2023, Junior, Creative Writing
Climate Hero: Professor John G. Anderson, Harvard University
After a long day of fighting activists in court, Jack needed to rest. His house was a 10-bedroom mansion adjacent to Miley Cyrus’s house. He took pride in that. He was the CEO of an oil company. Lying down comfortably on his sofa, he turned on the television, only to find an old man, probably in his 60s, talking about climate change. Uhhh, not another one of them again! But too tired to change the channel, Jack let the old man ramble, and dozing off, he felt the voice fade away.
* * *
Waking with a start, Jack found the man from the television seated before him.
“Who are you? How are you here?” Jack sputtered.
“You know me. Follow me,” the old man instructed, before racing off.
Jack huffed, puffed, and gasped for air as he tried to keep up with the surprisingly agile old man, but Jack had trouble breathing. Jack was struck by the toxic air and the sight of everyone wearing face masks. “Is there another virus outbreak?”
“No, burning fossil fuel has contaminated the air so much that it is unhealthy to breathe. People are forced to wear masks,” the old man said as he handed Jack a mask.
Jack was stunned, the chemical stench reminding him of his oil refineries. “How could this happen?” Jack said in a weary voice. It was like a tragic scene that happened only in movies.
Their next stop shocked Jack further. Jack saw his and Miley Cyrus’s mansions engulfed in flames and turning into ashes. He could see that firefighters were waging a hopeless battle. The fire became more formidable as it fed on the oxygen and spit out black, toxic fumes. It was Earth’s way of venting its fury at mankind for neglecting it.
“Climate change made fires more frequent and harder to extinguish. This one is the Woosey Fire, and it is going to burn 85,500 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.”
Jack had known that climate change had adverse effects but had never thought he would feel the effects. Suddenly, he felt angry and lashed out at the old man.
“Hey! Stop talking about what I am doing wrong. I am not doing anything different from what everyone else is doing! What have YOU done?”
The old man didn’t reply for some time, but finally, pointing at Jack’s burning house, he opened his mouth. “I never accused you, but you must have known that your work could lead to consequences such as this or worse.” The old man continued, “Speaking of what I have done, I am a professor at Harvard, and I…”
“Yeah, and I’m the King of England!” Jack interrupted.
Ignoring Jack, the old man resumed, “…and I discovered the connection between the ozone layer and climate change and created instrumentations to understand various mechanisms related to climate change. But that is not why we’re here. I am here to stop you. God knows how much you’ve taken from the environment to build your fortune. Stop taking and start giving back.”
Jack grumpily replied, “Fine, if what you say is true, I’ll make some changes.”
* * *
When Jack woke up the next morning, he scoured the Internet to find the old man. The old man wasn’t lying. He was a renowned professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Harvard and had a long list of honors. Click. Click. Click. Jack read the old man’s research papers, which contained jargon, graphs, and data Jack couldn’t understand. He knew only that the old man wasn’t a fraud, and that he needed to keep his promise. Jack knew it was the right course of action.
Jack started recycling. Although he couldn’t figure out why, he felt good every time he did good for the planet. He understood then that climate change activists, though not rewarded monetarily, were compensated by a similar feeling. Jack was inspired by the unsung heroes who devoted their lives for the cause. He created an organization to fight for the climate, which he named Dream, in memory of the dream that inspired his change. He didn’t sell his company because it would allow someone else to continue to generate the same toxic products. Instead, he gave handsome severance packages to all his employees, telling them that the company was shutting down, effective immediately.
Just like the old man said, he had more than enough money. It was time he started giving back.
“Celebrity Homes Destroyed in Woolsey Fire.” ABC 10 News San Diego KGTV, 12 Nov. 2018, https://www.10news.com/news/celebrity-homes-movie-sets-destroyed-in-woolsey-fire.
“James G. Anderson.” Anderson Research Group, https://www.arp.harvard.edu/person/james-g-anderson. Accessed 15 Jan. 2023.
“James G. Anderson.” FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES | HARVARD.EDU FACULTY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES | HARVARD.EDU Copyright © 2023 The President and Fellows of Harvard College | Accessibility | Digital Accessibility | Report Copyright Infringement, https://chemistry.harvard.edu/people/james-anderson. Accessed 15 Jan. 2023.
“Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler among Celebrities to Lose Homes in Woolsey Fire.” ABC7 San Francisco, https://abc7news.com/gerard-butler-caitlyn-jenner-scott-derrickson-agoura-hills/4657842/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2023.
Before this competition, I rarely thought about how climate change affects us. Yet, I was still able to sense that it was getting worse. For example, natural occurrences like Hurricane Ian or floods in California were happening more often, leading to casualties. One way in which I am personally experiencing climate change is getting less snow in Boston - only two or three days of snow in an entire year. While researching climate heroes for this competition, I became intrigued by Professor James G. Anderson because I had always been interested in technology, and the fact that he uses technology to fight climate change really sparked my interest. Just as in the story, he appeared in my dreams and things started to go wrong due to climate change. I was horrified. The main character, Jack, represents most people in that many of us are ignorant about the effects of climate change. Jack, like me, takes a glimpse of what could happen if the world continues to ignore climate change. Environmental inaction can yield devastation for humanity in just several decades. I wrote this to open people’s eyes and to urge them into environmental action.