on saving something bigger than we’ll ever be

I was never good at Biology.

I hated it.

I know “hate” is a strong word. I know. I’m a writer. I know how much words weigh. I carry them for a living.

So I know what I’m saying.

I hated Biology.

I almost failed my Biology Honors class during my sophomore year of high school because of my refusal to take in anything the course consisted of. I wired my mind and my body to shut off as soon as I entered the classroom. The glycolysis process had me feeling physically sick after every lecture on it. I found myself wanting to scream every time I heard the word “photosynthesis.” Enzymes and amino acids? Count me out. Punnett squares and the nitrogen cycle? Nope, couldn’t care less.

I can’t count the number of lectures I’ve slept through, the number of quizzes I’ve failed, and the number of assignments I’ve refused to complete.

My teacher even asked me to step outside to have a word after receiving my half-blank midterm exam. Christen, do you even care?

The truth is: no, I didn’t. Not one bit.

Yeah, I closed my mind to all things Biology.

So you can only assume how much I dreaded knowing that I had to take Environmental Biology this semester as a General Education requirement.

You’re kidding me, I thought, as I stared at my schedule. I felt nauseous. I was this close to throwing up. I thought high school would be the end of it.

As expected, I spent the whole first day of class staring at the cute boy (“Bio Boy,” as I began calling him) sitting a row ahead of me and getting my friends’ attention whenever he would speak up during the lecture. “I’m going to make him mine by the end of the semester,” I whispered to them, completely ignoring the lesson on El Niño. “He is what’s keeping me from dropping this class.”

But little did I know what change I would undergo over the course of the next few weeks.

Well, to first close off the Bio Boy segment, we are now good friends. He ended up pissing me off so much with his snarky replies that I decided to stop pursuing him romantically. I still like him lots. Just not in that way anymore.

We aced our exam together yesterday.

Yeah, you read that correctly. I know, right? Me, passing a Biology exam? Even crazier, acing it?

I did.

I’m also falling in love with the subject day by day.

So let’s backtrack a little, because you’re probably a little confused. Or a lot.

I love snorkeling. I got into the hobby this summer, when my best friend Eurich came home.

Eurich loves the ocean, and I mean loves. He’s practically a fish.

And since he loves the ocean, he loves educating himself on all of it. The coral reefs, the fish, the tides, everything. There’s barely anything he doesn’t know when it comes to the waters.

So he took me snorkeling several times over the summer, and while we were out in the open sea, he would talk. He talked about the importance of coral reefs, he talked about the different kinds of fish the reefs were home to, he talked about the moon’s relations with the tides, and so on and so on. And over the months I gradually grew to love the ocean and all of it.

After Eurich left, I craved to return to the ocean. I felt like I didn’t get enough of it. After the first four weeks of school had passed, and things were starting to become routine, I realized that I had only one free day: Tuesday. What better way to spend your free day than to hit the waters?

And so I’ve been doing that every Tuesday since.

And each venture out made me fall more and more in love with the waters.

Three Tuesdays ago, I was lucky enough to swim with a sea turtle. It was my first time swimming so close to one that I was able to touch its shell, and it was the most humbling experience of my life. Being able to swim alongside this majestic creature with the many different coral beneath me was such a blessing. As the sea turtle swam away from me, and the hundreds of other fish went about their day below me, I stared in awe of it all.

The beautiful deep blue.

The hundreds of beautiful creatures swimming around me.

The many beautiful coral beneath me.

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

In that moment, I understood why marine biologists and conservationists cared about the ocean and its inhabitants so much. That day was the day I began to really care.

And oh, how I wished I had started caring sooner.

Because the Thursday after I swam with that sea turtle, my Biology professor showed us a video on the destruction of reefs. The video was fictional, a “this is what would happen if” kind of video. Narrated by a young girl from the year 2065, the video discussed how all of Earth’s reefs slowly died and became “myths” and “legends” to the people of the time period.

