Dear baby Seven,
Your first breath of life on Earth is being celebrated as a milestone. On this October 31, 2010, we welcomed you to this rock of blue azure, your new home. It is the 3rd planet from the sun, and the only one inhabited by life in the entire solar system. There are many species that live on this planet, but none quite as unique as the one you were born into today. You see, you are human, the seven-billionth being alive.
It took thousands of years for our population to reach one billion. Since then, our numbers have grown faster and faster. By the time you are 13, baby number 8 billion will join you on this planet.
Unfortunately, the more we grow, the less resources we have access to. As the world gets more crowded, you will have to fight for everything. One thing about being human: we know how to fight. We fight just as fiercely for the wrong things as we do for the right things. We fight for land, clean water, food, fossil fuels, and nonessential natural resources. We point guns and throw bombs, spears and arrows at each other recklessly. We pillage and furiously flex our muscles at anything that stands in the way of what we desire. We are so relentless in our pursuit that we forget how to be hospitable to each other and our environment.
So far, we have not been very good stewards of our home. We are the only species on this planet that requires such enormous amounts of energy. Energy powers everything about us. It defines our very identity. It feeds us, clothes us, and propels us from here to there. It powers our curiosity, and emboldens our greed. Mind you there’s nothing wrong with energy, just how we access it.
Humans rule supreme with unrivaled intelligence, zeal, ambition, and drive.
That intelligence and ambition drives us to invent and reinvent. We are destructively creative beings by nature; never satisfied with the status quo. “Out with the old and in with the new,” is a motto you will hear a lot in your lifetime. We create to destroy.
This is the world you are born into, but it is not a world you have to accept. Another thing about being human is that each of us has the inherent ability to be great, the capability to so greatly influence the world we live in that one person may inspire a change in how all others relate to each other and the environment. These influences come can be anywhere from inventions to social movements sparked by a single action.
Look at your hands. You have an opposable thumb. Believe it or not, it is very important. In a few years, I am sure you will be using that thumb to tap away at some piece of electronic glass to expand your knowledge. I am sure you won’t know what a keyboard is yet, but that’s what I am using to type this letter to you. Thanks to human intelligence, we are able to invent things; wonderful, delightful things that allow us to share knowledge and experiences and stretch our natural resources so that we fight just a little less.
But I wonder if you will have access to these wonderful inventions. You see, we may celebrate your birth today, but we still have no idea where you are on this rock. And where you are makes all the difference in determining what kind of life you will live, how hard you will have to work just to enjoy your short time here. If your first breath of life is in Africa, chances are you will have better access to information technology than the most basic of inventions, such as running water and waste management systems. In fact, today there are more mobile phones on the continent than there are toilets. By the time you are a teenager, there will be more internet enabled smart phones than toilets and households with electricity access on the continent. If you are in Europe or America, there is a much better chance that you will have access to any and all of the above.
But again, despair not. This reality may be what you inherit today, but it does not have to be the future you live in. I write this letter to you to give you hope, that between the great milestones of your life will be days filled with opportunity and hope. Here’s to wishing that you grab every available opportunity to succeed. Here’s to wishing you beat the odds and become great. Here’s to a dream of you rising one day to be the bright light the world needs to see. Here’s to being the difference maker. Here’s to the responsible choices that you will make in your life time. Here’s to wishing that one day you will write a letter, very much like this one but with more wisdom and guidance, to welcome baby number ten billion. For now, please enjoy sucking on that opposable thumb. It just maybe the secret to your future success.