Alexandra Petri: Moon can’t bear watching Earth do this to itself

(Victor R. Caivano | AP file photo) Wildfires consume an area near Porto Velho, Brazil, on Aug. 23, 2019. Brazilian state experts have reported a record of nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018. Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon rainforest, whose degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Washington • Gazing down with a vaguely orange tint at a new fire blossoming on the Earth where a fire should not be, the Moon confided that it felt sad and powerless watching the Earth destroy itself. “At first it was small things. Losing a species here or there. Just careless, really. These things happen to a planet on its way up. Earth still seemed to have it together. But now?” The moon looked on in mingled horror as the Earth began emitting large quantities of smoke. “I don’t know where this ends. Do you have any idea what that does to your lungs?”

The Amazon rainforest, currently ablaze, was one of the things about the Earth the Moon most admired — so green and lush, home to people who had lived there an immense length of time and to priceless species that would never have occurred to the Moon to dream up. Frogs of every color and degree of poisonousness, rosette-coated ocelots, trees that rose up out of the water on stiltlike roots, piranhas, innumerable birds, a place whose noises at night the moon could only begin to imagine and that was capable of producing so much oxygen. And that was just what of the Earth was on fire.

“If I had anything — anywhere on me that could produce oxygen like that?” the Moon asked. “I’d never touch it. I’d never let it come to any harm. Oh, it makes me sick.”

"Earth and I came up together," the Moon went on. "I remember when it was just nothing. No people. Not even its signature blue-green cloudy tint. It was just us two rocks spinning here. But I knew Earth had the potential to be more, and it kills me to watch ... " The Moon waned a little. "You know. This."

"When Earth first generated human beings, it was — oh, it was fun. It was like, WHOA, you're building a big wall now? Is that permanent? You are WILD! And at night now, it's magical seeing those little speckles of light shining all along the sleepy side. You've done things I admired. You know, it was humans' idea to visit me. Back in 1969. I don't know if you remember or have been reminded of that at all. But I remember. The dinosaurs never thought to visit. I was touched. And I thought — this planet is going to go places. Maybe Earth is going to be the first one to get out of this lousy solar system and really make something of itself. My Earth! The whole cosmos is going to get to see all the wonderful things it makes, things like music and mathematics — but I'm repeating myself." The Moon's flag drooped. "And now I wonder if that's ever going to happen. It's such a waste."

The Moon has contemplated an intervention. "But what would I do? Encourage a visit from an asteroid? There's — there's kids down there."

"The dinosaurs, that was sudden. I'm still getting over that. But at least it wasn't, you know, anything they could have stopped. But this?"

The Moon said it hoped the humans would live long enough to be destroyed by natural causes, like an immense volcano wiping out all life, and that it could continue to enjoy the company of a vibrant, greenish-blue planet for millennia to come. "Some of these things I feel like I encouraged. All the internal combustion and disposables for a while made Earth more fun to watch and be around. But it's habit-forming. I should have seen that. Ah, this is so sad. I hate watching. I wouldn't if I weren't tidally locked."

More smoke billowed up.

"Earth, please. If you just did little things to take care of yourself, you wouldn't have to become like me," the Moon said. "A barren waste with nothing on it to delight the eye, anywhere, except some garbage and a lonely flag. That's all right. I know what I am. But I wanted more for you."

Alexandra Petri

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.