Earth Problems (Daniel DeRock)

1. On Earth Day, Rachel plants 5 maple trees and 3 pine trees. How many trees does she plant in total?

2. Rachel and her classmates gather data on wildflowers. Rachel finds 15 lupine, 41 prairie rose, countless willow aster. She cups her hands to catch sunlight. Drink this, she tells her friend, it helps you grow. A butterfly lands on her nose and she’s too overwhelmed for arithmetic.  

3. Every 6 seconds, Rachel learns, a patch of rainforest big as a soccer field vanishes. If the rate stays constant, how much hope will be lost by the end of the school day? All night she half-dreams of panthers, parrots, monkeys caught in the blade of the alarm clock’s second hand.  

4. Rachel is stunned at the amount of pop cans in the garbage at school. She removes 10 cans from each bin, places them into the recycling. Gets a deep gash in her forearm that leaves a scar. If she finds out the recycling and trash are just mixed together anyway, how fast will she become disillusioned? 

5. Rachel and her friends in the Campus Eco Action Club organize a benefit concert. They sell 41 tickets at $5 each, send the proceeds to legal support for political prisoners. How many of Rachel’s so-called friends are snitching to the FBI?

6. At the current emissions rate, the planet is heading toward a 4 degree Celsius global temperature increase by the century’s end. Rachel holds her sleeping baby against her skin and cries.  

7. Alfie loves nature. He goes to the park with his mom to count butterflies. He sees 0 butterflies altogether at 7 different flower patches. If he spends a total of 55 minutes, how long does it take Rachel to decide enough is enough?

8. Upon completion, the tar sands pipeline will have a length of 2,687 miles, a 36 inch diameter, and 12.7 millimeter thickness. What kind of cutting torch should Rachel use to injure empty pipeline valves? If the valves are spaced 4 miles apart, how many can she maim before sun spills over the wetlands and the deer peek, dark-eyed, through fog?

9. Alfie’s helping Mom separate seedlings in the garden when the FBI surrounds the house. What happens in Alfie’s chest when they rip her away from him? What is that tearing sound? Where are the butterflies? 

10. Where are the butterflies? 

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Daniel DeRock is originally from Chicagoland and lives in The Netherlands with his wife and two dogs. He works as a political scientist, writes fiction whenever possible, and is a reader for Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine

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image: Emily Bottomley