I wanted to build off of yesterday's post, looking at the agricultural industry and especially the environmental impact of raising cattle, and I'd planned to write about my love-hate relationship with a good steak. But another, much more powerful story kept grabbing my attention - one that seemingly has nothing to do with the environment - so I'm opting to go in that direction.
Mike Brown was an 18-year-old kid who should have started college on Monday.
Instead, he was fatally shot by a police officer as he walked, unarmed, down the street in his grandmother's town of Ferguson, Missouri - a suburb of St. Louis - at 2:15 in the afternoon on a sunny Saturday.
Why? We don't really know. Eyewitnesses say Mike was shot while trying to surrender to the police after a verbal altercation. The police say Mike attacked the officer and tried to grab his gun.
However it went down, it ended with a dead teenager lying in the middle of the street for hours as an increasingly agitated crowd gathered nearby, with protestors holding their hands in the air and chanting "Don't shoot me" and "We are Michael Brown."
The next day saw more protests and a candlelight vigil for Mike turned violent, with looting and rioting. Protestors amassed again on Monday and Tuesday, although demonstrations remained largely peaceful.
The investigation of the circumstances leading to Mike's death continues, under the supervision of the St. Louis County police. The FBI is running its own investigation, looking into the possible violation of civil rights by the Ferguson police. One hopes that at least one investigation - if not both - will shine a light on what actually happened last Saturday afternoon.
But it's not just about the death of this young man. This is all wrapped up in a much larger package, containing the same issues that we, as a nation, have been grappling with for decades now - race, police brutality, economic inequality and a long history of discrimination.
And what - you might ask - does this have to do with the environment?
Directly? Not much.
But I've spent many days reading about this story, following various Twitter trends (#IfTheyGunnedMeDown), watching the events unfold and hearing about the frustration and anger that many people feel. And while the environment is an incredibly important issue - one that affects us all - it's easy to see why it's so unimportant for people who are grappling with much more pressing problems.
Why would you care about the effect of rising sea levels on coastal communities when your kid could get gunned down in the street? And when your own, immediate physical safety can't be ensured, the preservation of endangered species probably isn't a high priority. Even though things like poor air quality and polluted water do pose a danger, they're not nearly as concrete a threat as multiple bullets being fired at you.
People aren't going to get on board with green initiatives when they face more obvious concerns - like hunger or discrimination. And in following Mike Brown's, it's becoming clear to me that we can't deal with environmental problems without addressing social problems, too.