Boy worries about end of the world
Dear Straight Talk: I'm afraid for the end of the world. How do others cope with the mistreatment of our planet? We have rising oceans, nuclear plant meltdowns, species extinction, food-chain disruptions, economic collapse, nuclear weapons and terrorism — not to mention the Mayan and biblical prophecies about the end of the world.
Other kids worry about this stuff, too, but they just drink, go on Facebook or to the mall. How can I be happy knowing how close we are to the brink? How should I live my life? Please help. — Justin, 17, Los Angeles
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: Learning to cope is part of the process. Life is a gift. Not knowing what breath will be my last, I use the ones I am blessed with to create a better tomorrow. Keep your head up, listen to positive music, make good friends, work for a cause you believe in.
Geoff, 26, Redding: Every generation has felt "on the brink." Focus on problem solving. Environmental work, medicine, finance all need new contributions. Out of the high school bubble, you'll find many who care deeply about the world. Keep informing and educating yourself.
Leah, 19, Yuba City: While you can't stop the oceans from rising, you can live an environmentally friendly life. While you can't stop terrorism or violence, you can stand up for those who are bullied or mistreated. Don't underestimate the power of kindness. A friend of mine, depressed over family problems, dropped all her papers while rushing to class. A stranger stopped and helped her pick them up. This simple act changed her worldview.
Peter, 25, Monterey: Don't blind yourself to the beautiful things. Sunsets, music, chocolate, love, family — we forget them sometimes but only because they're so common — in fact, their commonness is truly extraordinary. Be part of the love that's always floating around us.
Nicole, 22, Grass Valley: America has a strange relationship to death. Other countries consider it uplifting — a rebirth. The power of mind is vast, and a negative mindset won't help anything.
Ryann, 15, Tustin: I've thought about all this, too, and we can't let fear hold us back. Control what you can and let the rest go. If you live in worry, you will not have really lived.
Colin, 18, Sacramento: Changing the world is not your responsibility — but changing yourself is. Think of everything you do as a vote (because it is). Then vote for the world you want through your daily words and actions.
Karina, 25, Sacramento: The world's pain and suffering can overwhelm a sensitive person. I found peace through travel. For example, in Costa Rica, three small boys invited me play soccer. They were playing barefoot with just the bladder of the ball because that's all they had. Yet they were happier than the screaming kids in Toys 'R' Us. American values of gross domestic production and excess food depict these boys' situation as grim, when, in reality, their culture focuses on family, love, land and honor.
Small actions matter. I quit using ATMs and self-checkouts to support jobs. I stopped buying genetically modified food at superstores and shop locally or at farmers markets. I find solace studying Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, who believed so strongly in their convictions that entire nations were changed.
Dear Justin: "Planetary" depression is a real thing, and I appreciate your letter. Similar feelings led me to form Straight Talk TNT. It's true what the panelists say: Walking an evolutionary path in work and lifestyle, while keeping an open heart, will bring you the peace you seek.
Our world is asking us to step up, and there is relief in answering the call. If nothing here resonated with you, please talk to your school counselor. The world needs you.
Working with this panel is an honor. These letters to Justin are hopeful, wise and inspiring. When I was around Justin's age, two superpowers (the U.S. and USSR) were on hair-trigger alert with an arsenal of nuclear missiles pointed at the other, and the leaders didn't even have the technology to make a phone call to each other.
Rivers in America were so polluted, they were catching on fire, and Lake Erie, one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world, was considered "dead." It was this "brink" that inspired the modern peace movement and the first Earth Day in 1970.
There are many historic examples of everyday humans directing evolutionary change. Blessings to the new "brink" and the new generation. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of 85 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.