My earphones, with off-white wires tangled from overuse, serve one purpose: to blast music loud enough for angsty-punk-singer screams to drown out the distressing sobs of a mother failing to nurse her sick husband.
Upon hearing of Papa’s diagnosis, I—scared, stressed, somewhat hysterical—typed “skin cancer” into the Ecosia search bar.
7.31 billion results.
In subsequent days, I spiraled down an internet rabbit hole—skimming through medical journals and research abstracts, watching college biology lectures on abnormal mitotic cell duplication, downing cold, black coffee to chase away my drowsiness.
I needed facts and figures. If I could understand cancer down to the molecular level, I could help Papa get through it. Numbers are precise, predictable, painless. Feelings (shudder) are not.
Squinting, I struggled to decipher the text through my weary, tear-swollen eyelids as they drooped to a close, pleading for sleep.
Pause. How does climate change—fluorinated gasses, rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns—correlate to uncontrollable cell growth? And what does this mean for Papa?
1983 yielded 500,000 new cases of skin carcinoma. 2012 yielded 5.3 million. My now wide-awake eyes foraged through Ecosia’s digital jungle of statistics for what induced this vast proliferation. Due to ozone layer depletion caused by human-generated, halogen-source gas emissions (i.e., fossil fuels), we’re losing our natural protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. As more sunlight penetrates Earth’s atmosphere, more people develop deadly somatic mutations and metastasizing malignant tumors—and this is just the tip of the melting iceberg.
There are countless cancer-inducing factors—genetics, old age, melanin content-per-cell—but emotionally encumbered by my grandmother (who died from cancer) and my father (who’s presently fighting for his life in the ER), I can’t help but wonder if global warming exacerbated their conditions. Two-in-five people battle cancer at some point in their lifetime. My story isn’t special. We continue killing our planet when we’re actually, albeit unknowingly, killing ourselves.
Thus, I aspire to revert the spike in new annual cases and minimize death by climate-proliferated disease. My ambitions lie in environmental engineering, in researching and developing cost-effective renewable energy technologies that replace fossil fuels, thereby reducing halogen emissions to attenuate ozone layer depletion.
Indubitably, I love Ecosia—the search engine that planted 140 million trees using search ad revenue—for aiding me in my spontaneous quests to rigorously research everything from carcinogens to climate change.
Ecosia inspired me to volunteer at my local park through my city’s Adopt-A-Park program. By establishing 2500 square feet of native California landscape, my fellow volunteers and I collaboratively transformed a mound of dirt into a flourishing community garden, where hummingbirds and bumblebees flitter between the Sunset Manzanitas and California Poppies. No matter the weather, we congregate twice a week to nurture our sprouting plants, shoveling mulch in frigid torrential rain, pulling weeds in sweltering 95-degree sunshine. To further maintain the health of our native plants, we engineered a reliable irrigation system by building pipeline manifolds that lead drip system tubing around each garden. While the 14 trees we planted pale in comparison to Ecosia’s 140,000,000, our work was a step in the right direction.
Solving climate change feels like a Sisyphean task—futile. However, Ecosia instills in me a sense of hope for a future in which coders and engineers harness technology ethically and sustainably to build greener energy infrastructure, creating concord between the technological and natural worlds.
But now, I climb out of my internet rabbit hole, ending my Ecosia escapade. I can’t drown myself in a plastic-polluted sea of research forever; I can’t escape feelings (shudder) forever. Disconnecting my earphones, I face the music.
Open the door—
Bald with deep wrinkles creasing his formerly youthful face, he looks like a stranger. I can’t save Papa.
But I can preserve the environment to protect the public health of future generations—in his honor. It’s not everything, but it’s something.
“Hey, Papa. How’re you feeling?”