“This Changes Everything” (Earth Day Poem)

My wife and I take our 2-year old daughter to the first Hawaiʻi screening of Naomi Klein’s documentary.

The line for the documentary is long, almost as long as the Hawaiʻi endangered species list.

Unlike the endangered species list, there aren’t many natives in this line.

Of all the white people here, I’d estimate that 99% of them want to save the earth, while the other 1% are critical of salvation discourse.

The theatre feels small and uncomfortably full, like an overbooked ark.

The white people around us start coughing, which triggers intergenerational trauma and inherited flight instincts in my body.

Our daughter starts to become restless, too, so my wife breastfeeds her until she falls asleep.

I, too, have always kind of hated films about climate change.

Not because they feature cliche polar bears, but because they’re all made by white people.

In the climate movement, indigenous peoples are the new polar bears.

We sport a vulnerable-yet-charismatic-species-vibe, an endangered-yet-resilient-chic, a survive-and-thrive-swagger.

Plus, we cry “native tears,” which are the saddest kind of tears.

Do you remember “The Crying Indian” PSA from the Keep America Beautiful campaign, which launched on Earth Day in 1971?

The television ad featured a non-native actor, “Iron Eyes Cody,” playing a Native American who rows his canoe down a littered river and past smoking factories, until he reaches a dirty beach that leads to a busy highway.

A voice says, “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t. People start pollution, people can stop it.”

The commercial ends with a close-up on his fake “native tears.”

When the natives in “This Changes Everything” cry, the white people in the theatre cry “white tears” extra-loudly.

I hate it when white people cry extra-loudly, as if they’ve never seen native people cry in real life.

When the documentary shows polluted native lands, the white people gasp extra-loudly.

I hate it when white people gasp extra-loudly.

“Stop gasping so loudly!” I shout in my head. “Everything already changed for native peoples centuries ago!”

The film ends with the emotional labor of “native hope.”

We sneak out of the theatre during the post-documentary discussion, when the first white person exclaims extra-loudly “WE MUST SAVE THE PLANET!!!!!”

I whisper to my wife: “The Geological Society should refer to this era of human destruction as the Wypipocene.”

She jokes that we should make a documentary about how climate change is finally making white people uncomfortable.

Our documentary will be titled: “Melting Glaciers, White Tears.”

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