracted minerals from your stomachs, polluted your rivers, your air—the same air that we needed to live. Just how insatiable can my species be!

This whole time, over 200,000 years, you have let us be. In silence, you watched us destroy our own home, putting ourselves at risk, onward to the fringe of our own extinction.

Dear Mother Earth,

I learned that when a virus visits a human body, a fever shows that the body is defending itself from the virus. So I kind of understand, if global warming is the way you’re finally telling us off. You have let us mess up so much, and you’re finally saying that enough is enough. I know. After all, my country is one of the 10 countries that emit greenhouse gases the most, mainly because we used to chop down trees for palm oil and burn peatlands to open lands for agriculture.

You need to understand though, that not all of us are the bad guys. Some of us here are fighting the good fight, especially the youth who realized that it’s our future that’s at stake. We also know, that these destructions only benefit a few—this ‘economic growth’ they keep talking about mainly go out to a few at the top. Meanwhile, the miners live off minimum wage, and people living around coal power plants or burned peatlands have to pay hospital bills from respiratory illness. We have to do better.

I’m just afraid that we don’t have enough time to do it. What do you think?

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