Our Tireless Battles

Early morning. A typical Wednesday. The city is empty and half asleep. Vacant sidewalks. The air cold with remnants of winter. Immersed in the quiet, I smile. 

 

Across the globe, deep inside Brazil, another tree catches fire. Blazing sparks dance with clouds of ash. A forest exhales its last breath.

I order my usual – a cup of chai – and thank the barista as I find my seat. In that second, another flame grows, hungry for new sprigs to devour. 

 

Out the window, I see a gloomy sky. I silently pray it doesn’t rain. Meanwhile, in Brazil, a fire persists. Billows of smoke rise, and reach for heaven themselves.

 

 

I don’t remember when, exactly, our planet tumbled into this slow collapse. I’ve read of dystopian worlds – in fiction novels and adventure books. But these days, those stories seem to inch closer to reality. In the news, on social media, tragedy is inescapable. 

 

We don’t wake up angry. Not until the papers serve us breaking news and devastation for breakfast. Dread infiltrates our dining room. It looms over our heads as we read the big-lettered print. 

 

Child stops breathing. Smoke in villages. Flooded city. Protesters riot. 

 

Dread offers a side dish of secondhand emotions. Hurt, worry, and helplessness, as we watch a world cry through a television set. 

 

Sirens. Shooting in Orlando. 

 

Footage of a hailstorm. There’s a hurricane in Indonesia. 

 

Wounded animals. A decline in our ecosystem. 

 

Click.

 

We switch off the news. Change the channel. And just like that, dread evaporates. An hour later, my family sits for dinner and laughs about new jokes again.

 

We couldn’t leave our lives and save the world. There are too many problems to fix. Being removed from the pain is a blessing. (Maybe an extreme fortune we always take for granted). So we float quietly and happily in our own little worlds. A busy university life. Brunch dates on the weekends. Music concerts. Crowded shopping malls. Noise, noise, drowns everything out. 

 

It is only so long until the sound pierces through. Living within bubbles of cities and neighbourhoods, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that at any given moment, someone, somewhere is in need of help. The world cries from a distance. Guilt seeps in as I subconsciously turn a deaf ear.

 

This is a new reality. When I resume my life, a static hum follows. Knowing the earth is trembling, I can’t rest easy. When the suffering doesn’t cease, I go to bed restless. My compassion fatigued. My mind oversaturated, nearly desensitised, by tragedy.

 

 

Reading headlines, we feel anger, yet by 6 PM it simmers. Our emotions are riled up, then crash into desperation. These are not our battles, and yet we have lost.

 

Our days are clouded with compassion fatigue. Another word for “I’m accustomed to this pain”. It’s defined as “emotional residue from exposure to traumatic events.” Events like grief, terror attacks, and climate change. Another term I discovered this year was environmental anxiety. The constant unease that sits at the back of our minds, reminding us about our future ticking away.

 

It is this restlessness that drives us to the streets, marching with signs and choruses of protest. It is this anxiety that makes us desperately seek eco-friendly options, measuring what changes we can make.

 

Changes we can make. Incremental, and over time. Like social media campaigns and worldwide climate protests. A collective chant, a frequent hashtag, digital activism. Change is here! We need laws and are given megaphones. Removed from the actual battle, we pick up sticks and imagine they are weapons. 

 

What can I do? I look at my current life. Two hands. Textbooks. 

What can I do? When I wanted to study in Australia, the hopes and dreams I had were, frankly, my own. 

 

I didn’t plan on changing the world. I wasn’t aware the world needed much changing. But it does. Now it does. In a split second, I, alongside millions of others in my generation, was exposed to the fight. Forced to join the front line. Thrown into a battlefield we never asked for. 

 

We’re way past angry. What do we do when we feel powerless? 

 

One. I list the things I can change, and can’t. The actions outside of my reach, and within it.

 

For example: Things I Can’t Do For a Burning Rainforest.

 

Firefight. I can’t fly to the scene of the crime. 

Bureaucracy. I don’t know how to lobby politicians into urgent action. 

Rescue. I can’t save the locals who are losing lives in the thick of smoke.

 

It aches, when we realise we can’t be the superheroes our world needs. 

 

But what if the world doesn’t need a superhero? What if it doesn’t necessarily call for a Greta Thunberg to emerge every day? What if all it needs is people willing to fight for it? The stubborn, the relentless, those brave enough to take action, and naive enough to believe their efforts matter?

 

Things I Can Do For a Burning Rainforest. 

 

Donate. Technology has made this the easiest, most accessible it has ever been. 

Educate. Teaching new generations not to repeat the same mistakes.

 

As much as we’d want to, we can’t fight inequality, climate change, and refugee crises all at the same time. 

 

So, Two. I make peace with the fact that I can’t do everything at once. I choose my battles. Pick my weapons. Identify what’s within reach. 

 

Maybe for others, it’s environmental action. Policy-making. Humanitarian aid. Maybe for a student like me, at this given time, it’s advocacy. Education. Giving. 

 

We try our best but remember: tireless, limitless resistance is counterproductive. Fight in one way. Fight for one thing. It is no use squeezing ourselves dry if there’s no more left to give. 

 

Three. In true soldier fashion, we need to care for our wounds. Acknowledge that it’s an uphill climb. Filled with difficult, painful truths to grapple with. Confront the anger. Turn it into fuel. Confront the sadness, and finally, release. 

 

Four. News and social media are bearers of bad news. This means they’re built to transfer pain, not to help you heal it. Find what will. Disconnect if you need to. If the world needs us, we can’t afford to be anxious.

 

You have to believe that change is taking place out there. In more subtle, non-headlining ways. And believe that you can be a part of it. A link in the chain, through which hope can ripple through.

 

Do you hear that? Our angry battle cry. The ground is shaking. Far ahead, armies of cynicism, fear, and defeat.

 

Chin up, soldier. There is work to do. So wrap your scars, and join the line.

 

We haven’t lost this battle yet.