Fear

Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Huffington Post
L. Hunter Lovins
December 2015

We’ve all felt it. Anxiety before an exam; the realization that we are about to be hurt, the sick feeling when kids with Kalashnikovs kill hundreds in the streets of Paris. Once, as the crew boss on a fire crew, I was assigned to protect a house against a fast moving brush fire. Deployed at the road’s edge, we got hoses ready, truck pump primed. Then the flames came at us, bigger and faster than we’d thought. Our only option was to hold our position, stay behind our fog spray and fight it.

As it roared at us, one young man yelled, “RUN!”

“If you run, we die,” I stared him down. “Fight it, we live.”

We did, and saved the house. The flames roared around our fog pattern. We lived to chase them all afternoon before finally declaring the fire out.

These days I hear a fear that reminds me of my young firefighter. Kids ask me if they’re going to have a future. They fear that climate change and other environmental harm will cut short their lives. Perhaps because of this, young people suffer record rates of affective anxiety disorder (fear of the future,) some say as high as 25%. Suicide, after years of falling rates, is at its highest level in 50 years, triple US homicides. Teen suicide is now the second largest cause of death for youths aged 15 -24.

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