Dear humans of the year 2100,
By the time you read this I will be long dead, probably forty or fifty years already. The things about which I write are obvious to you. To you it is obvious that we, your progenitors, failed. We failed to make the changes necessary to allow our species to live sustainably on this planet. We failed to use the technology at our disposal to live cleanly on Earth. We failed to use farming and waste disposal methods that did not poison the land and water and air. In our quest for lives of comfort we used our planet, and psychologically our children, as a sewer. Our children—your parents and grandparents—became the repository for all our unmet needs, denied hopes, buried traumas, rage, and perversity. We left you to face the ultimate consequences of our denial, cowardice, and passivity. We left you to face the catastrophes of climate change and overpopulation of which we had more than a mere inkling yet spoke about in largely theoretical and thus easily ignorable terms. We were of the last generations to live in a semblance of relative peace and we knew it. I can only say, in my defense, that I never had children—so at least none of you are my direct descendants. This is not coincidental. Your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, by the very nature of their decision to breed, cemented their denial in place with a rose-colored fantasy that removed their ability to think critically. That is why I and not they write you this letter.
My future humans, I don’t know when the real catastrophes on this planet became obvious to everyone, but I suspect it was around the middle of the 21st century. That, I presume, is when we ran out of cheap, dirty sources of energy and cheap, unsustainable sources of food. That was when there was hardly any more meat for anyone to eat and hardly any more easily obtainable clean water. That was when the major famines hit places on the planet that had never before experienced famine. That was when people started figuring out that technology wasn’t going to save us. That was when people started to wake up. But by then it was too late. We were already well beyond the tipping point. The deep poisoning had already occurred. That was when the major wars broke out. That was when all the large, wild animal species of the planet were gone, along with all the marine mammals and most of the fish in the sea. That was when all our major forests were gone. And although all the precursors to this had already been going on for well over a century or two, that is when it became obvious that the Sixth Great World Extinction was no longer just an apocalyptic scientific fantasy. And that was when it became obvious that no beings from outer space would rescue us, that we had no real ability to escape our planet in search of hospitable others, and that we lacked anything resembling the technology to properly detoxify out earthly home. We were stuck here, and we were stuck.
But what could we, we of the early 21st century, have done? To you this answer is surely obvious. Please allow me to run my hypotheses by you, so you with the clarity of hindsight can check my work. Primarily, we should have figured out how to put a moratorium on procreating and used that time to create a viable long-term plan for nonintrusive reduction of our own species’ population to sustainable levels. We should have treated ourselves as the ecological vermin that we actually are—vermin who all have a right, once created, to live, but not a right to breed unchecked. But this is just a start. We should also have stopped using all nuclear energy immediately. We obviously lacked the responsibility to handle anything of that caliber of toxicity. We should have stopped using fossil fuels and learned to create healthy, sustainable electricity in other ways. Yes, we were selfish, short-sighted, and stupid. Intelligent sacrifice was not our strength. Clearly we were not ready to handle our neurological template of high intelligence.
But there’s more, no? We should have stopped harvesting other animals’ meat, be it domesticated or wild, for our food, if only because it’s ludicrously unproductive and rotten for the environment. We should have harvested our food wisely and sustainably. We should have discontinued all violence and war immediately—as well as all production of weapons, including weapons for hunting and self-defense. Anything less than a complete moratorium on weaponry would not have been good enough for us. We also should have cleaned the oceans to the best of our abilities—immediately. All that plastic waste, drifting about in giant oceanic islands? We knew it was breaking down. We knew it was getting filtered up through the lowest levels of the ecosystem and would eventually kill the oceanic biosphere. Were our plastic bags and plastic bottles really that important to us?
We also should have redone our economic system. It was all set up by rich people to keep themselves rich, that is, comfortable—at the expense of other people and the planet. Our attitude of never-ending economic expanse was a set-up for the ugliest of crashes. Yet we all basically went along with it. We were traumatized children—the rich among us hoarding the metaphorical love they never got, and the poor among us desperately striving for its scraps. That unresolved trauma, the neglect we inherited from our traumatized parents, was our undoing.
We also should have all broken from the cults in which we were entrenched. We needed to break from our farcical religions—all of them—and break from our families too. Our parents screwed us up. It was primarily they, with the extreme power only parents have, who inculcated us through parental selfishness to pursue happiness before sustainability, authenticity, and respect for all beings. They had us to please themselves and their fantasies. The development of our self-actualization and altruism was not their primary agenda. They were the primary cult upon which all others were based, but we were too caught up in the traumas they foisted on us to see it. We instead believed the lies of “family first,” “honor thy mother and father,” “be fruitful and multiply,” “forgiveness,” and “they did the best they could.” Their attitudes were cancerous, and ours became their metastases.
But there were other cults we should have stopped, though we didn’t even recognize them as cults. We should have broken the cults of ethnicity, national origin, and gender and realized that we, with our high intelligence and capacity for love, had the potential to be a united Guide species on our beloved planet. But instead we picked teams, picked sides, and needed others on other sides onto whom we could project the shadows of our psyche. We believed in governments, we believed in male versus female, we believed in racial superiority and inferiority, we prayed to gods to save us, and we thought our families were special. It was all a lie. And it caught up with us.
But how could we have made these changes? That I do not know. The blindness of our trauma blocked our vision and our motivation. Our addiction to denial was too strong. You know this now, because you have had to do your best both to grieve your missed opportunities and to clean up the horrible remnants of the mess we left you. We too needed to grieve, but instead we just had more children.
And so we failed. We failed to prepare this planet for your existence. We left you the job of attempting to right our wrongs. Some will not be righted for tens of thousands or even millions of years. Some will never be righted at all. Most of the species we destroyed will never return. Many were never even formally discovered. Oh, my future humans, I am sorry. I gave it my all—yet still wish to give more. That is why I write this letter. My heart grieves for us and for you. I am sorry you have to go through such hell and torment on our account. I am doing what I can now, but I fear that it is not enough. Too many of my fellows are just in too deep. They will wake up at nothing short of personal catastrophe. Oh, I hate what they do—even though they are but wounded children more in need of love than anything. Oh, future humanity, I wish I had a better answer.
Your non-biological ancestor,