Guilt.

Photo by ,Bas Masseus from ,Pexels

A plastic bag floating gently in the breeze

Leaf-green words printed in comic sans

“Reduce one-use plastics!”

The TV blaring in the distance

Anchorwoman shouting

“Temperatures reach new records across the country!”

An influencer slurping a $30 green smoothie

Stylized Instagram photo, with SEO-friendly captions

“Go #vegan! Stop eating meat! #Ad ”

The girl takes this all in. Noise, noise, more noise. Messages pin her to the wall. Heart bleeding from the injustice, the unfairness of it all. An archetypal Big Bad looming over the horizon, but the girl could only look on as a bystander through a glass wall.

Will there be a protagonist in this story? She wonders.

A hero to save the day? She hopes so.

…Could she be it?

The sharp ping of a notification breaks her out of her reverie. Unlocks her phone, checks an app. Oh look, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Another ping–an advertisement for a zero-waste store across the country. A third one on Twitter, from a politician touting the benefits of fracking.

Stop consuming!

Stop your wasteful lifestyle!

The girl feels guilty–

Does she not live in a society? A car, to get to her job. Air conditioning, to stave off the summer heat. Cheap meat and processed foods, to gain sustenance while keeping costs low.

But don’t use a car; it emits so much smog!

But don’t use air conditioning; it uses so much electricity!

But don’t eat meat; livestock emits so much methane!

The girl feels guilty–

Does she not deserve indulgences? A morning coffee from Starbucks…contained within a plastic cup. A summer vacation…by airplane. A new shirt…from fast fashion.

She knows it’s the system that proliferates climate change. She knows young activists are creating momentous progress for action. She knows she’s doing the best she can. She knows she is not at fault here.

And yet–

All she feels is guilt.

ACTIVATING A GENERATION