Sustainability: A Love Story

Dear Nicole Walker,

As a natural born worrier, it eased my anxious mind to know I was not alone in wondering what the future of our world is going to be. Despite the fact that I do not have children, a husband, or a permanent home to worry about, the questions and commentary you present in Sustainability: A Love Story echoed some of my deepest fears: are we going to last? How do we teach the younger generation about sustainability? How do we apologize to them for the damage we have done? Can any of the efforts we make somehow make a difference?

What drew me into this collection of essays was not solely based on the fact that I adored the quiet balance of a cautiously optimistic yet fearful tone, but that this collection has never felt more urgent. Each piece, from “Sustainability: A Love Story” to “Why I Did Not Ride my Bike Today,” had an awareness of time that intertwined a call to action, the rhetoric of environmentalism, and personal narratives flawlessly. The connections between the personal and the worldly were so smooth, calling my attention to what I needed to pay attention to, making me aware of things I should focus on, and asking me to try and be better for myself, my loved ones, and this planet. Moments such as, “If eight graders can’t rebel against their parents’ carbon loving ways, there is no hope,” emphasized this sense of urgency. I couldn’t shake the endless list of possibilities and paranoia that the rhetoric of environmentalism and personal narrative this collection evoked. It made me want to change because it showed that the two elements are so intertwined. Without Earth, how do we exist to even love in the first place?

This collection echoes. It says things that are hard to hear. Things like, “Lies don’t last very long. Neither does the truth,” and, “The world is hard to keep. But there are whole days when I think we’re going to make it,” are said in an unashamed voice, a voice that becomes self-aware of the destruction we cause as humans, while simultaneously realizing the beauty we (as humans) can bring to this world. Looking at your children, calling to the rain gods, debating if we should shower or drink coffee or give up both to help the world: everything weighs heavily on the takeaway of this timely published collection.

But more importantly, or what I loved most about these essays, was the fact that every page was somehow connected with something else. Each word echoed in a following essay. Or the symbolism and metaphors extended so far beyond their respected essay that I felt them resonating in the depth of my chest long after I closed the book. At one point you write “Nouns are interchangeable.” Titles are interchangeable. Places. People. Things. And that is what works so well in this collection: we see sustainability as a placeholder for family, love, marriage, loss. And we see love, marriage, family and loss as a form of sustainability. Without these, we neglect to exist. We need to keep them healthy. Alive. And that is the takeaway of this collection: the symbolism and ease of interchangeability of the things we can or cannot live without, whether this be Mother Earth, fire, ash, rain, children, coffee or showers, helps readers realize what is truly important to them. It encourages us to ask: how do we preserve one thing to save another? And, more importantly, can we?

After reading this incredible collection, my desire to learn more about sustainability is fueled. I want to gather information and make change. In “Dear Rain,” you write “You don’t have to read it. But listen.” Although this line is taken from context where the narrator is writing a love letter to rain, it also breaks the fourth wall. It invites readers in and demands us to take action. It was these two short sentences that brought me into the collection on page eight and didn’t let me go. I am still in the grip of these words, of this awareness, and I am determined to make something right. How? I am still unsure. I am fearful and cautiously optimistic, but it is something. Maybe I’ll begin writing about it. Maybe I’ll change my lifestyle. Maybe I’ll rake pine leaves from my yard and not drive a Prius or give the young children I babysit cautionary tales about guns and condoms. The possibilities are endless. Our world is not.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the collection: “I am trying to see things your way but my own eyes get in the way.” Let us blink, clear our vision, and see. Let us read. Let us write and let us learn. It is only then that we will understand, and thus, have the possibility to change. Thank you for this beautiful, wonderful examination of environmental rhetoric and personal narrative. I am forever moved.


Macey Sidlasky