I have seen the future, and it is soggy.

Layah Shagalow
4 min readJan 28, 2020

It was summer 2017 and my cousin and I were hiding out from the oppressive New York City heat in the air-conditioned lounge of the newly opened One Brooklyn Bridge Hotel. The place was brand new; a mostly undiscovered hidden gem at the edge of Brooklyn Bridge park. The lounge had a living wall creeping with ivy and greens, and furniture made of cork and wicker. It was the height of hipster.

We sat there, enjoying the cool, dark air, while sipping locally distilled gin and tonic. And then, after about ten minutes, my straw began to disintegrate into a sodden mess of soggy cardboard. I was confused. It was the first biodegradable straw I had even encountered. But as it would turn out, not the last.

As cliche as it sounds, the world has come an incredibly long way from that hot summer day in the city just a few years ago. For one thing, the lounge of that hotel looks entirely different now and is often packed to the gills with wealthy yuppies. I stopped going there a long time ago. But a lot of other things have changed as well. The use of compostable straws, and other once plastic products, abounds. Green energy sources have grown exponentially. A culture of earth conscious behavior is steadily gaining popularity. And this is good. Mostly. Still, it seems that in some ways the incremental growth we have achieved has come at a cost, at least for me. But I’m beginning to see it in my friends and the people around me as well.

Awareness is an amazing tool to begin righting a wrong, one millennials have used to great effect. Over the last few years, the issues our planet and society have been facing have risen to the top and are front and center on all social and media platforms. People are using their voice and their influence to make sure the invisible issues are being spoken about and marginalized communities are being represented. So we see it, every day, front and center. The problems we can no longer ignore, or feign ignorance of, they are in our face all day, every day.

Turtles are suffocating. The Amazon is burning, Australia is on fire. Children are being trafficked by drug cartels for all number of horrific uses. The glaciers are melting. Waste in all forms is polluting our planet. The ocean is heating up. Children in Africa have no clean water. Children in Flint have no…