As the video depicted real images of the gradual decaying of coral reefs, I couldn’t help but think of the sight I saw when I swam with that sea turtle.

I couldn’t imagine all of that beauty ceasing to exist in just a few years. And because of us.

That’s what really hit me. I was moved to tears that day in Biology because the video stated outright that the cause of death of these beautiful coral reefs was none other than us humans. It said, “This is what would happen if we don’t stop doing what we’re doing.”

It was as if I woke up that day.

I left Biology with Bio Boy. I left with a lot on my mind too.

“You okay?” he asked, stopping me on the stairs. “You’re unusually quiet. You’re weirding me out.”

“Not really,” I replied. “That video scared me.”

“Yeah, it scared me too. All that talk on carbon dioxide and global warming. We really gotta fix this. Kinda boggles me how we’re gonna fix this though, when we’re the problem.”

I went home that day and researched for two hours on exactly what was going on with our Earth.

I found out that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere is way too high. With a high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes ocean acidification. With ocean acidification comes the destruction of coral reefs. With the destruction of coral reefs comes the destruction of a habitat and an ecosystem, and with the destruction of a habitat and an ecosystem comes a population decrease in the organisms that call this their home.

How does this carbon dioxide level increase? It increases due to none other than human activity. When we burn fossil fuels, we send out more and more carbon dioxide into the air, and because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the Earth absorbs more heat. Global warming ensues, and so does the destruction of habitats and ecosystems.

I felt nothing but anger. Why didn’t I care about this sooner?

I looked at my Biology notes on my table and I felt a pang in my chest. I can’t believe I used to think that none of this mattered. Everything matters, I thought, and I felt a whole new perspective taking over my mind. Everything.

From that day on, I began to actively participate in my Biology class.

wanted to learn about biodiversity hotspots. I wanted to learn about the carbon cycle. And I wanted to learn about the glycolysis process. I wanted to learn about photosynthesis. Enzymes and amino acids. Punnett squares and the nitrogen cycle. I wanted to learn about all of the things I hated in high school.


I opened my mind.

And I aced my Biology exam yesterday because I opened my mind.

I placed my focus on Environmental Biology. Now, it’s not that I don’t care about the other principles of Biology; I’m just more focused on the environmental branch because it interests me more. It sparks emotion in me. I began actively speaking about the problems our Earth is currently undergoing. I began asking people if they were aware of the actions we humans perform that contribute to global warming.

Because what we humans do really matters.

The carbon dioxide level is at an all-time high. It’s crazy how much carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere each day. Each day our Earth gets hotter and hotter.

I’m going snorkeling tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to seeing the coral and the life around them. I’m going to take in the beauty of it all.

Because guess what?

The Great Barrier Reef is dying. This was announced just a few days ago.

And all I could think of when I saw the news on CNN was that the video was right.

If we don’t become aware of how we are harming our Earth, all of the coral reefs will be dead by the year 2065. They will be nothing more than myths and legends to people of the time. The generation after us might not even see a reef. Tomorrow might be one of the last times I’ll ever get to see all of that wildlife. And it’s all because of our doing.

It’s a chain reaction. Forests will follow. Tundras will follow. All of the habitats we know will soon follow as the Earth continues to heat up with each passing day.

So educate yourself on what is really destroying our Earth.

The Earth is our home, and it’s not just our home, it’s home to so many different species. Plants, animals, bacteria: we all share the same house. And if we don’t stop doing what we’re doing, the Earth is going to give up on us. It’ll politely ask us to help around or move out. And when we don’t because we are too ignorant to realize that there is always help needed around the house, it’ll kick us out itself. It’ll have had enough.

So wake up.

It’s 2016.


Do something.

Conserve. Use less energy. Invest in power savers. Use less water. Preserve. Help raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity. Push for preserving natural habitats around you. Educate. Raise awareness on the destruction of coral reefs and the heating of the Earth due to the trapping of greenhouse gasses.

So go.

The clock is ticking.

Change starts with you.


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