I had my consultation today, with Dr D’Earth. I tried not to take the name as an ill-omen. I sat outside the waiting room, nervously but patiently waiting my turn: twiddling my thumbs. Looking down at my hands thinking ‘how long?’ or was it ‘how much longer?’
He called my name. I steeled myself. I wasn’t expecting good news.
‘Come in,’ he told me, seriously, but self-assuredly: ‘take a seat.’
It was a big, lavish-looking room: plenty of light through the plate glass window, flowers on the desk, anodyne artwork adorning every wall. As if this would be enough to gentle down the news.
I wanted to just ask him outright ‘how long?’ but I couldn’t get the words out; they stuck in my throat. Dr D’Earth had no such reservations:
‘Let’s get right to it’ he said, ‘I’m not a man to mince my words.’
I nodded my assent.
‘I’ve studied all the charts, all the available information and: we’re looking at five years, maximum.’
I felt the blood drain from my face, right down into my feet. I felt dizzy, I felt faint. Why didn’t this affect him, Mr Smarmy Smartsuit Whitecoat Dr D’Earth?
‘Five years?’ I asked in disbelief… ‘but I have children! I wanted to see them…’
‘There are millions like you, unfortunately, Mrs… And there’s not a thing we can do…’
‘There is no remedy, no treatment that might prolong…?’
‘We can try to act locally, cut back the damage in certain areas, slow things down a little. But the problem is, Mrs…this cancer, this greed…it is inveterate: metastasised. It has spread throughout the whole Earth. Even with the right action at a local level, we can only hope to mitigate the damage a little, the five-year prognosis is a best-case scenario. You’ve seen the fires by now?’
‘You’re aware that 1/8 of the world’s species are now facing extinction?’
‘Unfortunately’ he continued, ‘we cannot exist in a bubble. It would seem that we are, after all, part of the ecosystem which our rampant greed has sought so mercilessly to destroy. We are next in the firing line, after all the innocent creatures we have used and cast aside.’
‘But you seem so calm about it?’
‘I, Mrs…have lived a full life; had the best of all that greed can offer. I knew our luck would run out sooner or later, and I am prepared to pay the price. The question is, are you?’
I’m roused by the alarm before I have time to answer. Outside my window, everything looks normal. In the room next door, my children are sleeping peacefully.
I hope that the prognosis really was only a nightmare, a worst-case scenario. Will it be death, or merely dearth? I hope the answer still lies in our hands.
I know as long as I live, as long as I have children and the blessed earth around me to protect, that I will fight until we find a cure for this collective cancer: human greed.
Inspired by Earthweal’s weekly challenge: Considering the non-human world.