The clouds finally cleared above the lake, after intermittent thunderstorms had drenched our tents. I was huddled underneath the tarp with some of my fellow students. We were finishing our essays, and the time was just before midnight. I needed a break, so I walked 100ft to the edge of the black waters lapping against the shore. Clouds surrounded the high mountain peaks that dipped their toes into the shallow waters of the small snow-melt fed lake.
I turned my nose to the stars. They were bright and twinkling. A bright flash across the sky, a shooting star, burned in my vision. I yelled at the guys, finishing up their essays, to come check it out. Every 10-20seconds, fainter and brighter streaks blasted across the sky, and we remembered that while in the front country the store clerk informed us of the meteor shower occurring this week. All around the mountains that stood like sentinels around this lake gem, dark clouds lit up with flashes of lightning. Thunder rolled, and the contours of the large, ominous and black clouds would be briefly visible. We had a sweet view of the meteor shower, with the lightning background dancers, and the thunderous applause.
The prompt for the essay we were writing was, “What would a sustainable future look like?” Sunburst Lake fed me inspiration to write my essay, I pulled quotes and ideas from the readings we were given. Our instructors had given us a two-inch spiral bound “reader” at the beginning of the two week course. I lugged this thick binder of resources across streams, over logs, up and down mountains, through flowering meadows and finally to this beautiful lake.
Here are some excerpts from the essay written underneath a meteor shower, beside an alpine lake:
“Individuals’ choices and actions will define a foundation for a sustainable future. As individuals begin to realize the flaws that surround, and are braided through our consumer based culture, conscious actions will be made to cut our first-world carbon footprints. I believe that human innovation and creativity will lead the way towards localizing our economies. Through localizing our economies, individuals, young families, entrepreneurs and small business owners will be able to develop a relationship with the place they live. Through their pride of being part of a community that works together and towards a goal for the greater good, they will be called to action to support a global agreement about what the world should do about climate change. This will be a call for consistency in the people of the United States’ morals, and to extend the benefits of cutting carbon emissions to other peoples.
In the United States consumer based culture, where economic growth is prioritized, we as individuals are not happy. As concluded by Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy, economic growth leads to inequality and insecurity. The growth that has been fed by the American public since WWII has never stopped and hasn’t led to any necessarily significant increase in happiness. Although happiness may be considered irrelevant in the climate crisis, I think it is very relevant.
Happiness is relevant to a sustainable future. If individuals are going to make a significant effort to change their day to day lives to live a more sustainable life, happiness and satisfaction must be apparent. According to McKibben, 20% of Americans are flourishing and content, 25% are languishing and the rest are somewhere in between. Thus, I can conclude that the United States pursuit of growthmanship after WWII did succeed in making us wealthier, but we aren’t at all anymore happier. McKibben does say, “Up to a certain point, more really does equal better,” but the amount of riches we have accumulated have well surpassed the amount to maximize our happiness….
(Skipping some paragraphs about some stuff…)
…Society’s one hope for future and long lasting happiness is climate change. Climate change offers a challenge for people to look at their lifestyles, and to really gage how successful their pursuit at happiness is. It is well known the climate change is a man caused phenomenon. Consequently, our carbon-soaked-behaviors are what have led to altering the Earth so drastically that ecosystems are shifting, species are going extinct, sea-levels are rising and ice caps are melting. We are doing something totally wrong here, and our current method of pursuing happiness is drenched in carbon emissions and really not making us, as a society and as individuals, happy. So, as climate change threatens our hope at future and long lasting happiness, and climate change is man caused, we are forced to reevaluate our behavior and to make significant changes…
(Skipping to a section in the conclusion…)
….A sustainable future cannot come from anywhere but the heart. The American vision is the pursuit of happiness, and the continued happiness for future generations. If individuals begin to make conscious efforts to lower their carbon footprints, creativity will be sparked, because we will have to develop new ways of doing things. And as a result of people getting their creative juices flowing, they will begin to actualize their own potential, which will allow happiness to flourish.”