Thanksgiving for a climate realist


In my little corner of the woods, we’ve had as fine a stretch of September weather as I can ever remember, and it has extended right into the first half of October. Day after day of mild, sunny perfectness that a person could really get used to. Meanwhile, my life is one bit of ordinariness after another. Drive a kid somewhere, clean something, cook something, walk the dog, rinse, repeat.

Occasionally, my oblivious housewifing is interrupted by reading or hearing some terrible news about the likelihood that the planet will become uninhabitable for humans in the near term unless we make drastic changes soon. That our kids will have reduced lifespans because the environment will not actually be suitable for the continuation of life as we know it. But somehow, I’m able to stick that information in the part of my brain that has a very secure lid, and carry on planning a new kitchen. Life has never been better chez nous.

When I’m feeling thoughtful, I sometimes wonder shouldn’t I be doing something; or at least yelling at the top of my lungs on every street corner and social media website, warning folks about the coming shitstorm? But then I think, yeah, we’re all going to die, what’s different about that? It’s just the hubris of the modern age that has convinced us that somehow we were going to be the exception to that rule. Very few of us ever were going to be lucky enough to slip peacefully into oblivion in our sleep, leaving a pretty corpse and clean browser cache. No, we’ve always been doomed to either suffer pain and indignity at the end, or else die suddenly and leave behind an unprepared family, forced to change all their plans that involved good old healthy and alive us. So the only thing different now is that the remote possibility of living into peaceful and healthy extreme old age is remoter still. What would be so wrong if we all lived like patients given a year to live; if we enjoyed these pleasant moments like they were the last ones?

Report after report says things are heating up faster than predicted. The ice is melting and oceans are acidifying, faster than we could have known, and words like “tipping point” and “runaway” are getting thrown around by bankers and insurance companies, not just the usual suspects.

I live in a country where the government has labeled people concerned with climate and environmental issues as ideological extremists, while they promote tar sands development and exports without any regard for the climate or even for the health of citizens who live near them. Government scientists are muzzled while funding is cut for basic environmental research. Spin and propaganda is used by all sides to convince the public to support them, but no one dares tell the truth. The conservatives tell us that we can extract all the carbon we want, and in fact must to save the economy, because we can mitigate the negative effects, if any. The other political parties either believe the same thing, but won’t let on, or tell us we can have a sustainable economy if only we wish hard enough.

This is all to say that I really don’t think the whole world is going to get together and agree to do anything meaningful that will actually change the outcome. Not before it’s already too late, anyway. So like the hospice patient who is spending the last months living life rather than fighting for a miracle cure, I’m actively appreciating these beautiful days and the people in them. Is this the last “normal” Thanksgiving? Probably not. Almost certainly we have years rather than months of decent quality of life. By this time next year, things will be almost the same as they are now, but we will have endured some more extreme weather, and more trees will have died, and no doubt somewhere in the world, people will have endured unimaginable suffering and probably it won’t be us. I will be grateful for the sunshine when it’s out, and the rain when it comes, the fire in the woodstove when it’s cold, and a family to share it with.


3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving for a climate realist

  1. I’m not sure where to start this comment. Firstly, I love the name of this blog. Secondly, sentience is a clever curse giving us the ability to realize that we will be no more and at the same time finding it unfathomable. Thirdly, I admit to being the character in the disaster movie that will run despite the fact that the water/fire/lava is coming down at 1000 times the speed my puny legs will carry me. So I say keep screaming because you never know. Our wild brilliance as a species has taken apart the planet but what’s not to say that it can’t do the reverse. Ultimately though the earth does not end with us. Collectively we suffer from the same sentience angst. We talk about the world ending when we mean us. Just us. Let it be just us and have the earth go on spinning until it is swallowed by the burning out sun.

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