Photography by Natalie Lacek

We the Future

by Natalie Bencivenga


May 8, 2023

Last weekend, I joined other eco-minded Pittsburghers at a Pittsburgh Earth Day event hosted by The Refillery founder, Larissa Russo. I sipped on a delicious hibiscus mocktail at the Goodlander Cocktail Brewery located in Larimar which focuses on low-waste highballs and non-alcoholic drinks. I made wishes to the Earth, hung them on the wishing wall and enjoyed incredibly tasty vegan tacos and street corn from El Colibri, a local pop up kitchen that specializes in authentic Mexican street food. You can find them around the city, including this season’s Bloomfield Farmers’ Market. 

I was truly moved and inspired by the number of people in attendance who are concerned by what is happening to our planet – and subsequently what will happen to all of the creatures that inhabit it – as well as their dedication to find solutions. We know that individual action isn’t enough and that governments and corporations must lead the way to finding solutions so that we can all breathe clean air, drink clean water and respect the planet so that it may sustain us for generations to come. 

And that thought can be overwhelming. I know I can feel paralyzed with fear, feeling this insurmountable challenge that is ahead – knowing that some damage to the earth has become irreversible already. That paralysis is amplified by our isolation which is why it is imperative that we come together and form an intersectional community so that we may tackle these large-scale problems effectively. 

I was also encouraged by a somewhat-local author, Cliff Lewis, who recently penned a novel: “We the Future.” Based in Lancaster, PA, Lewis wrote this book for his own family, for the kids coming up – for all of us. His talk about his writing process made me laugh (as it was relatable for any writer). “I call it cardio-drafting,” he said with a smile, referring to his practice of jogging around the neighborhood while dictating into his phone one chapter at a time. 

His debut novel introduces climate science to the next generation who may not be ready to digest the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But “We the Future” is about more than climate change. It is a guide for kids (and maybe adults?) so they can organize themselves for real world change. In essence, it is a call to action for our young people to take the opportunity to recognize that collectively we can accomplish what appears to be impossible. Whether it be focused on climate change, racial justice, gender justice or economic justice – and let’s be real – they are all interconnected, we do better when we work together.

It doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, it will be messy. But recognizing each other’s gifts, talents and strengths – and then utilizing them towards a common goal of creating a world where we can all thrive and not just survive is a goal worth pursuing.

I know what I’m adding to my summer reading list. How about you?


Natalie Bencivenga is a regular columnist with The Green Voice